White Sox

State of the White Sox: Second base


State of the White Sox: Second base

The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

First base opened the series. Here, we’re moving on to second base.

What happened in 2019

Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez flipped positions ahead of the season, with Sanchez taking over at second base and playing terrific defense there. Sanchez ranked highly in a ton of defensive categories and might wind up a Gold Glove winner.

But because of a less-than-stellar bat — he finished with a .252/.318/.321 slash line, that slugging percentage by far the lowest among baseball’s qualified second baseman — all eyes were on the future in the minor leagues.

Nick Madrigal, who the White Sox selected with the No. 4 pick in last year’s draft, had himself an exceptional season playing at three different minor league levels. In his first full year as a pro, he showed off his most notable trait, a superhuman ability to avoid striking out, fanning just 16 times in 532 trips to the plate. He ended up slashing .311/.377/.414, and while that slugging percentage could be a bit of a big league bugaboo for him, too, the average and on-base percentage delivered much what was expected of an advanced college bat.

Back in the bigs, Danny Mendick finally got a chance at a taste of the major leagues, getting 12 hits, including a couple homers, in 40 plate appearances scattered across 16 games in September.

What will happen this offseason

The White Sox have a decision to make on Sanchez, who is slated for another raise in the arbitration process. It all depends on what kind of role they envision for him, and with Madrigal coming fast, that role wouldn’t figure to be that of an everyday player.

In fact, general manager Rick Hahn went as far as saying that he expects Madrigal to be the team’s second baseman for much of the 2020 season, signaling that Sanchez’s only way onto the roster would be as a utility man off the bench.

That would certainly be a positive thing for the White Sox, to utilize his excellent defense at a variety of infield positions late in games. But will that be worth the money? Sanchez made more than $4.5 million in 2019 and will make more in 2020 if he goes to arbitration. If the team deems that too expensive for a utility man off the bench, Sanchez could get non-tendered.

For what it’s worth, manager Rick Renteria had high praise for Sanchez as the season wrapped up over the weekend.

“Here's a guy who brings all the energy in the world,” he said. “A tremendous defender. Puts together some at-bats, has had some timely at-bats for us. ... He does a lot of little things that help you win offensively. He's been something kind of special for us.”

Madrigal, though, is hyped as having a similarly excellent level of defensive skill, and it might be enough to let Sanchez’s glove go.

One player who could factor into all this is Leury Garcia, who spent almost the entirety of the 2019 season in the outfield. He has the versatility to play just about everywhere on the diamond, second base included, and it would not be surprising to see the White Sox bring him back as a utility man off the bench in 2020.

The White Sox might pursue a second baseman from outside the organization, but again, it likely wouldn’t be someone slated for the everyday job there. If they do add someone, it would be as a bench player who would play second base until Madrigal is ready to come up from the minors.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

Madrigal, the No. 4 prospect in the organization, has been ticketed as the second baseman of the future since the White Sox moved Moncada to third base in February, and his strong season in the minors in 2019 only solidified that.

Madrigal will likely arrive in the majors during the early portion of the 2020 schedule. Pending the kind of contract Eloy Jimenez signed during spring training in 2019, lingering service-time issues mean it’s likely we won’t see Madrigal or Luis Robert until mid-to-late April.

Of course, it’s possible that Madrigal’s debut is a little after Robert’s, as Hahn alluded to during his end-of-season press conference last week.

“I don't know when exactly Luis Robert will arrive come 2020 or when Nick Madrigal will arrive in 2020. I would say based upon their seasons, probably have Luis a tick ahead of Nick in terms of projected arrival time,” Hahn said. “But we'll see how they show up in camp and how that unfolds.

“I think we can sit here and say that similar to Eloy a year ago, that we expect Luis Robert to be playing center field for most if not all of the 2020 season. Nick Madrigal playing second base? Probably most of the 2020 season. But let's wait and see how he comes to camp and what this offseason holds.”

And so the only question, really, is who will play second base until Madrigal reaches the majors. Garcia would be a prime candidate should he be back in a White Sox uniform in 2020. Mendick could also be kept on the 40-man roster and used as the second baseman at the major league level until Madrigal is ready to debut.

But Madrigal figures to be the guy at that position for a long time on the South Side.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Winning ugly


White Sox 2005 Rewind: Winning ugly

Good teams make up for their own mistakes.

Bad day for a pitcher? The offense picks him up. Slumping superstar? The role players get the job done.

That sort of thing happens over the entirety of a season, but if you’re looking for a microcosm from the White Sox championship campaign in 2005, look no further than May 8.

The White Sox completed a sweep of the Blue Jays on Mother’s Day in a game that featured a disastrous fourth inning that saw two uncustomary errors by Juan Uribe and an uncustomary rough go for Mark Buehrle.

Early on, Uribe looked like he was going to lead a beatdown of the Blue Jays. Batting high up in Ozzie Guillen’s order with Tadahito Iguchi getting a day off, Uribe made his skipper look smart by smashing a solo home run in the first inning.

In each of the first three innings, he made stellar defensive plays, almost turning a triple play in the first and turning a second double play in the third.

By the time Buehrle went out for the bottom of the fourth, he had a 5-0 lead to work with. But after a quick first out, he gave up back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. That’s when Uribe’s misfortune started. He dropped a ground ball, allowing a run to come home. And two batters later, after another run had scored, he airmailed a throw to first base in an attempt to complete an inning-ending double play. Two runs scored on that play, including one on his second error of the frame.

Buehrle did his job a couple times with the bases loaded, generating the kind of ground balls he used to get outs throughout his career. Without the help from his defense, though, the three hits and one walk he did give up in the inning ballooned into four runs, obviously helped by Uribe’s errors.

