He knows there’s potential for an opportunity with the rebuilding White Sox, but Casey Gillaspie wants to make sure his focus is on himself instead of the big picture.
The Triple-A Charlotte first baseman recently said he’s spent too much time on issues he can’t control and has found it to be counterproductive to his goal of making the major leagues. Given he’s had a disappointing season, Gillaspie -- who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Dan Jennings last month -- wanted to finish the season strong. The Rays 2016 minor leaguer of the year, Gillaspie has begun to rebound with Charlotte, hitting .241/.330/456 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 91 plate appearances.
“I think any player would be lying to you if they said they didn’t think about that stuff when they get traded,” Gillaspie said. “Who’s in the system? Who’s in the organization? But I’ve just been trying to enjoy the moment since I got traded, not trying to think about it because I’ve done that in the past and it’s never really worked out for you.
“In a sense, you try and not think about it. But at the same time in the back of your head you know there’s a lot of opportunity over here. I think you’ve just really got to focus on what you need to do in order to get up there and worry about getting better every day.”
The No. 20 pick of the 2014 amateur draft, Gillaspie feels familiar with the organization because of the experiences of his brother, Conor, who played two-plus seasons for the White Sox. The two joined the White Sox in similar circumstances, coming off disappointing campaigns with the teams that drafted them. Acquired as a complementary piece in 2013, Conor played his way into a bigger role and eventually took over as the team’s starting third baseman. The younger Gillaspie, the No. 13 White Sox prospect, said his brother loved his time playing for the White Sox and is thrilled for Casey to be playing with a Midwest-based team.
Whereas Conor Gillaspie was known by fans because he rarely smiled, Casey Gillaspie said the pair plays different styles of baseball. Casey Gillaspie said he can’t match his brother’s intensity on the field and respects the third baseman for his ability to do so.
He also appreciates the way he’s been able to lean on his older brother during a trying season. Casey Gillaspie, 24, produced a .909 OPS at Triple-A Durham last season and went to spring training. He was one of the team’s final cuts and followed with a rough season at Durham, posting a .653 OPS in 95 games.
One of the biggest drop-offs has been on-base percentage -- Gillaspie posted a .388 in 2016, a figure that dropped to .302 this season.
“This year was kind of a down year for me if I’m being honest,” Gillaspie said. “I could sit here and name a bunch of things I was doing wrong, but at the end of its baseball and sometimes it doesn’t make sense. Having a brother who went through all this and obviously had some unfair moments in his career and things didn’t go his way, I was able to lean on him a little with that. At the end of the day I think it’s a really hard sport to play and I can’t really name one thing that I did that made me have the season I did up to this point. It’s just baseball and I try and forget about it.”
Though surprised by the trade, it didn’t take Gillaspie long to realize moving to a new organization might be a good thing. He’s tried to treat his time with the Knights as a fresh start. One sign his season might be turning around was a wind-blown homer Gillaspie hit at Lehigh Valley on Aug. 13, a ball he didn’t expect to hit out. Including that day, Gillaspie has an .812 OPS over his final 14 games.
“For that to go out, it was a sigh of relief that something’s starting to go my way and that’s kind of how I looked at it and hopefully I can keep on going,” Gillaspie said. “It was a blessing in disguise to get traded when I did. I wasn’t having the year I was hoping to have, but getting over here and just trying to start over in a sense. Really just relax and enjoy the game because at any minute your life can change.”