White Sox

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia to try 'different' stance


White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia to try 'different' stance

He experienced enough inconsistency last season to make a change, and so far Avisail Garcia is encouraged after making a slight tweak to his batting stance.

Though they also remain hopeful, the White Sox are realistic that Garcia has much ground to cover.

But with spring training near — pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 19 — the expectation is the young outfielder will receive enough repetitions to get comfortable with a new stance at the plate before Opening Day.

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Although they don’t see it as a radical change, last month, the White Sox started to work with Garcia to stand taller in the box. They think he’ll need time to adjust to and get comfortable with the alterations. But if the plan works, the White Sox are confident Garcia can eliminate some of the inconsistencies that dominated his 2015 campaign.

And only then might Garcia — who hit .257/.309/.365 with 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in 601 plate appearances — fulfill the lofty expectations that were attached to him when he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade in July 2013.

“We’re working to get better because last year I was down then up,” Garcia said late last month. “This year I am focused to be tall and being patient and swinging at strikes. When I swing at strikes, I can hit like the start of the season.”

Garcia looked like he may realize his potential when he began last season hitting at a .346/.380/.492 clip in his first 137 plate appearances. Buoyed by an impossible-to-sustain .423 average on balls in play, Garcia had 11 extra-base hits, including four homers, and drove in 17 runs in a torrid start that ran from Opening Day through mid-May.  

Then came the bad times, and they arrived in bunches.

Whether due to bad luck, pitchers’ adjustments or struggling teammates, Garcia’s production collapsed.

He produced a .383 OPS over 11 games (41 plate appearances) from May 18-June 4. A 46-game homerless stretch from June 9-Aug. 3 resulted in a .533 OPS over 187 plate appearances. And Garcia endured another lengthy streak from Sept. 2-25 when he had a .536 OPS in 87 plate appearances.

Throughout it all, Garcia switched stances as he tried to find proper balance at the plate.

Either he saw the ball well, but couldn’t connect for much power whenever he crouched near the front, or he had poor pitch selection and a more powerful stroke deep in the box. Rarely did he find middle ground.

But those struggles may have given Garcia the perspective necessary to realize changes at the plate are needed. Last month, hitting coach Todd Steverson traveled to Miami for a three-day session with Garcia and Jose Abreu. He found Garcia receptive and together they developed a plan.

Steverson is encouraged by the initial work, though he stressed that it’s early in the process.

“You can tell people, tell people, tell people,” Steverson said. “But until they get a hold of it in their own head that says, ‘It’s time to make an adjustment’ or ‘It’s time to do something different,’ then that’s when it comes down to it.

“We put in some time. We need more time, a good thing about spring training. But we’ve done some things that are positive. He likes it. It’s going to take a while repetition-wise to get used to it. He’s gonna look different than you’ve seen, I’ll say that.

“It’s nothing drastic, but hopefully it allows him to be more competitive.”

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Abreu admits that he’s naturally an optimistic guy. Still, he called the three-day session “important” and likes how Garcia is carrying himself. Abreu said he mostly reaffirmed what Steverson said to Garcia and likes how the outfielder has responded.

“Especially to see Avi in the shape that he is and the kind of mindset that he is having now,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It’s very good.”

“When I look at him, I think that wow, he could be that kind of player that all people are suspecting.”

The White Sox could use a heavy dose of good from Garcia.

In December, they upgraded the lineup with the additions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie and a catching combo projected to produce 3 Wins Above Replacement, according to ZiPS.

But an offense that produced three or fewer runs in 82 contests in 2015 needs as much help as it can get.

The team — which is projected to win 84-85 games — has since pursued free agent outfielders Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes only to come up short.

While Rick Hahn said he’ll continue to look for roster upgrades before the team’s April 4 opener at Oakland, the White Sox are likely to give Garcia his share of at-bats. But they need him to be much better than the player who finished 115th out of 141 qualified hitters with an isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .108 — especially if his defense doesn’t improve.

