White Sox

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

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USA TODAY

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

The White Sox future at third base is a pretty big unknown.

Jake Burger is only a year and a half removed from being a first-round draft pick, but the double Achilles tear earlier this year has not just derailed his 2018 but thrown his entire future, and with it the White Sox future at the hot corner, into question. How will the injuries affect Burger's timeline to the majors? How will it affect his ability to play third base?

Those questions and the seeming lack of any other high-end third-base prospect in the White Sox system have made it seem rather obvious that the rebuilding White Sox third baseman of the future currently isn't a part of the organization.

The free-agent lists White Sox fans are salivating over have some pretty intriguing names on them. Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who wants to play shortstop but is a two-time Gold Glove winner at third, are free agents this winter. So are less-heralded guys like Mike Moustakas and Marwin Gonzalez, who counts third baseman as one of his many job titles for the Houston Astros. Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon are free agents the following offseason. Those are big names, any one of which could be a cherry on top for the White Sox as they plan to shift from rebuilding to contending.

But what if the White Sox already have their third baseman of the future? What if he's already on the major league roster?

No, sorry, this isn't about Yolmer Sanchez. It's about Yoan Moncada, to which you might react thusly: "Wait a minute. Yoan Moncada is a second baseman! Learn to count your bases, Duber!"

My rarely utilized math skills aside, Moncada switching positions has been a bit of a talking point for a little while now, and it has far more to do with what's going on in the farm system than it has to do with Moncada's 2018 season in the major leagues.

The White Sox spent their first-round draft pick on a middle infielder in June despite having two supposed long-term pieces in Moncada and Tim Anderson already playing in the big leagues. Nick Madrigal's versatility on the infield was part of the praise the White Sox heaped on him after making him the No. 4 pick in the draft, but for a guy who's been discussed as a Gold Glove type of defender at either second base or shortstop, it kind of seems like that would be the best place to put him. Now, Madrigal's not exactly knocking on the doors of the major leagues, yet to play his first full season of pro ball, but the White Sox dubbed him the "best all-around player in college baseball" this summer, leading one to believe that his development could move along quickly enough to get him to the majors by the time that much-anticipated shift from rebuilding to contending happens.

If that's the case, either Moncada or Anderson would have to move, right? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the White Sox end up liking Madrigal at third or elsewhere, but he's playing middle infield in the minor leagues.

Anderson moving to the outfield was a favorite suggestion of White Sox Twitter after he led baseball with 28 fielding errors in 2017. He made 20 more in 2018 (fourth most in baseball), but his defensive improvement by the end of the season was one of the biggest positives to take from the 100-loss campaign.

"That’s the thing that really jumps out the most in terms of significant progress he’s made," Rick Hahn said of Anderson's defense during his end-of-season press conference last month. "He’s managed to capitalize on the athleticism we’ve always seen from him and convert that into being a potentially, frankly Gold Glove-caliber defensive shortstop based on what we’ve seen over the last few months.

"This is really a testament in the end to Tim Anderson’s work ethic. He knew it was an area that he wanted to improve, whether it was because he wanted to show people wrong or because he knew he wanted to make himself a stalwart at that position and eliminate the rumors about position change. He worked extraordinarily hard both with Joe McEwing and the things he did on his own, and the kid deserves a world of credit and I think it bodes very well for him continuing on the trajectory of becoming an impact shortstop."

It doesn't sound like Hahn is describing a guy who will be moving away from his position any time soon.

Moncada racked up a good deal of errors at second base in his first full season in the majors — 21 of them, to be exact, the third most in baseball — but Hahn and Rick Renteria both said they noticed improvement from Moncada in the field. But Moncada did tell the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen during the season that he would be willing to make a position switch if the team wanted him to do it.

Hahn got a similar question during his year-end press conference. Though the general manager wasn't directly asked if Moncada would make a position switch, Hahn said Moncada could defend well at other positions on the diamond and that if such a change were desired, the team would probably make it sooner rather than later.

"It’s conceivable if we made a decision as an organization to try him elsewhere that we would do it as soon as this offseason or next spring training, you’d see it in action," Hahn said. "I do think he has made a great deal of process at second base. I also think he has the athleticism also to be an above-average defender at other positions, too. It’s a subject for further conversation, but as he sits here today, I am pleased with the progress and the pitch-to-pitch focus and the athleticism, the arm strength and foot movement and his hands at second base."

White Sox fans aren't super high on Moncada being the savior of anything, not just third base, right now after his disappointing 2018 season: a .235/.315/.400 slash line and 217 strikeouts, the fourth-highest single-season total in major league history. But that's not souring the White Sox on his potential, and it's not changing what they think he can be.

By 2020 or 2021, perhaps Moncada's evolution as a big league ballplayer puts him on a similar level as some of the free-agent names mentioned above. Perhaps he's already playing third base by then with Madrigal on the major league infield, too.

The White Sox seem to have a hole at third base, with popular opinion being that it can only be filled by a marquee free agent. Maybe it does get filled this offseason — by a guy standing about 100 feet away.