But despite that bout of ugliness in the fourth inning, the White Sox kept it together — and got contributions from the rest of the roster to make up for it.

Jermaine Dye hit a two-run homer. Joe Crede drove in a run, as did Pedro Lopez, who played in just two games for the 2005 White Sox. Buehrle navigated around some more trouble, retiring eight of the last 12 batters he faced — including getting a huge double play to get out a jam with the tying run 90 feet away in the fifth and another double play in the sixth. Dustin Hermanson sat down the only three hitters he faced, and despite a shaky ninth inning from Damaso Marte, Aaron Rowand made a game-saving catch on a line drive with the winning run at second base for the final out.

Borrow a term from an even older White Sox team: winning ugly.

Victories don’t have to be pretty, as long as they’re victories. And whether that’s staging a comeback win without the benefit of a hit or holding off a self-inflicted charge, the 2005 White Sox did it.

What else?

— Frank Menechino batted second for the Blue Jays in this one. He’s currently the White Sox hitting coach, and Toronto was one of two stops during his major league career. After spending five and a half big league seasons with the A’s, he was dealt in the middle of the 2004 season and spent his final major league campaign with the Jays in 2005. He had only a .216 batting average in his 70 games that year but reached base at a strong .352 clip. He had a hit and a walk in this one against Buehrle.

— Pedro Lopez again! This guy played in a grand total of two games for the 2005 White Sox. And he got an RBI hit in both of them. He had an RBI single as part of an 8-0 win over the Tigers on May 1. A week later, he got the start at second base, spelling Iguchi, and delivered an RBI hit that drove in the White Sox fifth run, eventually the difference-maker when the Blue Jays scored four off Buehrle in the bottom of the fourth. “Team of destiny,” anyone?

— This was Buehrle’s first win against the Blue Jays in his career, the only American League he hadn’t beaten coming into this start.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 6, 2005: Down 3-2 heading into the seventh, Dye tied the game with a solo homer to leadoff that inning. The White Sox grabbed the lead in the eighth on a two-out, two-run single by A.J. Pierzynski. White Sox win, 5-3, improve to 22-7.

May 7, 2005: The White Sox hit five homers, including two by Paul Konerko, scoring 10 runs in the first four innings to make up plenty for Jon Garland surrendering six runs to Blue Jays bats. White Sox win, 10-7, improve to 23-7.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the May 11, 2005, game against the Devil Rays, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Konerko drove in a pair with a double in a four-run fourth, and Orlando Hernandez allowed just three hits in a solid outing.

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MLB The Show sim: White Sox return home, lose to 1-9 Seattle Mariners

MLB The Show sim: White Sox return home, lose to 1-9 Seattle Mariners

NBC Sports Chicago is simulating the 2020 White Sox season via MLB The Show during the postponement of play. The White Sox, stocked with young talent and veteran offseason acquisitions, were expected to take a big step forward in their rebuild this season. Follow along as we play out the first few months of the season.

Coming off of a sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the White Sox returned to Guaranteed Rate Field to take on the cellar dwelling Seattle Mariners, who started their season with a 1-9 record.

The first inning seemed to look all too familiar for Dylan Cease as he started the game with two hits given up, putting runners at second and third. Cease dug his feet in and battled to strike out the next three batters to get out of the jam. The young righty reached 99 mph on the gun in his daytime start, but was pulled by Rick Renteria with only 85 pitches through 4 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts and one earned run.

With the game tied at 1, Renteria went to the pen with Kelvin Herrera, but he struggled once again in relief giving up two runs in the fifth.

The White Sox lone run came in the bottom of the second when Eloy Jimenez hit a solo homer to left field, his fourth of the season. That extended his hitting streak to nine games. Later in the frame, Nomar Mazara hit a towering shot to center field only to be robbed by Seattle’s Dom T-Williams at the wall to end the inning and ultimately the Sox scoring.

The White Sox did threaten in the ninth with two outs. Edwin Encarnacion forced a walk followed by a Yasmani Grandal single, which extended his hit streak to seven games. With two aboard, it was Jimenez with the chance to create some magic, but he popped out to right field to end the contest and the White Sox win streak.

Result: Mariners def. White Sox 3-1

Record: 6-4, second in AL Central (0.5 GB of Indians)

W: Marco Gonzales (1-1)

L: Dylan Cease (0-1)

SV: Yoshihisa Hurano (1)

White Sox lineup

  1. Tim Anderson: 2-4 (.372 BA)
  2. Yoan Moncada: 0-4 (.326 BA)
  3. Jose Abreu: 1-4 (.267 BA)
  4. Edwin Encarnacion: 1-3, BB (.235 BA)
  5. Yasmani Grandal: 1-4 (.333 BA)
  6. Eloy Jimenez: 1-4, HR, RBI (.270 BA)
  7. Luis Robert: 0-3 (.182 BA)
  8. Nomar Mazara: 0-3 (.194 BA)
  9. Leury Garcia: 0-3 (.214 BA)

Scoring summary

Top second:

  • Dee Gordon doubled to right field. Kyle Seager scored. 1-0 SEA.

Bottom second:

  • Eloy Jimenez homered to left. 1-1.

Top fifth:

  • Kyle Seager singled to center. Mitch Haniger scored. 2-1 SEA.  
  • Dom T-Williams fielder’s choice. Carlos Gonzalez scored. 3-1 SEA.

Notable performance: Alex Colome has excelled in his new role of middle reliever after Aaron Bummer grabbed the closer job. Colome hasn’t given up a run in 5 1/3 innings pitched and opposing left-handed batters are hitless against Colome this season.

Next game: Tuesday, April 7, Gm. 11: Mariners at White Sox (Taijuan Walker, 0-1, 8.38 ERA vs. Lucas Giolito, 1-0, 2.31 ERA)