White Sox

White Sox farm director Chris Getz breaks down Luis Robert's breakout season and what's next for the top prospect

White Sox farm director Chris Getz breaks down Luis Robert's breakout season and what's next for the top prospect

Going into the season, Chris Getz’s goal for Luis Robert was to get through a full, healthy season.

Robert, the top White Sox prospect, did so much more than that in 2019.

“Not only was he able to accomplish that, but he went out there and he got off to a great start and never slowed down,” Getz, the White Sox farm director, said on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “We continued to challenge him with different levels and he continued to perform at an elite level.”

The accolades are still coming in for Robert after his standout season that spanned three levels of the minors. The talk quickly went from him simply staying healthy to becoming a debate on when he should be called up to the majors.

“You look back at the year, what our initial goal was and it’s pretty impressive what he was able to accomplish,” Getz said.

Getz said the White Sox saw glimpses of Robert’s ability when he first joined the team in spring training in 2018, but a thumb injury limited him to 50 games. He didn’t hit any home runs and then bounced back in 2019 with 32 home runs.

“It was just a fraction of the player that he was,” Getz said. “We have the setback with the thumb. You don’t really know how much it’s affecting him. You look at this past season and it’s like ‘Wow, he’s really coming together.’ I think that certainly going through what he’s gone through with the thumb injury, but also he was getting acclimated not only to the organization but the United States. He was much more comfortable. You talk to his coaches this year. Everyone that was interacting with him. He was able to go out there and be himself and just go out there and play baseball. You see him on the bench or in the clubhouse and he’s starting to have fun. He was showing his personality in a lot of different ways. You look back and it was just an astounding year.”

As for the question of if Robert should have been up, Getz didn’t say anything that other members of the White Sox front office have said.

“Sure, there are guys that are getting called up with lesser numbers,” Getz said. “However, what’s the best route for Luis Robert? We felt the best route was not to bring him up here.”

Getz admitted Robert was disappointed to not be up with the White Sox now, but said he “handled it like a professional.”

Part of the logic of ending his season when the Triple-A season ended was the desire to see Robert refine his approach at the plate. Getz described Robert as an “ultra aggressive” hitter, who can square up balls but will get tested by major league pitchers.. 

“When he gets to the big leagues they’re going to want him to chase pitches,” Getz said. “He needs to hone the zone. He’s a guy that his plate appearances are fairly quick. He goes up there swinging. So in terms of making sense of his at-bats, sometimes it’s a little all over the map. He needs to really bear down and put a plan together and execute on a consistent basis. If he does that, we have a chance to have a very good player right out of the gate. You don’t want to have a player who comes up here and then has to learn that adjustment.”

Four numbers that sum up a scorching hot month of September for the White Sox offense

Four numbers that sum up a scorching hot month of September for the White Sox offense

Even as the White Sox finish up the final stretch of their seventh consecutive losing season, the games they are playing aren’t meaningless -- Jose Abreu acknowledged as much when he said that the 2020 season “starts in September”. Key contributors in the White Sox lineup have clearly taken that to heart, as the Sox offense has been one of the best in baseball in the month of September. 

Here are four numbers* that reflect what has been a torrid stretch for the Sox offense to close the season:

*All stats as of the morning of September 21

Three

Three has been a magical number for the White Sox in September. For one, going into play Saturday, the Sox boast the top three leaders in hits for the month: Tim Anderson (32), Yoan Moncada (29) and Eloy Jimenez (28). The team as a whole is also third in baseball in total bases (319) and OPS (.832) in September -- only trailing the Astros and Yankees in both categories, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. 

Unrelated to the number three, but also worth noting, the team is leading the majors in batting average this month:

 

10

Ok, we cheated a little bit here -- 10 makes this list as a reference to Yoan Moncada’s jersey number, but in fairness, we needed a full section to highlight all Yo-Yo has done at the plate this month. He enters play Saturday as the major league leader in batting average (.444) and WAR (1.6) in September, and is currently working on a streak of five consecutive multi-hit games (he has 12 since the start of the month). 

To give even more of an idea of how scalding hot of a stretch it has been for Moncada, here is a side-by-side of his full-season slash-line on September 1 compared to September 21 (a stretch in which he has played 16 games):

  • September 1: .288/.342/.518 (.860 OPS)

  • September 21: .314/.368/.547 (.915 OPS)

Oh, and that .314 batting average? As of Saturday, that's only one point behind Michael Brantley for third in the AL. If Moncada can usurp Brantley, him and Anderson would make up two-thirds of the best three batting averages in the AL. *In best Larry David voice* Preeeeetty, pretty good.

27

“When I feel good, I don’t know, it’s just reaction. I don’t try to do too much and [I] just try to hit it on the barrel,” Eloy Jimenez said post-game last night, in reference to his grand slam against the Tigers. 

The Sox as a team are certainly employing that mentality this month, and the data reflects it. According to Baseball Savant, the White Sox lead baseball in balls batted with an exit velocity of greater-than-or-equal to 108 mph in September with 27 (the next closest team is the Yankees, with 20). Three such instances occurred in last night’s 10-1 rout in Detroit, including Moncada’s 24th home run of the season:

 

118

wRC+ is a weighted, park-controlled measure of a player’s ‘runs created’ wherein the league average is 100 and a player’s proximity to 100 determines how above or below average they register (if you’re curious, there is a great explainer of wRC+ on Fangraphs).

The White Sox have struggled in this metric for most of the season -- their wRC+ as a team is 92 (eight percent below league average), which ranks 20th in baseball. However, in September, the Sox collectively have a wRC+ of 118 -- a whopping 18 percent better than league average -- which ranks fourth in MLB for the month. It’s over a small sample size, as all of these stats are, but it remains an encouraging indicator that the offense is ending the year on a strong note. 

The offseason will officially be upon us soon enough, but if the Sox continue to rake, as they have been all month, there’s still time for a couple exciting moments and performances before the long wait for 2020.

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Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

palka-920.jpg
USA TODAY

Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

In the second inning Daniel Palka solidly lined a ball up the middle that looked like a sure hit off the bat. The problem? The Tigers defense was shifted perfectly to that spot for a lineout.

MLB Statcast gave Palka’s lineout an expected batting average of .650. It seemed like just another night like the rest of them have gone for Palka in the majors in 2019.

He entered Friday with a .034 batting average (2-for-59). After hitting 27 home runs with 45 extra base hits and a .778 OPS as a rookie in 2018, Palka hasn’t been able to do much of anything in a White Sox uniform.

That lineout appeared to be another “nothing can go right” moment. However, Palka’s Friday turned around.

His next time up, he pounded a ground ball that found a hole. Statcast gave that one a 31 percent chance of getting a hit, so he broke even after getting robbed earlier. The amusing thing is that Palka’s groundball single had an exit velocity of 108.9 mph, which was the second hardest hit ball of the game.

Palka later added a bloop single in the seventh and a line drive hit in the ninth to finish with a three hit day. Palka entered the day with two hits in 23 games and got three hits in Friday alone.

Even with the 3-for-5 night, Palka’s batting average is still only .072, but he more than doubled it in one game.

Is this relevant to the future of the White Sox? Almost certainly not, but Palka showed some promise in his rookie season and has been through an absolute nightmare this season. The mental side of going through his 0-for-32 start to the season and the continued struggles since could not have been easy. For at least one night in 2019 Palka had a good game at the plate.

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