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

The White Sox lost Saturday night.

That’s baseball, of course, they’re not all going to be winners. And this rebuilding franchise has seen plenty of losses. But the feelings have been so good of late — whether because of Eloy Jimenez’s 400-foot homers or Lucas Giolito’s Cy Young caliber season to this point or a variety of other positive signs that make the White Sox future so bright — that losing Saturday to the first-place New York Yankees seemed rather sour.

Obviously there will be plenty more losses for this White Sox team before the book closes on the 2019 campaign. Back under .500, these South Siders aren’t expected to reach elite status before all the pieces arrive, and it would be no shock if they’re removed from the playoff race in the American League by the time crunch time rolls around in September.

But don’t tell these White Sox that an 8-4 defeat is a return to reality or a reminder that this team is still a work in progress. Even if, for a lot of players, development is still occurring at the major league level, the “learning experiences” that have been such a large part of the conversation surrounding this team in recent seasons and their daily goal of winning baseball games aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Yankees are sitting in first place and they lost two games in a row,” catcher James McCann said Saturday night, providing a reminder of how the first two games of this weekend series went. “Just because you're expected to win and expected to be World Series contenders doesn't mean you're not going to lose ballgames. It's how you bounce back.

“And it doesn't mean you're going to win tomorrow, either. It's just, how do you handle a defeat? How do you handle a bad at-bat? How do you handle a bad outing, whatever it may be? But it doesn't mean that we step back and say, ‘Oh, we're back under .500, we're supposed to lose.’

“We expect to win when we show up to the ballpark. You can take learning experiences whether you win or lose. Do I think a game like tonight reminds us we're supposed to be in a rebuilding mode? No. We still expect to win, and we're going to show up tomorrow with that mentality.”

Maybe that’s a description of the much-discussed “learning to win” young teams supposedly need to do on the road to contender status. Maybe that can’t happen until a team figures out how to bounce back from a defeat — until it learns how to lose and how to act in the wake of a loss.

For all McCann’s certainty about the team’s expectations on a daily basis, his explanation was peppered with questions. He said he’s seen the answer to “how do you bounce back?” from this club, and his three-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday night was fairly convincing evidence that the White Sox didn’t use up all their fight just getting back to .500.

So while the White Sox know they won’t win every game — that no team will — they need to know how they handle defeat. Losing, it turns out, might end up being more instructive about when this team is ready to win.

“I think we've done a pretty good job (bouncing back),” McCann said. “You look at the road trip in Houston and Minnesota where we took two out of four from a good Houston team and then played really not very good baseball for three days in Minnesota only to come home and have an extremely good homestand.

“It's the big picture. It's not the very next day. It's not, ‘We've got to bounce back and win.’ It's not a must-win situation in the middle of June. But it's how do you handle yourself? How does a game like tonight, do you show up flat tomorrow and let it snowball into a three-, four-game spiral? Or do you fight?

“And that's what this team's been really good at doing is fighting and not giving in.”

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Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

Eloy Jimenez gets rave review from Yankees All Star: 'He can be a star for all of MLB'

The temperature is rising on the South Side, and if you look outside, you know it has nothing to do with Mother Nature.

Instead, it’s a heat wave coming from a fresh-faced 22-year-old slugger who’s crushing baseballs, igniting a fan base and screaming “Hi Mom!” to his actual mother whenever he spots a TV camera with its red light on.

Eloy Jimenez has arrived with the White Sox, and according to a New York Yankees All Star who has known him for years, the best is yet to come.

“Not this year, but next year, he’s going to be even better,” infielder Gleyber Torres said about Jimenez.

The two of them were signed by that team across town in 2013 when they were both 16 years old. They were practically inseparable back then, and they remain tight to this day.

“I talk with Gleyber pretty much every single day now. He’s kind of like my brother,” Jimenez said. “We haven’t lost that communication, and I think that’s good for us.”

Torres echoed similar thoughts about Jimenez.

“In my first couple years with the Cubs, he was my roommate every day. We’ve got a really good relationship. We’re like brothers. We are really good friends,” Torres said. “I’m just happy to see what he’s doing right now.”

Which, lately, has been just about everything.

There was that majestic home run Jimenez belted on Wednesday against the Washington Nationals that landed on the center field concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field, the two walks the next day when the Yankees decided to pitch around Jimenez as if he was a perennial All Star, and then the two-homer game on Friday: The first one gave the White Sox the lead, the second stuck a dagger into the Yankees, as well as the heart of his longtime friend.

“For sure, I didn’t like it,” Torres said with a smile about Jimenez’s two-homer, six-RBI game. “I’m not surprised. I knew Eloy before he signed with the Cubs out of the Dominican. He’s a big dude. The power is coming every day.”

How good can Jimenez be? Torres, who plays on a star-studded team with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius, sees Jimenez reaching the same stratosphere.

“He can be a star for all of MLB. He’s just a young guy right now, but when he matures a little more, he can do everything.”

Jimenez is turning up the heat in Chicago, and it’s not even summer yet.

The South Side can’t wait for the sizzle to come.

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