Charlie Tilson

Charlie Tilson outrighted as White Sox begin to reshape 40-man roster

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USA TODAY

Charlie Tilson outrighted as White Sox begin to reshape 40-man roster

The baseball minutiae that is the 40-man roster might not be of the gravest importance to every fan. But it's going to have a decently sized impact on the White Sox this winter.

In order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft — in which organizations can snap up unprotected players off other teams' rosters — those eligible need to hold a spot on the 40-man roster. And a bunch of notable White Sox prospects will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft this December, meaning the team will have to clear enough room on the 40-man to protect them or risk losing them to other teams.

Those notable prospects? Dane Dunning, Blake Rutherford, Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores, Zack Burdi and suddenly much-discussed catcher Yermin Mercedes. That's as many as six spots the White Sox will need to free up to protect those guys. Also of note, players currently on the 60-day injured list (cough, cough, Michael Kopech, cough, cough — not to mention Ryan Burr and Carlos Rodon, also recovering from Tommy John surgery) have to be activated and take up a spot on the 40-man during the offseason.

Got all that?

In other words, expect a lot more moves like the one that happened Thursday, when the White Sox outrighted outfielder Charlie Tilson, who can either stay in the White Sox minor league system or become a free agent. That brought the 40-man roster to 39, but there's a long way to go before the White Sox can cram everyone they need to cram onto the thing.

Unfortunately for Tilson, his most noteworthy moment of the 2019 season came when Eloy Jimenez crashed into him in the outfield in Kansas City, sending the key piece of the White Sox long-term future to the injured list with an ulnar nerve contusion. That wasn't Tilson's fault, of course, but he was sent to Triple-A after that game and did not return to the majors, not even as a September call up.

Tilson, a Wilmette native, slashed .229/.293/.285 in 54 games, part of the White Sox roulette of outfielders who tried and failed to produce in 2019. Jimenez and Leury Garcia were mainstays, but Tilson, Adam Engel, Jon Jay, Daniel Palka and Ryan Cordell couldn't do much offensively with the opportunities they were given, the big reason finding a right fielder is on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list.

As for what all this has to do with the the Rule 5 draft, it's the first of an expected series of moves to free up enough spots on the 40-man roster to protect all those prospects newly eligible. Regular offseason departures will likely free up many more. Ivan Nova, Jon Jay, Hector Santiago and Ross Detwiler are heading to regularly scheduled free agency, it would be quite surprising if the White Sox picked up Welington Castillo's 2020 option, and Ryan Goins and Yolmer Sanchez are non-tender candidates, even if their fates haven't been decided just yet.

But there are many more decisions to be made with players the White Sox still have under team control, guys whose promise might have dimmed in 2019 but who still could reach high ceilings, guys who could provide much-needed depth on a potentially contending roster in 2020. The White Sox made their decision with Tilson this week. Expect some more to follow.

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Expect the unexpected: A triple play, a Charlie Tilson grand slam and a White Sox win over the Astros

Expect the unexpected: A triple play, a Charlie Tilson grand slam and a White Sox win over the Astros

Expect the unexpected.

After the way the first two nights went for the White Sox during their four-game stay in Houston, the expectations weren't high going up against Gerrit Cole. Cole entered the game as baseball's strikeout leader, with 93 of them in his first 60.2 innings this season. After White Sox hitters struck out a combined 27 times in the games started by Brad Peacock and Justin Verlander, it figured to be more of the same.

But that's not how baseball works.

The White Sox got solo homers from Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu for an early lead on Cole, but it was what they did in the field that got the baseball world buzzing. They turned the first triple play of the 2019 season in slick fashion. It was the White Sox first triple play since the 2016 season, when they turned three of them.

Normally, a triple play would be hands down the highlight of the night. But after the Astros pushed three runs across against Ivan Nova in the bottom of the fourth inning, the White Sox staged a stunning comeback against the typically dominant Cole.

