Over the next few weeks, BP South Side will be reviewing the performance of all 51 players who suited up for the 2017 White Sox. Players whose seasons were particularly noteworthy will get their own standalone article, while smaller contributors or those who were traded/cut will be grouped together. We’ll do our best to summarize and analyze what each player brought to this year’s club, what we learned, didn’t learn, and what it all means for his future with the team.
The most astonishing thing about David Holmberg is that he’s somehow only 25 years old. This is a guy traded by the White Sox to Arizona back in 2010 along with Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson before bouncing around multiple organizations and ultimately ending up back in Chicago. Holmberg is one of the rare high school players drafted by the Sox to actually make it to the majors. He was once even thought of highly enough to be the Diamondbacks sixth best prospect back in 2013 but every time one of his parent clubs called him up, he disappointed. 2017 saw more of the same, but with slight improvements.
Holmberg isn’t quite talented enough to be anything more than a swingman and to their credit, the Sox seem to know this using him as a starter seven times this summer and 30 times as a reliever. Like just about every sinkerball pitcher ever not named Brandon Webb, Holmberg does not strike hitters out (5.2 K/9) which is fine enough when his command is on. Unfortunately, his command isn’t on terribly often and he walked more hitters than he managed to punch out. A season of just below replacement level represents marked improvement for Holmberg and there might be a place in the bullpen for him to start the 2018 season, but there are enough interesting young arms coming down the pipeline that Holmberg might be looking for work again soon enough.
Gregory Infante was another delightful case of the 2017 bullpen becoming a late 2000s Birmingham Barons class reunion. Infante had last pitched in the majors in 2010 for … the White Sox. After spending the last half decade bouncing around various minor league cities, he came to Spring Training on a minor league deal and managed to finally put it together. Strikeouts have never been a problem for Infante, and in general they never should be for someone whose fastball comfortably sits in the upper 90s. But in the last seven years, he only managed to have a BB/9 below 4 once until this year’s 3.3. Was it magic or smoke and mirrors that finally resulted in the turn around? Who knows! His peripherals suggest this mini-breakout should be repeatable enough and if not, hey, he’s at least another fun mildly successful flamethrowing Don Cooper scrapheap revival project.
Of all the players I had expected to be shipped out for prospects before the 2017 season came to a close, Nate Jones is the only one still with the White Sox and not for happy reasons. Back on Valentine’s Day, I wrote about how he could bring back a sneaky good return seeing as when healthy he’s been one of the American League’s premier yet unappreciated setup guys. His April was consistent with what we’d grown used to from him: vicious strikeouts on dominating heat and impossible sliders presaged by a waggling ball held high in the heavens.
But his elbow would not allow such wonders to be viewed for long. His ulnar nerve acted up, sitting awkwardly post-2014 TJS and required surgical repositioning in mid-July. The good news is his UCL remained intact and undamaged. The bad news is he lost a year of his prime and will now be paid far less than he would before the surgery thanks to some interesting wording in his contract. Jones should return at some point next season, giving the Sox a bonafide closer or ace setup man that may be able to tempt a contending team into parting with prospects.
Rymer Liriano is sadly saddled with the Quad-A label. He’s still young enough, but doesn’t really do anything well enough to get over that hump. In an offseason full of grabbing any and every franchise’s troubled young hitter who fell victim to roster crunches, Liriano was yet another attempt at finding something worthwhile. He only managed a .740 OPS while playing right field for Charlotte, keeping him firmly at the end of the line for MLB at bats. When he finally made it to Chicago in September, he did not impress. No corner outfielder’s defense is good enough to make hitting .220/.304/.341 palatable and the influx of new corner outfielders in the system have likely spelled the end of the line for Liriano in Chicago.
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