“He’s got work to do, there’s no question about it,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He understands where he’s at in his career and what he needs to do in order to make improvements in different parts in his game. Everybody reacts differently when they get in that situation and I’ve really enjoyed and liked his reaction to it. He’s come in great shape, ready to go and is determined to prove to everybody that he should be on a roster and playing every day.”

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Said Hahn: “We believe in the talent. There are specific things he needs to work on and he knows that. And he has the aptitude to make those adjustments.”

Garcia said he’s worked hard to prepare himself for success. This offseason differed from the previous one. In 2014, Garcia played winter ball to make up for the at-bats he lost to a shoulder injury. This winter, Garcia stayed home and focused more on physical preparation, resulting in a slimmer build.

Though he did offer a declaration of self-confidence, Garcia didn’t discuss his plan much to avoid setting high expectations.

“I know who I am and what I can offer to my team,” Garcia said. “I really don’t want to get into what I can and can’t prove.

“It’s just not good to spread expectations like that.

“I know I can do better. That’s why I’ve been preparing myself. When you work hard and prepare for something you don’t have a chance to fall.”

Sox Drawer Q&A: Joe Girardi, Enoy Jimenez and Chris Sale's 'infected' belly button


Sox Drawer Q&A: Joe Girardi, Enoy Jimenez and Chris Sale's 'infected' belly button

We made it above 60 degrees in Chicago today: A cause for celebration and another edition of the Sox Drawer. Questions from White Sox fans range from Joe Girardi to Enoy Jimenez (yes, Enoy) to Chris Sale’s “infected” belly button. Here we go.

Q: Jon Heyman tweeted out earlier that Joe Girardi pulled out of the Reds managerial search because he wants to wait a year for the Chicago job. Do you think he’s talking about the Sox? — @piratedwight

CG: I don’t know if the report is true or not, but what I do know is that Girardi grew up a Cubs fan and he later played for the Cubs. Put those two together and I’d assume he would love to manage them in the future. Something to consider: The main reason Yankees general manager Brian Cashman gave for firing Girardi in 2017 was that he felt he had trouble communicating and connecting with the young players. For a young, rebuilding team like the White Sox, that might be a red flag. Granted, that’s the Yankees' side of the story. Personally, I don’t think he’s interested in managing the White Sox.

Q: Who do you want the Sox to draft with the 3rd pick? Do some research. — @Frankie_OConnor

CG: If you look at most mock drafts right now, you’ll see high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. going first, followed by Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman (Nick Madrigal’s teammate) and Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers. Rutschman’s stock went way up because of his play in the College World Series, where he was named the Most Outstanding Player. Langeliers won a Gold Glove in 2018, named the best defensive catcher in Division I. He nailed 70 percent of would-be base stealers. Umm, I’ll take that.

The White Sox took Zack Collins with the 10th overall pick in 2016. White Sox scouting director Nick Hostelter always says “take the best player available.” Would they draft another catcher with their top pick again? Possibly.

You know what, why don’t we hear from Hostetler himself? I asked him to describe the talent level at the top of next year’s draft.

“Overall the ‘19 draft has a little bit of everything up top,” Hostetler said. “There are some interesting high school bats and arms, as well as some college bats and a few college arms that are intriguing. I’m not sure there’s a clear top five at this point, but as we’ve seen in past years, the guys sitting at the top of all the lists and mock drafts today usually change come the first Monday in June.”

In other words, let’s talk again in June. The best part about this? The White Sox will be in position to grab a very talented player for their future.

Q: After the most recent international signing of Eloy Jimenez’s brother, Enoy, do you think he could get close to the level of Eloy? Eloy wasn’t a known prospect until a few years ago, keep in mind. — @Dehhmac_

CG: In case you missed it, the White Sox signed Eloy’s 17-year-old brother to a baseball contract Sunday. Eloy posted a photo of him and his smiling brother wearing a White Sox hat and jersey.

