White Sox

Will Avisail Garcia be traded this offseason? More important question is whether he can replicate 2017 success

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USA TODAY

Will Avisail Garcia be traded this offseason? More important question is whether he can replicate 2017 success

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Will Avisail Garcia be traded this offseason?

With his name completely absent from trade rumors, the logical conclusion to draw is a “no.”

But there is a more pertinent question, the answer to which will go a long way in determining whether Garcia ever gets dealt away from the South Side: Will he repeat what he did in 2017?

Garcia was an All Star last season and one of the best hitters in the American League. He slashed .330/.380/.506 during his breakout season, ranking second in the AL in batting average (behind only MVP Jose Altuve) and sixth in on-base percentage.

It’s that production that figured to make him a trade chip for the White Sox this season, joining Jose Abreu as valuable bats the team could deal away and further bolster their highly ranked farm system, perhaps acquiring packages of minor league talent similar to the ones received in deals involving Chris Sale and Adam Eaton last December and the one involving Jose Quintana in July.

But there’s been little to no reported interest from other clubs, leading to the conjecture that any teams thinking about adding Garcia in a deal are waiting to make sure 2017 wasn’t a fluke. After all, Garcia’s been at this whole Major League Baseball thing a while now, in the bigs since 2012. He’s had high hopes and lots of hype both with the Detroit Tigers and with the White Sox. And really, he failed to put it completely together until last season.

If Garcia can keep hitting and hitting big in 2018, then interest would figure to pick up. Garcia is under team control for two more seasons, giving the White Sox options when it comes to keeping him or moving him. If they can bring back a lot of young talent, it’d make sense to move him. If he hits really well (remember, he’s only 26 years old), the White Sox could choose to extend him and keep as a centerpiece of this rebuilding effort.

The possibilities are many. But regardless of what the eventual fate ends up being, the White Sox are indeed confident that Garcia can keep the momentum from 2017 going.

“I understand if there’s some teams that have some level of skepticism of Avi’s ability to repeat what he did, his All-Star season,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday at the Winter Meetings. “I think that us being in the position to see the amount of work and commitment that went into that, not just with the weight loss, the change in diet, the fitness but the mechanical adjustments, the approach each and everyday to carry that ‘close and late’ approach that he had in ’14, ’15 and ’16 over to every at-bat, and carry that approach over 500 plate appearances in 2017, I think each of those things give us more confidence that this is closer than to the new normal for Avi than what we previously saw from him prior to 2017.

“So maybe that does make us value him more than other clubs because they have that skepticism about his ability to repeat. He’s a player who everyone throughout baseball was bullish on his tools for many years. He’s now entering his prime and he’s played at an All-Star caliber level in the recent past. That’s a valuable guy.”

As Hahn mentioned, the White Sox know what went into Garcia finally figuring things out last season. It’s what makes them think so highly of him and makes them think he can keep doing what he did in 2017.

While Hahn hasn’t shown any timidity when it comes to trading big names (Sale, Eaton, Quintana), the team admits there is value they see that other teams can’t. Abreu is extremely valuable for his clubhouse contributions. In Garcia, the White Sox have seen his evolution and know how good he can be.

Will that impact the likelihood of a deal, now or in the future? Maybe. Garcia — and Abreu, too — provide options for Hahn and his front office. But in order to keep all of those options available, Garcia has to have another strong season at the plate.

The White Sox think he can do it.

“Confidence for him has been a key to his growth,” manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. “His routines and some adjustments that he’s made have helped him maintain that consistency. I’ve only been here a couple years. The first year he started off pretty good and then he kind of tailed off. Last year he maintained and had a little wall but then he continued to move forward. I think that’s just his experience and understanding that he is a good player.

“He has confidence that he’s a good player, but he’s also understood that the work that’s been putting in was going to ultimately pay off, it started to. I think for him it’s just continuing to maintain the consistency in which he did last year. I think that is very possible.

“I don’t know that he’ll hit .330. Somebody just asked me that a little while ago. They say, 'between .315 and .330?' Yeah, I’ll see that. All I know is that if he maintains that consistent approach that he’s had both emotionally, confidently and the work structure, he’s got a good chance of doing what he did last year.”

If Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez spent 2018 in the majors, what would their production look like?

If Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez spent 2018 in the majors, what would their production look like?

It’s no secret that the White Sox and their fans are hoping to see both Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech in the big leagues in 2018. And according to one full-season projection system, it seems that the computers agree that both will be MLB contributors very soon.

