Tim Anderson

The benefits of a day on the bench: Rick Renteria sat Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada as a teaching tactic

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USA TODAY

The benefits of a day on the bench: Rick Renteria sat Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada as a teaching tactic

This rebuilding season, as most White Sox fans and observers know all too well, is about young players learning how to be the next group of championship contenders on the South Side.

A good deal of that learning process is taking place in the minor leagues, as the organization’s wealth of talented prospects develop into big league caliber players. But there are plenty of current major leaguers who fall into a similar category, guys who haven’t become finished products yet and are going through developmental stages at the big league level.

There might not be two more important members of that group than Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, the White Sox middle infield of the present and two players the team hopes can be the middle infield of the future, too.

Both guys are struggling at the moment. Moncada ranks second in baseball in strikeouts, with 92, and hasn’t looked right since returning from the disabled list in the middle of May. Anderson has had his own issues at the plate and is one of five players in the game with 11 or more fielding errors this season.

It's obvious that those problems aren’t going to be remedied overnight, and these are the kinds of growing pains that come with any rebuilding effort.

The duo found itself on the bench for Thursday’s loss to the visiting Cleveland Indians, a tactic employed by manager Rick Renteria to allow the two youngsters to see the game from a different perspective. It wasn’t punishment for poor play. It was a teaching tool.

“These are young men who are continuing to develop,” Renteria said after the game. “(Giving them the day off was) more to the point of trying to raise the level of focus and concentration and trying to make sure they stay in every pitch of the game, of which they many times do and then there some fluctuations.

“They are two kids that are pretty special in my eyes, in terms of who we are as an organization. It’s another phase of their growth. We spoke to them a little bit during the ballgame, more to some of the observations they were making on some of the plays that were made or not made, how guys were reacting, what they saw. They had some good responses, which was good.

“They’re going to continue to get better. Our expectations are they will and they’re going to be a part of something good here.”

So did it work?

That kind of thing is terribly difficult to measure, obviously, as a young player’s development is made up of so many different moments like this. It’s more of a mental thing, too, than something that’s going to instantly cause either’s batting average to rise or make them play error-free defense.

But Anderson, for one, admitted that, yes, this was a learning experience.

“Just really seeing what was going on in the game, talking about certain plays, certain things that were happening during the game,” he said. “Just kind of a learning point and time to hit the rest button a little bit and learn a little bit more, figure out things.

“The game looks a lot easier when you’re sitting there watching. Then when you’re in there, it’s a totally different game. It’s always good to learn something and kind of step back from playing. Today was a good day to sit back and watch and see the other guys go to work.”

The win-loss record and, ultimately, even the statistical output by any player — whether in the team’s long-term plans or not — won’t mean much by the end of the 2018 campaign. The White Sox are instead looking at how the players who are part of the future develop and progress over the course of a big league season.

But there’s little doubt that seeing poor results from the likes of Moncada and Anderson, two players with high hopes and high expectations, can cause some panic throughout the fan base. The White Sox want these guys to be as successful as possible, and they’ve put their faith in Renteria and his staff as good teachers. This is part of that process.

“This is more of making sure that they take a step back, take a breath, allow us to give them some perspective while the game is going on, talk to them a little bit. Allow them to enjoy the game,” Renteria said before Thursday’s game. “Because sometimes you’re going out there and playing, you have a day or two where maybe you’re not having the success that you want to have, you get frustrated and start making it more than it is.

“It’s a long season. You’re going to have good days and bad days. But we do certainly have to compartmentalize a lot of different aspects of the game. It’s required of you to be elite-status type players, and I think this is more just an understanding for them, take a breath … just regroup.”

Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson being the middle infield of the future won't stop White Sox from drafting an infielder at No. 4

Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson being the middle infield of the future won't stop White Sox from drafting an infielder at No. 4

One of the names you will hear most associated with the White Sox and their No. 4 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft is Nick Madrigal, a middle infielder at Oregon State.

There’s plenty to know — and like — about him. He’s short. He’s also a really, really, really good baseball player: a career .367/.428/.512 slash line including a .395/.459/.563 in limited action this season.

But the thing that will likely jump out the most to White Sox fans is his position. He plays second base for the Beavers, and he’s played some shortstop in the past, too.

Wait a minute, aren’t those the positions that Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson play?