They started the sixth with four straight hits, with Yona Moncada's single tying the game and James McCann, with another successful moment in the cleanup spot, doubling in the go-ahead run. Four batters and two outs later, Charlie Tilson, not exactly known for his power, smacked a grand slam, his first career homer, to bust things open.

Tilson became the first White Sox hitter whose first career homer was a grand slam since Danny Richar back in 2007. It's been a very nice stretch for Tilson, who came up from Triple-A Charlotte early this month. He's slashing .304/.339/.393 in 2019, now with one home run.

So by the end of the evening, the White Sox got a triple play, a Tilson grand slam, not one but two Jimenez home runs and a win over the best team in baseball — in Houston, no less, where the White Sox last win came in September 2017. Outside of a mighty positive night from Jimenez, who has two two-homer nights in just 24 games in his career, these might be oddities with little big-picture applications for this rebuilding organization. But a fun, eventful night for the record books is surely welcome.

Mercy.

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Charlie Tilson is on fire: Could he be a solution to part of White Sox outfield problem for 2019?

Charlie Tilson is on fire: Could he be a solution to part of White Sox outfield problem for 2019?

Hot streaks are, by definition, fleeting.

But if Charlie Tilson can keep this up, well maybe the White Sox have found an answer to what has been a revolving door of a problem in their outfield this season.

Tilson's latest big league stint is just three days old. He was called up from Triple-A Charlotte prior to the start of this week's four-game set against the division-rival Cleveland Indians. But in three days, he's impressed, going 5-for-11 with a double, three runs scored, two stolen bases and a walk in the first three games of the series. That's good for a .455 batting average and a 1.045 OPS, numbers that would be even higher had Carlos Gonzalez not taken away a bloop hit with a diving catch to end the eighth inning of Wednesday's loss.

All this follows up a strong offensive performance at Charlotte this season, where Tilson was slashing .333/.396/.475 before getting called up Monday.

Does it spell a locked-in everyday spot in the White Sox outfield for Tilson? Of course not. Not yet. Three games is a ridiculously small sample size to base such declarations on. But for a White Sox outfield that's struggled to produce, a revitalized Tilson — who slashed .264/.331/.292 in 41 games last season — could be a nice find for the remainder of the season.

While Eloy Jimenez's very presence is a positive (when healthy, of course) and Leury Garcia has been totally fine with a .299 batting average and .346 on-base percentage, the team has struggled to get production from just about every other outfielder it's trotted out there. Daniel Palka began his 2019 season 0-for-32 and was sent down to Charlotte. Nicky Delmonico and Ryan Cordell have had a couple big moments — Delmonico hit a walk-off homer to beat the Boston Red Sox last week, and Cordell had a game-tying, two-run single in Wednesday night's game — but have struggled to find consistency. Delmonico is batting .222 after Wednesday's loss, Cordell at .250. And even though Jimenez represents a bright future for the White Sox, he hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball in his first taste of the big leagues, with a .241/.294/.380 slash line in 21 games.

Let's not forget, also, that Jon Jay, who was supposed to be a near-everyday fixture in the White Sox lineup, has yet to play this season while dealing with a hip/groin injury.

Certainly it would be quite a surprise if Tilson was the guy to bring some stability to that outfield, but if he keeps hitting like he's hitting now, maybe that could be the case. Once Jimenez returns from the injured list, he'll be an everyday presence. And Garcia has hit well enough to earn similar status for the time being. Rick Renteria said Cordell would get an everyday shot in right field, but if Tilson keeps hitting, how could Renteria deny him a regular spot in the lineup?

Of course, this hot streak will need to last a while longer to elevate Tilson to such a level. Certainly he figures to have a tough time outlasting the group of outfield prospects that contains Jimenez, Luis Robert, Luis Basabe, Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford, Luis Gonzalez, Steele Walker and Joel Booker. But the big league outfield needs productive bats in 2019, too. That's where Tilson might be able to find a home.

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