The year without youth

Tim Anderson forced his way to the majors ahead of any reasonable schedule, and was always going to struggle to find a foothold with his aggressive approach. He’s still highly entertaining, but the much-anticipated rookie struggles have come for him, and he’s been under a .600 OPS since July 1.

Hopefully he’s been very entertaining, because Anderson’s season is the only year by any White Sox player 25 or younger that hasn’t been drenched in failure or unfortunate injury. Carlos Rodon has scuffled, Carson Fulmer did the same early on in Double-A, made an adjustment back to more violent mechanics and started to rack up strikeouts, but has been mostly unusable upon being called up. If we want to expand the range to 26, Erik Johnson drummed himself out of the organization, but Brett Lawrie provided some encouragement by hitting exactly to his career averages before hitting the disabled listed with a hamstring strain.

Of course, continuing the theme of injury, the Sox have now seen four players hurt during their major league debuts: Kevan Smith tweaking his back in pre-game stretches, Jason Coats colliding with J.B. Shuck in the outfield, Matt Davidson breaking his foot on the basepaths, and now Charlie Tilson stepping awkwardly and crumpling over in pain after pursuing a sinking drive to the right-center gap.

Tilson is the first loss of anyone with anything resembling true prospect shine, but is the exception that proves the rule. Like Avisail Garcia in 2014, what all these players wind up having stripped from them is the rare chance to show their worth in major league games, during a stretch where the White Sox do not have to be particularly concerned with the losses they might pile up if these rookies fail. That in Tilson, Davidson and Smith’s case, they all went down before the Sox could even get the slightest glimpse of what they were capable of, is all the more confounding.

Garcia hurt the Sox because they went into 2015–a year where for which they made a number of short-term moves for the purpose of contending–with more aspirations for his ability than cold reality, and couldn’t very well offer Garcia a real shot and stash a plus-hitting corner outfielder on the bench just in case he failed.

No one involved in the rookie carnage this year was expected to play that large of a role, but having some organizational depth come to the majors and hold their own is how you get Tyler Saladino as an affordable, capable utility man, instead of spending $6 million on Emilio Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham. When the biggest free agent acquisition for the 2016 team was Austin Jackson, being able to discern whether Tilson can effectively duplicate his production is not such a small consideration.

The White Sox could still pull a full teardown, and trade both Jose Quintana and Chris Sale after the season, since those deals were never beholden to the trade deadline. But since they are unlikely to do so until proven otherwise, they can be assumed to be steaming toward some sort of plan to compete in 2017. With spending to augment the team likely to be an even more difficult path than when they bypassed last season, now that a weak free agency class will usher in higher prices for less impactful talent, the lack of progress and frequent injuries from their developing talent is truly vexing. That’s where a lot of the help needs to come from, and while there’s still plenty of time and hope, it’d be better if their first foot forward would stop buckling underneath them.


Lead Image Credit: Rick Osentoski // USA Today Sports Images

Related Articles

2 comments on “The year without youth”

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username