By the way, if you do a Google search for “Enoy Jimenez,” Google will ask: “Did you mean Eloy Jimenez?” Even Google can’t believe it.

We don’t know too much about little Enoy. I say little because he’s tiny compared to his big brother. See the video we found on YouTube which was posted a couple of weeks ago. Enoy is wearing a White Sox retro tank top and a Charlotte Knights hat. If anything, he’ll fit right in at SoxFest. Seriously, he has some great baseball DNA, so he’s got that going for him. He’s an infielder. That’s about all we know. As MLB Trade Rumors put it, “scouting information on the younger Jimenez brother is virtually non-existent.”

Q: We know that Rick Hahn plays things close to the vest. In your opinion, do the White Sox view Matt Davidson as a viable two-way option? Personally, I'd like to see how he does in close games. — @emm528

CG: I know Davidson is quite serious about it. I’m not sure about the White Sox side of things. When I asked Don Cooper during the season about the possibility of Davidson having a more permanent role in the bullpen, he seemed skeptical about the idea. That said, if Davidson comes to spring training and impresses the coaching staff, they might be open to it. Davidson told me in September that he needs to train his body during the offseason so he could handle the workload as a pitcher. He just basically winged it in emergency duty last season. At one point after one of his appearances, he needed around two weeks for his body to get back to normal. It’ll be interesting to see if he can pull it off.

Q: You got to be by the dugout for most home games this year. What’s something that goes on in the dugout during a game that fans at home wouldn’t know? — @PeteCha56613119

CG: Davidson likes to throw gum at me.

Q: Chris Sale. Discuss. — @sccerlaw​​​​​​​

CG: If you’re asking about Sale getting an infection from a belly-button ring, he was joking. Sale likes to have fun with the media. Remember in 2014, when he tried to work in a specific word during his postgame media scrums? He said things like juxtapose, acquiesce, capitulated, ruminate, amalgamation. Waiting to hear what his next Harvard vocabulary word was one of the highlights of a rough fourth-place season. Sale did miss his start in Game 5 of the ALCS because of an unspecified stomach illness. Keep in mind, he’s probably taking medication for an inflamed shoulder. But he says he’s 100-percent ready now for Game 1 of the World Series.

Q: If the White Sox win the World Series next year will you get a belly button ring? — @vlamas05​​​​​​​

CG: Sure.

Q: Why don't the White Sox have a museum in the park? About 1/3 of the league does and most of those teams have half the history the Sox do. — @Gnome89​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. For this one, I went right to the source and asked Brooks Boyer, White Sox senior vice president of sales and marketing.

“We used to have a small museum that fans could walk through which was attached to our team store," Boyer said. "Years ago, we converted that space as demand for a wider selection of retail products grew. We do have a museum-like historical display in the Magellan Scout Seats and have put many of the significant moments in our history on the columns leading to the sections on the 100 level. This past season we had a Negro League Museum traveling display in the Chicago Sports Depot.

"We continue to look for ways to display our history, and the Depot may very well be the best place, but, at this point, there are no plans for a permanent museum location.”

Q: Who do you see the White Sox going after in free agency this year? — @Grank2410​​​​​​​

CG: I wrote about my top five free agents last week. I don’t know for sure who the White Sox will sign, but I’d like to see them add a veteran hitter or two who have playoff experience, who know what it takes to win and can impart that on the young hitters.

Q: When will the Sox change their uniforms? — @ckottlarock​​​​​​​

CG: Personally, I’d wear the 1983 throwbacks for every game, home and away. But that’s just me.

Q: Can we please not get Machado? Can we get Nolan Arenado instead? — @drobaseball555​​​​​​​

CG: Rick Hahn, if you’re reading this, @drobaseball555 wants Arenado. Got it?

Thanks everyone for all of your questions. We’ll do it again next week.

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Update: Our Chuck Garfien found this video of Enoy taking some cuts with his big brother — all decked out in White Sox gear, too.