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.
Injuries have been the defining factor of Jacob May’s career so far, and not just injuries to himself. May’s minor league career had a fairly decent start for a 3rd round speedy centerfielder until he ran full-speed into Tim Anderson in 2015 and lost half a season to a concussion. His numbers understandably suffered upon return, but there was still promise if he could get healthy. Two stints on the DL with separate abdominal injuries in 2016 suggested that might not be such an easy feat to accomplish and he finished the year with a pretty dismal .266/.309/.352 batting line in Charlotte. He earned an invite to Spring Training and it looked like he’d maybe get a September call-up.
And then Charlie Tilson did what he’s done since coming over from the Cardinals in the Zach Duke trade: get unfortunately injured at a terrible time. The Sox felt confident enough about May that they sold Peter Bourjos to the Rays and just like that, May was the Opening Day starter in centerfield. This experiment lasted until May Day. Over 15 games, May managed to hit .056/.150/.056 with three walks to seventeen strikeouts. May’s game is completely speed based, but it’s all but impossible to make a difference on the base paths when you only get on base six times in 42 PA. May was painfully overmatched and mercifully sent back to Charlotte where he had the worst minor league season of his career while repeating a level he’d just played at one year prior. Bourjos hit .223/.272/.383 as Tampa’s reserve outfielder.
One of the more repeated and accepted truisms about roster construction is that unless that relief pitcher is the last missing puzzle piece for your championship team, you shouldn’t spend real money on your bullpen arms. There’s an entire ocean full of failed starters, third chance prospects, position players giving it one last go, and discarded international sensations to trawl up a more than serviceable relief corps out of and that’s been the White Sox modus operandi (give or take a David Robertson here and a Scott Linebrink there). Juan Minaya is one of the latest castaways to find a home in the Bullpen of Misfit Relievers.
Minaya signed with the Astros as a starting pitcher in the impossibly long ago year of 2008. After a couple years of middling results, Houston turned him into a reliever with mostly the same results. He was cut loose in late 2016 and the White Sox took a chance. He was fungible over 10.1 innings in the majors and was sent back to Charlotte to get more work. Something clicked. Over 19 innings, he allowed zero home runs and cut his walk rate almost in half. This understandably earned a promotion and Minaya pitched well enough in low leverage innings.
Once the continued selling off of parts reached the bullpen and the troika of Robertson, Anthony Swarzak, and Tommy Kahnle were gone, his role changed by necessity. Over his last 15 games of the season, Minaya more or less became the team’s default closer. He responded by earning 9 saves while striking out 13 hitters over 14.2 innings. It’s not all rainbows, as he gave up 7 earned runs in that stretch. But in his final 8 appearances, he gave up none. Minaya’s mid-90s fastball and low-80s breaking ball aren’t quite powerful enough to remain a full-time closer, but he’s shown enough promise to get innings as a seventh or eighth inning guy going forward.
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