The White Sox did not wait long to name a new hitting coach.
A week after announcing that hitting coach Todd Steverson and assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks would not return for the 2020 season, the team named Frank Menechino as Steverson's replacement Thursday.
The White Sox hired Menechino, who they drafted way back in 1993, as the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte last winter, and after one season working alongside highly rated prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, among others, Menechino is now the guy at the major league level.
Charlotte led the International League in runs scored, ranked second in on-base percentage and slugging percentage and ranked third in home runs during the 2019 season. Robert and Madrigal were the obvious standouts. Robert, the top-rated prospect in the organization, slashed .297/.341/.634 with 16 home runs and 39 RBIs in his 47 games with the Knights. Madrigal, who like Robert played at three different levels, hit .331/.398/.424, striking out just five times in his 29 games with Charlotte. Menechino also coached Zack Collins, who had a phenomenal offensive season at Triple-A, finishing with a .282/.403/.548 line, 19 homers and 74 RBIs in his 88 games there.
After Charlotte's season ended, Menechino was with the big league team in the final month of the campaign. This isn't his first go-round as a major league hitting coach. He served in that role for the Miami Marlins in 2017 and 2018.
Menechino takes over a White Sox offense that featured several breakout performances in 2019 but still ranked near the bottom of the league in key statistical categories. Tim Anderson won a batting title with a .335 average, Jose Abreu won the American League RBI crown with 123 runs drive in, Yoan Moncada blossomed into the team's best all-around hitter, and Eloy Jimenez hit 31 home runs as a rookie. But the White Sox still struggled to score runs. Among AL teams, only the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals scored fewer runs. The Tigers, Royals and Baltimore Orioles were the only AL teams with a lower OPS than the White Sox. The Tigers, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners were the only AL teams who struck out more than the White Sox. The team ranked 25th in the major leagues in home runs and dead last in the bigs in walks.
"On the one hand, you expect talented players to perform well on the big league level. On the other hand, you can't take things for granted and guys need instruction and adjustments and occasionally some good luck to help get them to fulfill their potential," general manager Rick Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last week, asked about the disparity between some of the individual accomplishments and the team's combined hitting numbers. "Overall, we've struggled in a few categories that we want to get better in, and we know we have to get better in. But when you look at some of the individual top performers, you have to be pleased with their progress and feel really good about where TA and Yoan are right now and where Eloy is, even."
Improving the rest of the lineup will still remain Hahn's job, for the time being, as he looks to add both a new right fielder and designated hitter after those two positions scuffled mightily for the White Sox in 2019. But Menechino will be tasked with the continuing offensive development of Moncada, Anderson, Jimenez, Robert and Madrigal, as well as getting the entire lineup up to snuff.
That might sound like a lot on the plate, but if the White Sox are serious about transitioning into contention mode, that's the job description.