FanGraphs’ Steamer600 projections forecast what MLB hitters would do over 600 plate appearances and what pitchers would do over 200 innings – and both Jimenez and Kopech are close to MLB-ready.

Jimenez, MLB.com’s 5th ranked prospect, is projected to provide a 1.9 offensive WAR and Kopech, MLB.com’s 10th ranked prospect, would account for 1.4 WAR over the course of a full season.

So what does that mean?

Here are some comparable MLB players from 2017 in offensive Wins Above Replacement for Jimenez:

Jackie Bradley Jr., BOS – 1.9 (541 PA) 

Jedd Gyorko, STL – 1.9 (481 PA)

Andrew Benintendi, BOS – 1.9 (658 PA)

Yasiel Puig, LAD – 1.9 (570 PA)

Salvador Perez, KC – 1.9 (499 PA)

Very solid company, considering those five players combined for an average OPS of .788. The Steamer600 projections peg Jimenez for a .770 OPS over 600 plate appearances.

The full forecast is as follows: a .267 batting average, an on-base percentage of .317 and a .453 slugging percentage to go along with 23 home runs.

Meanwhile, Kopech might be a bit further away from being an impact player with a projected WAR of 1.4 over 200 innings.

Here are some MLB WAR comparisons from 2017 for Kopech:

Julio Teheran, ATL – 1.6 (188.1 IP)

Lucas Giolito, CHW – 1.5 (45.1 IP)

Dellin Betances, NYY – 1.5 (59.2 IP)

Miguel Gonzalez, CHW/TEX – 1.5 (156.0 IP)

Greg Holland, COL – 1.4 (44.2 IP)

As you can see, the comparisons are not nearly as promising for Kopech as they are for Jimenez. The comparable range is mostly made up of late-inning relievers or middle-of-the-pack starting pitchers.

With a 100 mile-per-hour fastball and wipeout slider come the occasional control issues, and that is where the Steamer600 projections hurt Kopech the most, with a forecasted walk rate of 5.4 walks per 9 innings pitched.

The full forecast for Kopech includes a 4.84 ERA with 216 strikeouts over 32 starts with 32 home runs allowed. 

Whether these projections come close to reality or not, having Kopech and Jimenez on the Major League doorstep is sure to give the White Sox rebuild yet another boost in the coming season.

Don't call me Carlos: 'I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer'

Don't call me Carlos: 'I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer'

After a breakout season in 2017, don’t expect any more name changes from the man formerly known as Carlos Sanchez.

“Yolmer hit more home runs so I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer,” said Sanchez in an exclusive interview from his Arizona home. “I’m the same person, but Yolmer worked good this year, so I’ll stay with Yolmer.”

After doing away with the name Carlos, the 25-year old infielder set career-highs across the board last year, slugging 12 home runs, driving in 59 runs while posting a .732 OPS.  

He ranked third on the White Sox in Wins Above Replacement with 3.5, trailing only Jose Abreu’s 4.7 and Avisail Garcia’s 4.5. In the three seasons prior, Sanchez totaled just 0.4 WAR in 201 combined games. 

And now, 2018 provides a new opportunity. Sanchez is expected to be the everyday starting third baseman, the spot he took over following Todd Frazier’s midseason trade to the New York Yankees.

With an elevated role comes a vigorous offseason schedule. He took only 20 days off after the regular season before starting to train for the upcoming spring. 

“I don’t want to work just on one thing. I want to do everything and that’s why I start training so early,” he said. “My speed. More power. Agility. A lot of things.”

Sanchez certainly isn’t the flashiest name in a White Sox infield that includes Abreu and the middle-infield tandem of Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. But he knows his role on the team – being flashy off the field and bringing energy to the clubhouse. 

“If you go with a lot of energy to the game, a lot of things change,” said Sanchez. “That makes a lot of difference in one game. And one game can make a lot of difference during the season.”

But a 70-92 record by the White Sox certainly was not due to a lack of energy as much as a general lack of talent. That should change in 2018 – when fans can expect to see Moncada, as well as other names like Nicky Delmonico, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez play a full major league season. Not to mention prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech knocking on the door to the big leagues.

And that excites Sanchez.

“We’ve got really young players but really talented [players],” said Sanchez. “We have to get better, but I think we can do a lot of good things next year.”

Are there any young players Sanchez is specifically excited to see develop? 

“They’re all going to be really good if they keep working,” he said. “Moncada could be a superstar.” 

That’s exactly what the White Sox are hoping as well.