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.”

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

For White Sox fans focused on what’s happening at the major league level, there’s understandable frustration over the team’s 25-games-below-.500 record.

But in the minor leagues, progress is happening, and there was no more tangible sign of that than Thursday, when a host of the organization’s highly touted prospects, including top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, were promoted.

Jimenez, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, is the biggest name of the bunch. He’s moving on up from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, joining top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech as being just a step away from playing on the South Side.

Jimenez got a late start to the season while recovering from an injury, but he’s put up impressive numbers, with a .317/.368/.556 slash line to go along with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 doubles in 53 games.

Plenty of fans and observers have deemed Jimenez ready for the majors right now, but general manager Rick Hahn had said for a while that Jimenez would play at the Triple-A level, citing the different way pitchers will attack him as a hitter and the oft-discussed boxes that the White Sox need to see every prospect check (the reason Kopech is still playing at Triple-A).

Jimenez is the organization’s top-ranked prospect, but the White Sox have created an unbelievable depth of highly touted guys and a lot of them were on the move Thursday, too.

Luis Robert, who just recently started his season after recovering from a thumb injury, was moved from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem, as Hahn said he would just a little while ago. Robert was the victim of overcrowding in the Winston-Salem outfield, a problem somewhat remedied by Thursday’s moves. The No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Robert slashed .289/.360/.400 with four RBIs and four stolen bases in just 13 games.

Dylan Cease, acquired with Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Cease is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and the No. 52 prospect in the game. He went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Winston-Salem.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of the bigger stories of the first half of the minor league season, sticking out among a group of highly productive outfielders at Class A Winston-Salem. He was promoted to Double-A Birmingham after slashing .266/.370/.502 with nine homers, 12 doubles and five triples to go along with 30 RBIs in 58 games. Basabe is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Luis Gonzalez tore it up in the first half at Class A Kannapolis, and last year’s third-round pick was promoted to Class A Winston-Salem. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system, Gonzalez slashed .300/.358/.491 with eight homers, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 55 games.

Ian Hamilton was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a pencil-thin 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances. The No. 19 prospect in the White Sox organization racked up 12 saves in 13 save opportunities with the Barons and allowed just five earned runs in his 25.1 innings. Hamilton is a name to watch considering the bullpen of the future is far less defined than the White Sox rotation of the future.

Seby Zavala, ranked as the White Sox No. 21 prospect, showed during the first half that his prospect ranking should perhaps be much higher. He’s moving from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after slashing .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

Alex Call, a third-round pick in 2016, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Call slashed .256/.368/.421 with 19 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 56 games.

Joel Booker, who famously stole home for a walk-off win earlier this season and also won the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP award this week, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham after he slashed .297/.389/.468 21 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 53 games.

Blake Battenfield, taken in the 17th round of last year’s draft, starred for Class A Kannapolis in the first half with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 innings and earned a promotion to Class A Winston-Salem.

Lincoln Henzman, another 2017 draftee, selected in the fourth round, was also promoted from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 2.23 ERA and 60 strikeouts in his 13 starts with the Intimidators.

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

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USA TODAY

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

On Wednesday morning, ESPN.com released their rankings of all 30 MLB team's starting rotations. The rankings were a nod to the current structure of the rotation, as well as how they were likely to perform in the future. And that is why the Chicago White Sox being ranked dead last in the league is somewhat alarming. 

Overall, the White Sox rotation is 28th in WHIP and 29th in strikeouts. 

Lucas Giolito is currently the team leader in wins with four, but his ERA sits at an unsightly 7.19. James Shields has been decent in spurts, but a general lack of run support has limited his effectiveness. Carlos Rodon has been a mixed bag since returning, but was able to reach the seventh inning in his last start. This is encouraging considering that he hadn't made it that far in any of his previous three starts. And Reynaldo Lopez continues to rack up quality starts—much like Shields—but has two wins to show for it. 

Veteran players like closing pitcher Joakim Soria and Shields are sure to be hot names on the trade market, and that could go a long way towards bringing in additional prospects to build up the White Sox farm system, and lead to a much improved rotation in the future.

So the White Sox obviously deserve to be ranked lowly until they can groom their minor league starter prospects into MLB-ready staff members, something that looks like it could take longer than originally expected. Flame-throwing top prospect Michael Kopech is still amassing high strikeouts numbers, but he is walking over six batters per outing, showing an obvious issue with control. 

White Sox fans can take their mind off of ESPN ranking the team's rotation 30th in the league by turning their attention to Eloy Jimenez. He has been absolutely crushing it in Double-A Birmingham, and will likely be making his debut with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights on Saturday. That game will be live on NBC Sports Chicago. So sit back, relax and look forward to the future, wherever it may take White Sox faithful.