Well, that’s over with! The White Sox just limped out of Oakland with another three losses thrown on the pile. The series was a dark parody of the bouts between the good White Sox and A’s teams of the early-to-mid-2000s. The A’s still won in either dominant or hilariously lucky fashion a whole lot, with the fun difference being both teams are pretty bad now. While we’re on the subject, though, while the A’s surely hoped they were getting back a solid regular in Brett Lawrie and a future star in Franklin Barreto when they dealt away Josh Donaldson, it was fun to watch Donaldson’s real heir, Matt Chapman, who absolutely looked the part of a franchise cornerstone moving forward.
1. The series also tested observers’ ability to partition The Rebuild from “I’m watching these games and I want the White Sox to win and man they just haven’t won in forever.” Yoan Moncada arrived in California hitting .184/.298/.306 and left at .222/.329/.429, meaning it is still so early statistics–and batting averages in particular–are prone to wild fluctuation. It also reflects Moncada going 5/14 with two homers, two walks, and three steals against Oakland pitching. It was warmer in the Bay Area than it has been in the Midwest, and Moncada was actually getting ahead in counts and attacking pitches he could drive. He obviously doesn’t need to become a free swinger or anything, but pitchers need to fear he’ll crush a 0-0 or 0-1 cookie enough to pitch him more carefully, which should lead to more 2-0 and 2-1 counts rather than spotting pitchers an 0-2 before the at bat begins in earnest. Regardless, it’s been a good week for us Moncada Defenders.
2. Naturally, following a 12-11 loss, attention shifts away from what has been a slumping offense to the pitching staff. On the heels of yet another Miguel Gonzalez disaster start, Carson Fulmer had his worst outing on the young season, allowing seven of the ten batters he faced to reach safely before getting knocked out with the bases loaded and none out in the second. Fulmer’s still young, and while he was never going to be confused with a control specialist, the results above Double-A continue to accrue and they have generally been very bad. The last time the aforementioned Gonzalez struggled like this with the White Sox it was revealed he was pitching through an injury. I have no inside information, but given his velocity dip and sudden cratering, I thought I’d highlight it. Michael Kopech is the obvious, tempting name sitting in Charlotte, but it would be pretty reactionary to bump him into the rotation immediately, particularly when the next man up would likely be Hector Santiago or Chris Volstad. The former has been a perfectly decent innings eater in recent years, and Volstad has been a good soldier in Charlotte for several years who has arguably earned another shot to audition for a back-end starter role somewhere. Most importantly, the White Sox have been adamant they do not want to shuttle Kopech back and forth. When they call him up they want him to stay up.
3. The bullpen may be a cleaner place to do some shuffling. Bruce Rondon followed his first hiccup in a White Sox uniform with three more strong innings in Wednesday’s marathon. Meanwhile, although the front office loves Aaron Bummer, he was raced to the majors absurdly quickly, and although he has limited walks and struck out a decent number of hitters, he struggled mightily in the majors in 2017 and has proven startlingly hittable in 2018. While a veteran trade acquisition like Luis Avilan will be given more rope, it might make sense to option Bummer to the minors to get some more finishing in in favor of Xavier Cedeno or Jeanmar Gomez who are currently eviscerating Triple-A. It’s a rebuild, but 4-11 in the fashion they’ve managed may be more than even this clubhouse can stomach.
4. There are plenty of exciting minor league developments so far, at least. Without performing an exhaustive rundown, some highlights include Eloy Jimenez’ pending return to Birmingham following his pectoral strain. He destroyed the level in a brief look last year, so, barring incident, it seems safe to assume he’ll hit his way to Charlotte before long and be on the radar for a call up to Chicago in the second half of the season. But, that was always the plan for Jimenez. Perhaps less expected has been the blistering start for all four of the outfield prospects in Winston-Salem. Micker Adolfo, who has been DHing while he recovers from a UCL injury, has cut his strikeout rate dramatically so far and is hitting .364/.417/.582. Speed-first sleeper prospect Joel Booker is on his heels with a .325/.386/.525 line. The most highly touted of the group, however, Luis Alexander Basabe and Blake Rutherford, are also mashing, with the latter at .357/.404/.524 and the former crushing to the tune of .353/.411/.627. Basabe was hampered by injury in 2017 and was young for his level. Now with a second look, he could find himself in Birmingham before long. The third piece coming back from Boston in the Chris Sale trade has flown under the radar, but he’s certainly a Top 101-type talent and if he developed into a solid-to-plus center fielder it could really change the complexion of The Rebuild.
5. ANNOUNCEMENT: The BP Ballpark Events are here for 2018! These are always a great day at the park, as they feature panel discussions with BP writers and appearances from front office personnel before a baseball game. While I recommend any and all, White Sox fans are particularly spoiled this year as on August 11th the event will feature Harry Pavlidis and Jonathan Judge–great human beings who are also at the cutting edge of developing pitching statistics, such as tunneling, CSAA, etc.–as well as Rick Hahn. If that weren’t enough, I’ll be there, as well as BP managing editor, Bret Sayre, and you’ll get a Jim Thome bobblehead for your trouble. Grab your tickets here while they last.
Photo credit: John Hefti – USA Today Sports