White Sox

The 10 most important White Sox in 2019: No. 9 Daniel Palka

The 10 most important White Sox in 2019: No. 9 Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka came out of nowhere in 2018 and inserted himself into the conversation about the White Sox long-term future. In 2019, he’ll have work to do to stay in it.

Palka led the team with 27 home runs last season, a franchise record for a rookie lefty, in addition to earning fan-favorite status among South Side baseball supporters. But he knows as much as anyone that he’s got more to do to be an everyday player in the big leagues.

He batted just .240 with an on-base percentage under .300 in 2018, and his numbers against left-handed pitchers were poor enough that he had just 83 plate appearances versus southpaws. His defense made it seem like he was best suited to be a designated hitter, though to his credit he worked very hard to change that, and that was the focus of his offseason.

And so being able to play the outfield on a regular if not daily basis will be the thing that determines whether or not Palka can stay in that conversation about what this team looks like when the contention window opens. The White Sox greatly limited the number of opportunities Palka will have to swing the bat as a DH this season when they acquired Yonder Alonso in an offseason trade with the Cleveland Indians. Alonso and Jose Abreu are set to platoon at first base and designated hitter, pretty much speaking for all the at-bats at those two positions. And so Palka's lone road to playing time lies in the outfield.

However, the outfield is also going to be one of the more competitive spots on the roster in 2019. Eloy Jimenez is expected to be the team's everyday left fielder, and veteran Jon jay, another offseason acquisition, isn't going anywhere, though he might not be an everyday player or play exclusively one position. That leaves just a couple spots for additional outfielders. Palka, Adam Engel and Leury Garcia are all expected to be on the Opening Day roster, but one might get squeezed out come April 17, the earliest date the White Sox would need a fifth starting pitcher. We'll see how that roster crunch plays itself out.

For Palka, though, the formula for sticking around is simple: the glove. Palka's power bat is an attractive attribute that neither Engel nor Garcia can claim. If Palka's offseason work on his defense pays off, his bat will likely keep him around.

And it's a valuable thing to have, that power. The White Sox came one Avisail Garcia homer away from having five players in the 20-homer club, but Palka was the team leader and five ahead of Abreu, the second-place finisher in that department with 22 long balls. Keeping that power in the lineup — and adding that of Jimenez and Alonso — would make for a drastically different, in a good way, White Sox offense.

In the long term, that left-handed power would be extremely valuable coming off the bench in a pivotal moment. Palka proved himself clutch in 2018. If he can improve the other elements of his game, Palka could go from future situational power bat to everyday player.

So that's what is on the line for him in 2019. It's an important year for him to establish himself as a part of those long-term plans. He worked his way into the conversation, out of nowhere, last year. This year, it's about claiming a spot in that lineup of the future.

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A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season

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USA TODAY

A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season

Yoan Moncada continued his hot start to the season with a leadoff home run in Detroit on Friday.

He finished with two hits and a bases-loaded walk in a 7-3 White Sox win.

Moncada’s base numbers are all up this season. He is hitting .325 with a 1.002 OPS and a team-leading six home runs. Beyond that, a deeper look at the numbers show why Moncada’s production is up.

Moncada didn’t show much, if any, improvement in 2018 from 2017. Most of his numbers across the board were similar or slightly worse.

Moncada was patient at the plate, but maybe too patient in his first two seasons with the White Sox. He led the majors with 217 strikeouts last season and 85 of those were strikeouts looking. So far this season, Moncada is yet to strikeout looking.

This season, Moncada is swinging at more pitches both in the strike zone and overall, which is leading to a lower strikeout rate. A look at the advanced stats from FanGraphs shows Moncada swung at 63.9 percent of pitches in the zone in both 2017 and 2018 (these numbers are before Friday's game). That number is up to 69.1 percent this season. On top of that, Moncada is making more contact on those swings on pitches in the zone (up to 86.5 percent this season after 77.5 percent in 2017 and 79.8 percent in 2018).

His strikeout rate (32 percent in 2017, 33.4 percent in 2018) is way down at 24.1 percent. Strikeouts were the biggest red flag for Moncada last year. By being more aggressive this season, Moncada has been able to cut way down on that number.

His power has gone way up as well. He already has 12 extra base hits (in 82 plate appearances) and his home run on Friday was an absolute bomb. Moncada took it deep for 458 feet. That’s the longest White Sox home run of the season and is tied for the eighth longest home run in the majors this season.


He later showed that despite being more aggressive, he still has that plate discipline that was such a big part of what made him a coveted prospect in the first place. He drew a five-pitch bases loaded walk in which he did not swing the bat.

No matter how it's happening, Moncada’s turnaround has been one of the most important things in the young White Sox season.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk Harrelson proud of Jason Benetti for "jumping all over Joe West's ass"

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Hawk Harrelson proud of Jason Benetti for "jumping all over Joe West's ass"

Chuck Garfien speaks with Hawk Harrelson about Tim Anderson's bat flip and Joe West kicking Anderson out of the game (3:40), Anderson taking his game to a new level (08:50), the passing of legendary sportscaster Chet Coppock (14:30), Hawk praises Jason Benetti for criticizing Joe West on the air (17:35), how Harrelson is adapting to not calling baseball games (19:50), why he teared up watching Tiger Woods win the Masters (23:40) and more.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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