The White Sox have had the worst outfield in baseball this year, with a wRC+ of 69 collectively. The 29th ranked team is the Orioles at 82. This isn’t particularly surprising, as the three best outfielders coming into the season–Avisail Garcia, Leury Garcia, and Nicky Delmonico–have been hurt for most of the year, and it’s not like they were tearing things up when on the field to begin with. Take a middling unit and then dig way down on the depth chart and voila. Bad.
That’s not to say there haven’t been encouraging developments. Charlie Tilson was injured for basically two years and has been making good contact over 20 games so far. Daniel Palka has flashed pretty massive power, although his defense might limit him to a role which is looking more and more endangered across the league. Unfortunately, it looks like injuries have annihilated the once-promising career of Trayce Thompson as he’s down to .124/.175/.230. And, although it seems like every time I write about how Adam Engel can’t hit he goes 2-for-4 or something, like clockwork I can check in on him and find out his TAv is hovering around .200.
Leury and Avisail Garcia look to be returning soon, with the former running again and the latter playing rehab games in Charlotte. So, to an extent, the patchwork outfield of slap hitting center fielder types and overextended minor league DHs, may be moot. One has to imagine Avisail will play every day on his return. Then again, the White Sox seem disinclined to play Leury every day, as it appears they’d much prefer to use him as a supersub. Even so, he still clearly deserves a spot on the 25-man, and though one assumes Avisail will squeeze out Trayce, it will be interesting to see who gets bumped for Leury. They’ve given Engel every opportunity to succeed and with his glove and baserunning he really doesn’t need to hit much to be a worthwhile player. But the guy has basically only hit well for one month in his pro career and it was against gassed A-ball pitchers in the Arizona Fall League. And frankly, one could argue Tilson deserves to show what he can do as the every day center fielder as the White Sox cannot be accused of not giving Engel enough time.
The elephant in the room here is Eloy Jimenez, who continues to mash in Double-A. Rick Hahn has indicated Jimenez will stop in Charlotte before he makes it to Chicago, rather than pulling a Juan Soto, but one wonders whether they are simply waiting for the Southern League All Star Game, which the Barons are hosting on June 19th to bump him up. As tempting as it is to roll your eyes at these considerations, I think there is value in treating your minor league affiliates well, and I doubt a week or two extra in Double-A is going to stifle Jimenez’ development. But, assuming he hits in Triple-A as you’d expect, he may arrive on the South Side weeks before September rosters.
Oddly, for a rebuilding team with a massive logjam of outfielders below Double-A, Eloy stands alone in the advanced levels. Even though Jameson Fisher was a polished college performer, he is hardly forcing a promotion with a .234/.326/.376 batting line in Birmingham, Tito Polo and Ryan Cordell have been ineffective and injured, and for all of my complaints about Engel, there’s no reason to bump him for veteran stopgaps like Michael Saunders or Alex Presley.
Unlike on the pitching side, there is basically only one more arrival to expect of consequence in the outfield for the White Sox this year. It’s a fun arrival and a huge one, but otherwise we’ve seen all of the 2018 White Sox outfield candidates.