There’s nothing South Side baseball fans enjoy more during these rebuilding days than plotting out future lineups, and a vast majority of those projections have Moncada and Anderson entrenched up the middle for years to come. So if the White Sox, courtesy of the team’s poor record in 2017, have the opportunity to add a premier player with the No. 4 pick in the draft, why wouldn’t they spend it on a position of greater need?

The answer is that they just don’t care about that.

That might sound harsh, but that’s the thought process in the White Sox draft room, where the braintrust is planning on taking the best player available, regardless of his position and who is or will be playing there in the present and near future.

“Doesn’t play into it at all,” White Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler told Chuck Garfien and Ryan McGuffey on a recent White Sox Talk Podcast. “We don’t talk about it. It’s not an issue for us. It’s not anything we’ve even discussed.

“It really, truly has not come up one time in discussing anything with Rick (Hahn) or Jeremy (Haber) or Kenny (Williams) or (Chris Getz) about who we have in the big leagues, who we have in the minor leagues. It means absolutely nothing when we’re drafting in the first round with that first pick because we’ve got to get it right, we’ve got to take the best player.”

Fans and observers might see the upcoming draft as an opportunity for the White Sox to add to their crazy collection of prospects in their quest to build a contender for the 2020 season and beyond. Be it Madrigal or whoever, the player the White Sox take at No. 4 would figure to join the likes to Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen as the most talked about players in the farm system.

But the player selected with the fourth pick might not be in the same grouping as those guys from the perspective of time. He might not plug a hole that quickly or rise to the level of all those names. His development could take time. And so the White Sox aren’t drafting with the mindset that their pick will be someone who joins the major league squad in a rapid manner.

“I don’t want to say it doesn’t go into it at all because you do look at the timeframe of the player. And there’s some misconception that just because he’s a college player, he fits in with this next group of the Alec Hansens and the Zack Collinses and the Luis Roberts and Eloy Jimenez. That doesn’t always necessarily mean that that’s the case,” Hostetler said. “Some of these college guys develop slower. Some of them develop very quickly.

“So I think that it’s all based off of each individual player. Now I will say that when we do look at it, it doesn’t factor in to us evaluating the player. When we evaluate the player, it’s strictly based off of his tools, his makeup, on the field, off the field. All of those factors go into it. We don’t look at the timeline.

“As scouts, we just want to evaluate all of the data, put that in order, and then if Rick, Kenny, if they feel it’s important to add in what the timeline’s going to be and where he fits, then I let them do that. But just as scouts and scouting director, we strictly base ours off of tools and data and that’s it”

If the White Sox choose Madrigal on Monday night, there are some important things to remember. It won’t mean they’ve surrendered on the idea of Moncada and Anderson as their middle infield of the future for many years to come. For the time being, it would simply bolster the depth at the position.

And Hostetler mentioned the idea of giving Madrigal, should he be the choice, a chance to play a multitude of other positions — despite also mentioning that he’s been described as a Gold Glove type defender at second base.

“It’s been noted that his second base defense is Gold Glove caliber defense. He can flat out play,” Hostetler said. “He’s played shortstop before, played it when he was in high school, played it as a freshman, played it some on Team USA. ... It is a really, really plus defender at second base.

“You look at it and you say, ‘Can he play another position? Can he play third? Can he play short? Can he play center?’ Because he can run. All of those factors are yet to be answered because we don’t really know. We haven’t seen enough. There isn’t a big enough sample size for us to say, ‘Yes he can.’ We have to look at the tools, the way the body works, the way the feet work in sync. There’s a chance. I’d give this kid a chance to play anywhere on the field this year.”

But taking Madrigal — or another player at any other position that already seems to be locked up — also provides the White Sox a big-time safety net should Anderson or Moncada not become the productive everyday big leaguers they were envisioned to become. Moncada has been good, for the most part, this season. But Anderson has been streaky. He’s got a lot of homers and a lot of steals, which are great, positive signs for a player who struggled so badly last season. But he’s also gone through long stretches of little production. He’s still in the thick of a “prove it” season. Having a backup plan would be a wise strategy, even if the White Sox think the world of Anderson and what he can become.

And then there’s that point Hostetler made about guys taking time to develop. It’s very possible that the White Sox could pick Madrigal and wait for him to become ready for the majors while Moncada and Anderson are starring on contending teams at the big league level. Hahn always talks about planning for the long term, and building organizational depth at every position is a big part of that.

So remember that the MLB Draft is a different animal from the NFL and NBA Drafts. The White Sox won’t be drafting for need Monday night, even though they’ll have the opportunity to add someone who could be in the bigs relatively soon.

