Tyler Saladino was something of an anomaly.
During a time when the White Sox farm system was a barren wasteland of low-ceiling whatever or unfulfilled potential, he actually kinda sorta made it.
Saladino, who the White Sox drafted in the seventh round in 2010, never once appeared in Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 White Sox prospects list. And we’re talking about years where the Top 10s were littered with guys like Keenyn Walker, Jared Mitchell, and the recently departed Courtney Hawkins. You scroll back through the years of Top 10 lists and you find a who’s-who of journeymen or guys who flat-out never made it.
Saladino wasn’t on those lists for a reason. He was one of those low-ceiling whatever types. He got solid defensive marks but was never supposed to hit. And he didn’t hit, at least not for a while. After a strong debut season in High-A in 2011, he spent the next three years bouncing between Double-A and Triple-A, never hitting enough to muster any excitement.
But the White Sox were bad, of course, and his advanced age and defensive versatility meant he was going to get a shot eventually. An guess what? In 2016 he hit! A .282/.315/.409 line with the ability to be a plus-defender at third base, shortstop, and second base made him valuable. In just 93 games, he was worth 1.4 WARP, and even at 26-years-old, it was possible that maybe he had found his niche as a major leaguer.
That very well may be true. In acquiring him Thursday for cash considerations, the Milwaukee Brewers got a player who still provides that defensive versatility, and he could be a valuable asset in case of injury or as a late-inning replacement for a team that is very clearly aiming for contention. But Saladino’s body betrayed him over the last year-plus, as a back injury ruined essentially all of 2017 for him, and with the emergence of Yolmer Sanchez playing essentially the role they once envisioned for Saladino, the acquisition of Yoan Moncada, and the presence of Tim Anderson, they just didn’t really have a place for him anymore. And nearing his 29th birthday, it was clear the potential for him being a piece on the next supposed White Sox contender was no longer there.
Those aforementioned prospect lists? A name that was prevalent on them for a number of years was Trayce Thompson, whom the White Sox reacquired from Oakland in a move that coincided with the departure of Saladino.
Thompson has bounced around a bit since the White Sox traded him to the Dodgers in a three-way trade that brought in Todd Frazier, and he’s struggled to stay healthy. After a 2016 season in Los Angeles where he was roughly league average, hitting for a bit of power and providing versatility in the outfield, injuries derailed him. Since that season, he’s had a grand total of 62 big league plate appearances between Los Angeles and Oakland.
The White Sox’s interest in bringing back Thompson isn’t surprising, given their history with him — he spent the first six years of his career in the organization — but where he fits into their plans is less clear. With Adam Engel once again scuffling at the plate, he could be given an extended look in center field, or at the very least be an upgrade as a defensive replacement/occasional starter in Nicky Delmonico’s stead in left field.
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