White Sox

If Eloy Jimenez is on the White Sox roster on Opening Day, who's off it?

If Eloy Jimenez is on the White Sox roster on Opening Day, who's off it?

The reported deal nearing completion between the White Sox and Eloy Jimenez is much more about having him in a White Sox uniform for the better part of the next decade than it is about having him in a White Sox uniform next week.

But the reported six-year contract that could last eight years, thanks to a couple of team options, would throw the whole service-time issue out the window. There would be no need to delay Jimenez's debut in order to guarantee an extra year of club control. That control is built into the contract. So Jimenez can now appear on the Opening Day roster with no ill effects.

Whether that's what will happen or not seems to be unclear at the moment. But if Jimenez is part of the 25 on Opening Day next week in Kansas City, then who won't be?

The outfield has been a tough puzzle to piece together all spring. Even if Jimenez were to start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, there would've been too many guys for the four assumed outfield spots on the roster: Jon Jay, Adam Engel, Daniel Palka, Leury Garcia and Nicky Delmonico. Jay isn't going anywhere, obviously, but if Jimenez is there on Opening Day, that eats up two of those spots, leaving four guys fighting it out for two jobs.

Jimenez likely becomes the everyday left fielder, but while Jay is a lock to make the team, he's not a lock to play just one outfield position (his versatility and ability to play in all three spots was part of the allure of his signing) and he's not a lock to play every day. So constructing an outfield with the idea that Jay would be either the everyday center fielder or everyday right fielder is perhaps misguided. He might end up playing both positions a decent amount.

Each of the other four players brings entirely different strong suits.

Palka has the left-handed power that led to 27 home runs in 2018, but his defensive ability is a pretty big question mark — not to mention a bigger piece of this puzzle now that Yonder Alonso and Jose Abreu figure to take up the majority of the at-bats at designated hitter, the position Palka looked best suited for.

Engel has the defensive mastery in center field that made him a Gold Glove finalist last season, but his offensive struggles are well documented: He has a career .207/.260/.314 slash line.

Garcia has the versatility that Rick Renteria loves, the ability to play three infield positions and three outfield positions, but with Jose Rondon adding outfield to his repertoire this spring and boasting significantly more power than Garcia, does Garcia's versatility become superfluous?

Delmonico has the offensive potential he flashed at the end of the 2017 season, when he hit nine homers and had an .856 OPS in just 43 games, but injuries and poor results cratered his numbers in 2018, when he slashed .215/.296/.373 with just eight homers and 80 strikeouts in 88 games.

It comes down to which attribute Renteria and Rick Hahn value most. Engel's bat receives plenty of scorn from the fan base, but his glove could be even more valuable in an outfield featuring Jimenez and Palka, two players not known for their work with the glove. But Palka provides more pop, while Garcia gives Renteria more options when it comes to resting guys throughout the course of the 162-game season.

It's important to note that whenever this rebuild transitions into contention mode, it's possible none of these players — aside from Jimenez, of course — is a part of the White Sox outfield equation. Prospects like Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Luis Basabe and Blake Rutherford might eventually have better claims to these spots than anyone in the current mix. But there's a team to field in 2019.

Truthfully, it's near impossible to pick which of these guys is going to get the short end of the stick. It seemed Delmonico was going to have a challenging time making the team even if Jimenez had started the season at Triple-A, so perhaps it's slightly easier to box him out. But as for the other three, they each boast an attribute the others don't, and the limits of modern technology mean we can't peer inside the minds of White Sox brass and find out which attribute they value more.

After Thursday cuts that sent Ryan Cordell and Thyago Vieira, among others, out of big league camp, the roster is down to 37 (not including Jimenez, who was optioned to Charlotte earlier this month and whose reported contract is not yet official). So there are 12 more cuts to come. But the outfield is where the most intrigue lies.

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


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 happened, 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"


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