White Sox

Baby brother all grown up: Yolmer Sanchez's confidence has spilled onto field

Baby brother all grown up: Yolmer Sanchez's confidence has spilled onto field

Yolmer Sanchez finally understands his limitations as a player. He has a better sense for what he can and can’t do on the field.

An improved grasp of his abilities seems to have made quite a difference. Both Sanchez and the White Sox think that development is key to the second baseman’s growth. Now in his fourth season, Sanchez has taken an important step forward in establishing himself as a major leaguer. With three games left before the All-Star break, Sanchez has produced a career-best 1.2 f-Wins Above Replacement in 2017.

“His confidence has really blossomed from last year to this year,” said third-base coach and former farm director Nick Capra. “He’s always had the talent and ability to play up here. But I’m not sure he was sure of himself at the time. He’s played with a lot more confidence and he looks like he’s sure of himself now.”

Sanchez, 25, has never been short on confidence, especially in the clubhouse. He’s upbeat, energetic and always joking with teammates.

The second baseman has no shame, either, which often leads to humorously awkward interactions with teammates during their media sessions.

There are the uncomfortable hugs he delivers. Those are usually accompanied by congratulations for accomplishments. And Sanchez always seems to have time to ask a fake interview question or two.

He’s like the kid brother who never leaves his sibling’s side.

“He’s always been like that,” outfielder Avisail Garcia said. “He’s always joking around.

“Wow. He’s never quiet though. It’s fine. It’s good. That’s something you want to have in the dugout and the clubhouse.”

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That persona has carried over to the field this season. Sanchez — who changed his name from Carlos to Yolmer (his real name and the one his wife yells when she’s angry — has had plenty of moments since he first arrived in the majors in the summer of 2014. This year those instances have been more consistent.

Sanchez is hitting .268/.331/.397 with 19 extra-base hits in 267 plate appearances. He also has accounted for 5 Defensive Runs Saved at second base, according to fangraphs.com, and has an Ultimate Zone Rating of 2.6. Sanchez thinks it’s a byproduct of experience and knowing how to stay collected.

“Be patient and when you get the opportunity to show what you can do, don’t try to do too much,” Sanchez said. “Don’t try to do things you can’t do. I just try to do my job. They know what type of player I am … when I got here I tried to hit a homer every time. Right now I know I can hit a homer, but I’m not going to hit 30 homers a year. I learned what kind of player I am and what I can do for my team, my teammates and what ways I can help most.”

Much like teammate Melky Cabrera, Sanchez thinks the enthusiasm he brings to the park every day is a good thing for the club. Sanchez looks up to Cabrera, who constantly has teammates laughing in an attempt to keep things loose. Sanchez said he never wants to allow himself to think he’s tired and tries to bring endless energy.

That’s why in years past you’ve seen him rocking Adam Eaton like a baby in the dugout. Or perhaps you’ve caught his faux-territorial arguments with Jose Abreu on easy pop ups (hint: the much larger first baseman wins every time).

“If you say ‘I’m tired,’ in your mind you’re going to be tired,” Sanchez said. “Just try to have fun every day and bring a lot of energy.

“Every day is like my first day. I enjoy every single day I come to the ballpark. When you work hard for something and you get it, you’re excited, you try to enjoy it. I have it every time when I get to the ballpark. I love coming here, playing with my teammates and having fun. Nothing has changed from Day One I got the big leagues.”

Sox minor leaguer's emotions on display while dedicating spring training hit to sister who died in Vegas shooting

Sox minor leaguer's emotions on display while dedicating spring training hit to sister who died in Vegas shooting

The White Sox are tragically connected to last fall's mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Christiana Duarte, sister of White Sox minor league player Mikey Duarte, was one of 58 people killed at a concert in Las Vegas.

Duarte, who is in big league camp with the White Sox this spring, hit a double in Wednesday's 4-3 loss against the Padres. After the game, Duarte became emotional, dedicating his hit to Christiana.

