The White Sox took two out of three from the first place Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend. I’m not here to tell you 18-38 means they are a playoff contender now or something, but on a day where there are very few games, we can highlight some of the bright spots of the season.
1. On a team in contention for the number one overall pick, which has somehow also been ravaged by injuries, you’re going to have playing time for organizational soldiers. Daniel Palka homered again, and continues his pleasantly strong 26-year-old rookie year. He’s hitting .283/.315/.557, which is probably not sustainable unless he starts getting a little more selective, and his glove is an issue, but let’s not get overly cynical here. The guy put in 2,500 minor league plate appearances and is getting a chance to finally earn some decent money and potentially earn future major league jobs as a bench piece as his power so far looks like it plays against major league pitching.
To a lesser degree, as he was just bounced back to the minors to activate Matt Davidson from the disabled list, the 28-year-old former prospect Matt Skole got his major league debut after 3,000 minor league plate appearances. He only made it into four games, but he hit .273/.385/.545 and hit a home run in front of his parents. His career was derailed by injury, but again, on a human level, this was a Good Thing.
2. Let’s keep rolling with these. Alfredo Gonzalez, the fourth string catcher on the depth chart, got his first major league hit–driving in a run in the process–and was clearly extremely happy about it. Kevan Smith is back off the disabled list so Gonzalez will bring his glove-only game back to Charlotte, but if you can’t enjoy moments like these I’m not sure what we’re doing.
3. James Shields turned in another quality start, going seven innings allowing three runs on three solo homers against a good Brewers lineup on Saturday. He struck out six and walked one, so even though Tim Anderson bailed him out of a jam on a Ryan Braun line drive double play, the peripherals don’t necessarily reflect a mirage of an outing either. Prior to the past few seasons where teams started getting odd about money and whether they are going for it or not, I’d say Shields is even pushing himself into the territory where you might be able to trade him, but it’s hard to imagine him bringing back anything more useful than his ability to protect the bullpen, turn in credible performances, and mentoring the younger players.
4. Dylan Covey has started four games and has an ERA of 2.82. This goes with a FIP of 2.57 somehow. Covey is unusual in a lot of ways. He is not without pedigree, as he was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The White Sox claimed him in the Rule V draft and actually successfully stashed him throughout 2017 as he got pummeled in the majors and got hurt a lot. In hindsight, perhaps we were too hard on him for his ERA of almost 8.00 last year as he had pitched all of 30 innings above High-A in his pro career previously.
But 2018 has seen Covey throwing his sinker about two ticks harder than in the past, averaging 94.56 mph (!!) on the pitch. He’s throwing it twice as often too, up to 66.40% of the time while having completely abandoned his four seam offering. He’s still walking too many batters, but a power sinker can play up, particularly–as has been the case thus far–when you don’t allow many/any home runs.
I’m not saying Covey is the White Sox Rebuild version of Dallas Keuchel, but he’s still only 26 and he looks better to go with his better results. If he can spam a 93-96 mph sinker and avoid injury this can work, and is probably what the White Sox hoped Carson Fulmer could do. He got 13 swinging strikes on 97 pitches against the Brewers on Sunday throwing primarily a sinker! That ain’t nothing. For all that we’ve written about Carlos Rodon or Michael Kopech coming to the rotation’s aid, Covey has to have won a rotation spot until proven otherwise, no?
5. The draft is tonight! The White Sox have the fourth overall pick, which is a pretty big deal and means it’s a chance to acquire a really good prospect. I think it’s fair to say our prospect team is reticent about amateur coverage. It requires basically a full time staff devoted to that purpose and BP’s focus is on pro prospects. Based solely on general principles which should be followed–e.g. draft the best player available, bats are safer than arms, a guy who can mash but is non-traditional might be great value, etc.–I am personally hoping for Nick Madrigal, but he may not be available and he might also not be the best player available! Feel free to sound off in the comments with your own preference. We’ll know this time tomorrow.
6. Bonus Thing: Carlos Rodon’s rehab start on Sunday went relatively smoothly. He walked a few more batters than you’d like to see but made it through 5 innings on 92 pitches, meaning he’s roughly stretched out and should be ready to rejoin the major league rotation at some point this week.
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