Matt Davidson, Daniel Palka, Nicky Delmonico, Yolmer Sanchez, Omar Narvaez, Adam Engel.
Those are just some of the guys who have taken advantage of the circumstances that surround the White Sox roster the last few years. If the White Sox were in a different situation — say, trying to contend — many of those players may not have had the opportunity to try to prove their worth at the major league level. There’s hardly any benefits to a rebuild from the perspective of a fan, but one of the minor ones is seeing borderline major leaguers prove they can hang. Most of those players won’t over the long haul, but the Astros obscene tank job in the early 2010s allowed them to give meaningful playing time to guys like Jose Altuve, Dallas Keuchel, or even Marwin Gonzalez, all of whom wound up being valuable members of their World Series team in 2017.
Those are extreme examples, of course, but the point is that while 99 percent of the “quad-A” types who litter the rosters of rebuilding teams will flame out, there’s always a chance one of them might break out in a meaningful way and thrust themselves onto the next team built to contend.
It’s yet to be seen if any of the players that fit that profile will do so for these White Sox, but another player who may have played himself into further opportunities in 2018 was Jose Rondon. The 24-year-old only had 107 plate appearances at the major league level, but showed enough during both that time and during his season at Triple-A to make you wonder what, exactly, the White Sox have in the player they acquired from the San Diego Padres last January.
As a prospect, first for the Angels and later the Padres, Rondon profiled as an above-average glove at shortstop who could hit for a decent average with little power or patience, and that reputation pretty much stuck throughout his career. His career high in home runs was seven in 2017, and his walk rate for the most part hovered in the 3-8 percent range. Something change in 2018, though, and he led the Charlotte Knights in home runs with 16, and hit 24 total across Triple-A and during his cup of coffee in the majors. The strikeout rate increased with it, as one might expect, but an ISO more than 50 points higher than his career average is enough to make you turn your head.
If the improvements Rondon made in 2018 are real he goes from potential minor-league depth to potential major-league contributor. He’ll have just turned 25 by the time the 2019 season starts, so there’s a decent chance he’s just now starting to turn into the player he’ll become. A player who can more than hold his own at shortstop while providing legitimate power is valuable on any team. The problem, of course, is that the White Sox already have a facsimile of that entrenched at the position, and one with a lot more upside and athleticism. Similarly, while he may be better suited in a utility infield role given he’s a projected plus defender at third and second as well, the White Sox have guys like that in Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia.
Still, having a surplus of players of that ilk isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The White Sox aren’t yet in a position where a young and intriguing player is going to get squeezed out of playing time, so like the plethora of fringe major league players looking to prove their worth, Rondon will surely get more opportunities in 2019.
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