"That was for my sister," Duarte said.

Duarte did not attend the concert due to a head injury he suffered in rookie ball. He said he is blessed to play baseball despite his injury and losing Christiana.

"She’s in heaven, watching over me and my mom and dad. I’m just very blessed by God to play this game after a head injury and after losing her.

"Knowing that my sister is with me more now than she was back then is helping me get through the days playing baseball."

Check out the video above to see Duarte's hit and postgame comments.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?

Perhaps a better question for White Sox fans: When’s Manny Machado coming to the South Side? (Better question from me, personally, is when Chicago might acquire Maryland's greatest creation: the crab pretzel. Had in College Park last summer. It's amazing.)

Whether that ends up happening or not is a question for next offseason, but that query is one that plenty of South Side baseball fans on social media have asked for years now. Machado, mentioned in trade rumors during the Winter Meetings in December, is most likely entering his final season as an Oriole. His contract is up at season’s end, and he’s expected to land a gargantuan deal next offseason.

The funny thing is that for all the hullabaloo over the 25-year-old infielder, he’s coming off his worst statistical campaign as a big leaguer. In 2017, he slashed .259/.310/.782, all three of those percentages seeing huge dropoffs after a sensational 2016 campaign a year prior. His power numbers stayed relatively consistent, but his run and hit totals plummeted as the O’s weren’t quite as a competitive as in years past.

Now, Machado is likely still cruising for a big contract regardless of what he does in 2018. He’s moving to shortstop, which will be interesting. But he’s young enough that even another season like last year won’t make too big a difference, considering how good he’s been throughout his career.

That’s who White Sox fans will be watching whenever their gaze falls on the Baltimore baseball club. (They won’t be alone, by the way, and some contending teams might even try to add him at the trade deadline.) But the O’s are making news for other reasons, recent reasons, in fact.

The biggest name left on the free-agent market finally signed this week, and now the Orioles have a big-time addition to their starting rotation. Unlike Jake Arrieta, it appears Alex Cobb’s waiting game paid off in the form of dollars, years and a no-trade clause. How nice for him. It’s also nice for the O’s, who get to add a guy to a low-key decent starting staff.

Cobb, who had a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season, might not be ready to rock for the start of the regular season considering he didn’t ink a deal until a week out from Opening Day — bet he’s good at staring contests, too — but the trio of Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner (another new addition) and Kevin Gausman will be ready, and all those guys are coming off a solid-enough 2017. Bundy had a couple good stretches, posting a 3.03 ERA over his first 13 starts and then a 2.00 ERA in the month of August. Gausman had a 3.31 ERA over his final 18 starts. Cashner, another free-agent signing, had a 3.40 ERA with the Texas Rangers.

So while the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and the better-than-Machado-last-year Jonathan Schoop still make the O’s an offensive threat in a hard-to-win AL East, the starting pitching might be where the magic is this time around.

2017 record: 75-87, fifth place in AL East

Offseason additions: Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Colby Rasmus, Alex Presley, Pedro Araujo, Joely Rodriguez, Nestor Cortes Jr.

Offseason departures: Welington Castillo, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Flaherty, Seth Smith, Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley

X-factor: I said it just above, and I'll say it again: Jonathan Schoop was better than Manny Machado last season. Schoop made the All-Star team and finished with 32 homers, 105 RBIs and a .293/.338/.503 slash line. His .841 OPS was one of the best 50 in the game. Should we expect Schoop to be the best middle infielder on the O's in 2018, too? Maybe that's a little extreme, but hey, good to have this guy.

Projected lineup:

1. Tim Beckham, 3B
2. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
3. Manny Machado, SS
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Trey Mancini, DH
7. Colby Rasmus, RF
8. Caleb Joseph, C
9. Alex Presley, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Dylan Bundy
2. Andrew Cashner
3. Kevin Gausman
4. Chris Tillman
5. Mike Wright Jr.

Prediction: Third place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers