With five games in the books, the 2017 season is going mostly as you would have expected one week ago — Avisail Garcia is hitting .474, Geovany Soto is tied for the league lead in home runs, and Todd Frazier is the worst hitter in baseball.
Sardonicism aside, there is plenty to analyze after a 2-3 opening week that saw a split of an abbreviated series with Detroit followed by losing two of three to Minnesota.
1. Garcia’s hot opening week was highlighted by Saturday’s offensive performance, when we went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple and two-run homer, finishing a double shy of the cycle.
Suffice it to say it’s going to take a streak considerably longer before we start to believe Garcia has “figured it out” at the plate. In searching back through five game samples in 2016 in which Garcia posted a batting average above .400, it took only to the end of April to find such an occasion. 1,500 career plate appearances say Garcia is what he is, still, any sign of life is welcomed for however long it lasts.
Soto has appeared in four of the first five games of the season and has three hits, it just so happens that all have left the park. It’s curious that he’s started three of those games over the still hitless Omar Narvaez, suggesting the catching position could be more of a time share than the presumption that Narvaez would start and Soto would back up.
Joining Garcia and Soto in the “good start” department is Jose Abreu, who is 6-for-20 but with just one extra-base hit. Likewise, Tyler Saladino, before getting Sunday off, has done about as well as one could have reasonably hoped as the newly installed leadoff hitter, going 4-for-13 with, more importantly, four walks against one strikeout.
2. On the flip side, Frazier is 1-for-17, although the four walks against two strikeouts signal he hasn’t completely lost his eye at the plate. His inability to take advantage of mistakes isn’t yet troubling, but is at least worth keeping an eye on.
Tim Anderson has seven strikeouts in his first 22 at-bats, although he’s looked more than fine defensively, and Jacob May is hitless in 12 at-bats, although he has drawn a walk and, strangely, already has two RBIs to his credit.
3. One week sample sizes mean we get to say things like “Jose Quintana has allowed eight of the 15 earned runs charged to White Sox pitchers this season,” which is both funny and sad, but Quintana put to rest concerns from his first outing with 6.1 solid innings in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota.
Quintana was able to blow hitters away with the high fastball — five of his seven strikeouts came swinging against it — and the only two mistakes he made were pitches where he missed in the strike zone, resulting in an RBI single by Joe Mauer and solo home run by Jorge Polanco.
While Quintana is a known quantity and Carlos Rodon’s debut has been delayed, the rest of the staff is filled with unknown commodities, and the trio of James Shields, Derek Holland, and Miguel Gonzalez showed promise in the first turn through the rotation.
We discussed Shields on Friday, and Gonzalez provided a lot of what we grew familiar with a year ago, but Holland was particularly impressive, saying after the game that “everything” was working. He did, in fact, find success with all five of his offerings (although he only threw his curveball seven times, per Brooks Baseball).
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the White Sox rotation, as well as the depth if and when injuries and trades happen. But so far, so good.
The fact that Putnam struck out six in 4.2 innings during his three appearances last week shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He struck out 11.8 batters per nine in his last full season in 2015, and was on his way to similar numbers a year ago before injuries cut his season short.
Putnam is as good as or better than the third option in most bullpens, and combined with Jones and Robertson gives the White Sox a better 7-8-9 combination than most rebuilding teams. His name hasn’t been mentioned much as a potential trade option, but at 29 years old would have to be considered as someone who could fetch a reasonable return with a solid first half.
5. Prospect Watch 2017 is something not likely to go away anytime soon, and for those eagerly following the successes and failures of the folks littering the rosters in Charlotte, Birmingham, Winston-Salem, and beyond, the weekend openers provided a source of excitement.
Yoan Moncada has 11 hits in his first 20 at-bats in Charlotte, including a home run. He also has six strikeouts. Reynaldo Lopez only went three innings in his first start, walking three and allowing two earned runs, but also striking out five. Afterward, he commented on how damn cold it was. Lucas Giolito fared similarly, lasting 4.1 innings and giving up four earned runs, but striking out four and walking zero.
Michael Kopech’s debut with Birmingham was probably the most fascinating among the pitchers. He recorded just 13 outs, going 4.1 innings and allowing two earned runs, but 10 of the 13 outs he recorded were via the strikeout. Zach Collins, in Winston-Salem, has four hits in 11 at-bats, but has also already drawn six walks.
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