White Sox

Why isn't Avisail Garcia thinking about an All-Star bid? 'Long season, man'

Why isn't Avisail Garcia thinking about an All-Star bid? 'Long season, man'

Avisail Garcia continues to make a strong case to make his first American League All-Star team, but Monday’s birthday boy isn’t thinking that far into the future. 

Garcia, who turned 26 on Monday, notched two hits, drove in three runs and stole a base as the White Sox blasted the Baltimore Orioles, 10-7, in front of 17,665 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Through 60 games — half of how many he played in 2016 — Garcia is hitting .333 with a .921 OPS. His 10 home runs are second on the White Sox and he leads the team with 45 RBIs. 

Those are numbers certainly worthy of an All-Star roster spot. So is Garcia already planning his flight to Miami in July?

“No,” Garcia said. “Long season, man.”

That Garcia is even under consideration for the 2017 All-Star Game is improbable given the seemingly-rigid trajectory he was on heading into this season. From 2015-2016, Garcia slashed .252/.308/.374 and averaged 12 home runs and 55 RBIs per year. 

Entering Monday, Garcia ranked 12th among American League position players in WAR (2.1) and was in the top 10 in batting average, RBIs and OPS. As of June 6’s most recent American League All-Star balloting update, Garcia had the fifth-most votes among outfielders (479,349), about 40,000 votes behind Boston’s Mookie Betts in fourth and about 75,000 votes shy of Cleveland’s Michael Brantley for the third and final starting spot. All-Star voting ends June 29.

“His approaches have been consistent,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s still seeing the ball very well and controlling the strike zone better. It’s been a good run and hopefully he adds to it as the season progresses.”

Even if Garcia isn’t in Terry Francona’s starting lineup July 11 at Marlins Park, he would seem to be a veritable lock for his first All-Star nod unless his likely-unsustainable .404 batting average on balls in play craters over the next month. The highest BABIP in the last five seasons was .394 (Atlanta’s Chris Johnson in 2013), which suggests that eventually, Garcia won’t see base hits fall in at quite the same rate he’s enjoying now. 

But for now, Garcia hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. In the third, he laced a double to center to plate two runs — one of which scored on an error, so Garcia didn’t earn both RBIs — and an inning later, a sharp RBI single brought home two more runs. 

“The balls in play for him are productive,” Renteria said, knocking on what he hoped was wood on the White Sox interview room dais. “Where the base on balls might keep a line moving he’s driving in runs and actually driving the ball. His at bats are good. Hopefully it continues, he lays off pitches not in the zone and continue to get the hits.”

Garcia is walking in only 3.7 percent of his at-bats this year, down from between 6 and 7.5 percent from 2014-2016. The aggressiveness has suited him well, allowing him to go into each at-bat with that consistent approach Renteria praised. 

“I just try to swing at strikes,” Garcia said. “Swing at strikes and don’t try to do too much, because when I try to do too much nothing happens.”

Garcia hasn’t had an extended run of success like this since he broke through with the Detroit Tigers in 2012. Despite some spurts of early success — like the five hits and three RBIs he had in the 2012 American League Championship Series and encouraging debut with the White Sox in 2013  — most of Garcia’s major league career has been an exercise in dealing with failure. 

While he’s only 26, Garcia played in his 469th game Monday night. And he’s using the lessons he learned over the last five years to take a big-picture approach to how well he's hitting this year — and if that means he'll join the best players in the game in Miami next month. 

“I have more experience right now, I’ve been in the league for a little bit and you just gotta keep working,” Garcia said. “Long season and we have to play the game tomorrow.” 

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

White Sox promote catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte as Welington Castillo lands on IL

The White Sox catching depth will soon be put to the test.

Saturday, the White Sox placed catcher Welington Castillo on seven-day concussion list. In a corresponding move, the team promoted catcher Seby Zavala from Triple-A Charlotte, 

In 26 games this season, Castillo holds a .176/.286/.318 slashline with three home runs in 85 at-bats. He exited Friday's game against the Twins in the eighth inning after taking two foul tips off of his catcher's mask. 

While White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Friday that Castillo didn't go into concussion protocol, the team is likely being precautious due to the nature of the injury. 

Zavala, 25, has yet to appear in the big leagues, though he's played in 360 minor league games since the White Sox selected him in the 12th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. He holds a career slashline of .267/.335/.457 across all minor league levels, reaching Triple-A for the first time last season. 

Zavala's slashline this season is currently below his career averages (.218/.253/.506 in 21 games), but he's hit six home runs in 87 at-bats. Last season, he hit 13 in a combined 380 at-bats between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

Although the circumstances of his promotion are not ideal, Zavala is leaving Charlotte on a high-note. In last night's game against the Durham Bulls, he went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run.

With Castillo out, the White Sox will likely lean on James McCann more. In 31 games this season, McCann holds a stellar .333/.373/.523 slashline

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White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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