White Sox

MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

It isn't "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but it is "an" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The MLB Players Association announced Monday that White Sox hurler Lucas Giolito is a finalist for its "Players Choice" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, voted on by the game's players. He was joined by outfielders Hunter Pence of the Texas Rangers and Jorge Soler of the Kansas City Royals. On the NL side, the three finalists were Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The whole "voted on by your peers" element is pretty cool, as certainly they know how different the 2019 version of Giolito was from the one they saw a year earlier. James McCann, who played against Giolito as a Detroit Tiger in 2018 and then caught him as the White Sox backstop in 2019, constantly talked about how transformed Giolito was from one year to the next.

A totally different pitcher.

That's precisely what Giolito seemed like to us non-player types, too, after he went from the worst statistics of any qualified pitcher in 2018 to an All Star and the ace of the South Side staff in 2019.

Giolito gave up more earned runs than any pitcher in the game in 2018, also leading the AL in walks during a season he finished with a 6.13 ERA. Then he went to work in the offseason, making mechanical changes and overhauling his mental approach to the game. It resulted in the kind of breakout season the prognosticators foresaw when they ranked him the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball once upon a time.

In 2019, Giolito posted a 3.41 ERA, went to the All-Star Game, struck out a whopping 228 batters — that particular feat accomplished by only two other pitchers in White Sox history — and will likely place somewhere in the AL Cy Young vote.

His season was highlighted by a pair of complete-game shutouts against two of the best teams in baseball, the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Both shutouts came against 100-win teams on their own turf.

Presumably some Astros and Twins threw a few votes Giolito's way.

Giolito's status when it comes to "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award will be revealed next month, after the World Series is over. But for now, this is a pretty cool feather in the cap for him, another example of how far he's come.

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Eloy Jimenez hammers home White Sox need for outside fix: 'I don't feel comfortable playing DH'

Eloy Jimenez hammers home White Sox need for outside fix: 'I don't feel comfortable playing DH'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Eloy Jimenez has said it before, but in case you needed a reminder, he's got one for you.

“I don’t feel comfortable playing DH,” he said in an interview with MLB.com's Jon Morosi on Monday. “I like playing the outfield. I don’t care if it’s right field or left field, but I feel comfortable in the outfield. I don’t like being the DH. For me, it’s boring.

“Maybe one time in my career — when I’m 35 or 37 — I can DH. But not now.”

So that suggestion that the White Sox can plug their hole at designated hitter with Jimenez? Forget about it.

That never really seemed like it was going to happen, anyway, despite a defensive performance in left field during the 2019 season that sparked questions of where Jimenez's long-term future will be. Manager Rick Renteria went as far as saying that he believed the White Sox wouldn't be doing what was best for the young slugger if the team moved him to a full-time DH role so early in his career.

"He's too young for me to view him as a DH, to be honest,” Renteria said in August. “And I think he's shown so much improvement in the outfield that it would be, I think, derelict on my part and on our part as an organization to limit the ability for him to play on both sides of the baseball.

“He's an extremely hard worker, he's very conscientious, he's been going through a lot of the things that we need him to go through. He sincerely has improved out there a lot. And so we want to see if we can maximize his ability to do everything he can as a Major League Baseball player.

“And then time will tell us. If that ends up ultimately being his lot — I don't foresee that. But if that ultimately becomes his lot, that becomes his lot. But I think right now we're going to continue to use him on both sides of the baseball, for sure.”

Indeed, Jimenez looked like a defensive work in progress in left field during his rookie season. He had plenty of less-than-graceful plays, communication errors, minus-11 Defensive Runs Saved and a couple of trips to the injured list sparked by miscues in left field. But Jimenez views himself as an all-around player, as do the White Sox, and he obviously has plenty of time to develop into just that. He's already got the power down, with 31 homers as a rookie.

His comments to Morosi hammer home the need for the White Sox to look outside their own roster to fill that hole at designated hitter, where they got some of the worst production in the American League last season. Jimenez harbors the same opinion toward the position that Jose Abreu does, the free-agent first baseman who's still expected to re-sign with the White Sox saying numerous times how much he dislikes DH-ing. Zack Collins might find the job more palatable, and the White Sox are looking for ways to get his bat in the lineup more often. But he remains a bit of a mystery from a production standpoint and wouldn't figure to line up for a shot at an everyday job at this very early stage of his career.

J.D. Martinez deciding to stay in Boston and stay away from this winter's free-agent market took the perfect solution off the board. But that market or the trade market — one that could still include the possibility of Martinez coming to the South Side — still seem the best way for Rick Hahn's front office to find a fix.

One thing's looks to be certain: Jimenez isn't signing up for everyday DH duty any time soon.

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Eloy Jiménez: Worth the wait

Eloy Jiménez: Worth the wait

With Eloy Jiménez, we had to wait.

We had to wait for him to debut in the Majors. After laying waste to minor league pitching in 2018, he was in the 2019 opening day lineup.

We had to wait for that first home run. He started his MLB career with 11 singles in his first 10 games. His first extra-base hit was in his next game. Then in game number twelve, he finally homered. Twice.

He was the 11th player in White Sox history whose first 2 career long ones were in the same game. 

Eloy Jiménez Apirl 12, 2019
José Abreu April 8, 2014
Brian Anderson August 26, 2005
Brian Simmons September 26, 1998
Greg Pryor September 8, 1978
Wayne Nordhagen August 25, 1977
Carlos May April 9, 1969
Tom McCraw June 19, 1963
Brian McCall September 30, 1962
Don Kolloway June 28, 1941
Zeke Bonura April 18, 1934

My favorite fun fact from that breakout performance: Jiménez was the first player to hit his first 2 MLB home runs in the same game as a visitor at Yankee Stadium (old or new) since [former White Sox great] Manny Ramírez on September 3, 1993.

But then we had to wait again. Because he kept homering on the road. His first 8 career MLB blasts were all on the road. He's the third White Sox player whose first 8 career MLB home runs all came as a visiting player. The others were Nellie Fox (his first 9 were on the road spanning from 1951-54) and Johnny Mostil (his first 8 were on the road in 1921-22).

That first home run at Guaranteed Rate Field came on June 11, and it went FAR,  and from that point forward he hit 11 on the road and 12 at home.

Number 30 came on September 22 in Detroit, and with that came a few more interesting notes.

Jiménez is one of only three White Sox to hit 30+ home runs as a rookie. 

1983 Ron Kittle 35
2014 José Abreu 36
2019 Eloy Jiménez 31

Jiménez is the youngest player in White Sox history at the time of his 30th HR of the season. 

22 y, 299 d Eloy Jiménez 2019
23 y, 98 d Frank Thomas 1991
25 y, 75 d Bill Melton 1970

And perhaps most impressively, Jiménez is one of only 11 players in MLB history to hit 30+ home runs in his debut season. Here's that list:

1930 Wally Berger Braves 38
1939 Ted Williams Red Sox 31
1956 Frank Robinson Reds 38
1963 Jimmie Hall Twins 33
1986 Pete Incaviglia Rangers 30
2001 Albert Pujols Cardinals 37
2007 Ryan Braun Brewers 34
2014 José Abreu White Sox 36
2017 Cody Bellinger Dodgers 39
2019 Pete Alonso Mets 53
2019 Eloy Jiménez White Sox 31

Jiménez finished his rookie campaign on a tear, pummeling pitching for a .321/.355/.604 clip over his last 46 games. At last the waiting was over. Eloy Jiménez had arrived.

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