Charlie Tilson‘s War is just beginning on the South Side
Sticking to the 2016 Chicago White Sox script, center fielder Charlie Tilson tore through his left hamstring during his first game with his new club. It looked as horrific as it sounds, robbed Tilson of regular playing time down the stretch and prevented the fanbase from getting an extended look at the man acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals for left-hander Zack Duke.
Drafted in the second round (79th overall) of the 2011 MLB first-year player draft, the Winnetka native was in the midst of his best season as a professional, slashing out at .282/.345/.407 over 395 plate appearances with 16 doubles, eight triples and 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts at Triple-A Memphis. For context, he had four less doubles, one less triple and three less stolen bases in just under 200 fewer at-bats.
That said, prospect writers differ on Tilson’s eventual contributions to a 25-man roster. Some believe he is going to be a solid to above-average center fielder and others are of the opinion he will be no more than a fourth or fifth outfielder.
While with Bleacher Report, for example, MLB.com’s Mike Rosenbaum wrote:
The left-handed hitter has sneaky top-of-the-order potential, with a line-drive swing, mature approach and plus speed. His bat speed is slightly above average, but it plays up due to his feel for working counts and using the entire field. The level nature to Tilson’s swing isn’t conducive for hitting home runs, bit his above-average speed should help him amass plenty of doubles and triples.
Conversely, Eric Longenhagen from Fangraphs posited:
Tilson has just average bat speed, no leverage in his swing and very rarely extends enough to really punish the baseball, resulting in 30-grade game power. He can play all three outfield positions, though his arm is fringe average and fits best in center and left. His ability to play center field while making a lot of contact is probably enough to win him a major-league roster spot, but unless his defense in center greatly outpaces present projections, he only profiles as a bench outfielder or below-average regular.
Two things they all agree on, however, are that Tilson can flat out fly and he makes enough contact to be an intriguing prospect. His speed, for instance, consistently grades out at or above 60 on a 20-80 scale. And his 14.6 percent strikeout rate in the minor leagues bears witness to a hitter adept at making contact.
Based on his skill-set, Tilson seems a prime leadoff candidate, and he will be given every chance to prove his value this season as he is slated to be the team’s Opening Day starter in center field. And if (when) Luis Alexander Basabe or Adam Engel supplant him at some point, the White Sox will have a speedster to use off the bench and as the fourth outfielder. Seems like a win-win considering the acquisition cost.
And that hamstring tear? All signs point to him being just fine as he participated in the organization’s hitters’ mimicamp this past week without restriction. If he can approach anything close to what Adam Eaton did during his time on the South Side, the White Sox are in good shape. I expect a solid, if unspectacular, effort from Tilson.