“It’s ‘for each their own’ in baseball. That’s the great thing about this game,” Hostetler said. “We’re not having to draft a point guard to play against LeBron, I’m not trying to draft a corner to cover Allen Robinson. I’m trying to draft a baseball player.”

Who knew? Baseball oddities from Javier Báez, Yolmer Sánchez and more in Chicago baseball

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Baseball oddities from Javier Báez, Yolmer Sánchez and more in Chicago baseball

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

While you’re gathered with your families for the holiday, what better to entertain a crowd than a long list of baseball statistics! These outstanding feats in Chicago baseball are perfect to rattle off in between trips to the grill (or refrigerator)! So without further ado…

Catch Him if you Can

There have been 14 triples hit by catchers this season (through Sunday). 28.6 percent of them (four) have come off the bat of Willson Contreras.

Contreras is the first Cubs catcher with four triples before the All-Star break since Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett in 1936.

Triple Threat

When Yolmer Sánchez isn’t dousing the field with Gatorade, he’s running wild on the bases. 

Sánchez hit his fifth triple (which is tied for the Major League lead with Javier Báez) on Sunday, and over the last year’s worth of games, he’s at the top of the list.

Most triples, last 365 days (May 28, 2017 – May 27, 2018):

Yolmer Sánchez    11
Nicholas Castellanos 10
Billy Hamilton  10

Double Up

José Abreu enters Monday tied for the MLB lead with 19 doubles this season.  He hit numbers 18 and 19 on Saturday, the team's 49th game this season. 19 doubles through 49 team games in a season is the best by a White Sox player since the legendary Zeke “Banana Nose” Bonura in 1937 (also 19). 

Triple-Double

Sánchez (five triples) and Abreu (19 doubles) give the White Sox players tied for the MLB lead in each category.

The last time a team had the Major League leader in doubles and triples (or at least a share for the MLB lead) was 2007, when Curtis Granderson (23 triples) and Magglio Ordoñez (54 doubles) led the Majors in those categories for the Detroit Tigers.

A Contrast in Style

The Cubs mixed it up last Friday against the Giants at Wrigley Field. Consider this:

First batter of game: Gorkys Hernández facing Kyle Hendricks: 86.1 MPH 4-seam Fastball, 86.4 MPH Sinker, 87.1 MPH Sinker (three-pitch strikeout)

Last batter of game: Mac Williamson facing Brandon Morrow: 100.1 MPH Sinker, 99.8 MPH Sinker, 99.7 MPH Sinker (three-pitch strikeout)

The 10/10 club

Entering Monday, there are three players with double-digit totals in both home runs and stolen bases.

Mookie Betts, Mike Trout… and Tim Anderson!

Anderson reached the 10 home run/10 stolen base plateau in team game number 49 this season, the quickest Sox player to do so since Alex Ríos in 2010 (team game 48).

Anderson’s ninth and 10th home runs of the season came Saturday at Detroit. He now has three multi-home run games this season – at three AL Central ballparks (Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City opening day March 29, Guaranteed Rate Field May 5, and Comerica Park in Detroit May 26).

Anderson is one of only two shortstops in White Sox history with multiple multi-home run games in a season. 

Most multi-home run games in a season by a White Sox shortstop:

Tim Anderson 3 2018
José Valentín 3 2003
José Valentín 3 2002
José Valentín 3 2000
12 tied with    1

The 1/1 club

Last Wednesday, José Rondón and Adam Engel both hit a home run and stole a base. It was only the 13th time since 1908 that a pair of White Sox players homered and stole a base in the same game. It was the first time since exactly two years earlier (May 23, 2016) when Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie did it.

The Will to Not Walk

Javier Báez is the first Cubs player to hit five triples and 10 home runs before the All-Star break since Corey Patterson in 2004. 

And through Monday’s game, there are still 43 games to go before we reach the All-Star break.

The last time Báez drew a walk was April 11. 

From April 12 through May 27, 468 players (including Cubs reliever Randy Rosario, who walked in his first Major League plate appearance on Sunday) have drawn at least one walk. But not Báez. 

Mike Trout has drawn 39 walks over that same span.

Báez from April 12 to May 27: .275/.277/.542, no walks, 33 strikeouts

Oh yeah… that walk Báez took on April 11? It was intentional. His last unintentional walk was April 7.

Why walk when you can run, I guess...