Join the “TLS” writers in a roundtable discussion every Monday on The Loop Sports! This Week we talk about our level of concern regarding the Charlie Tilson injury, as well as which White Sox pitching prospect we expect to see in the major-league rotation first.
The Loop Sports Staff Roundtable for the week of February 20, 2017:
What’s your level of concern regarding the Charlie Tilson injury, and if he misses extended time, who would you like to see assume to center field role this spring?
Patrick Flowers: The injury to Tilson could be nothing, or it could linger throughout Spring Training. A foot stress reaction could come with 6-8 weeks of down time, it could also lead to further problems with the bones in the affected foot. If that’s the case, I would like to see Peter Bourjos get the bulk of the playing time in center field this spring.
While Bourjos hasn’t been overly impressive to this point in his career, he is speedy and a local product of the Chicago land area. I have no interest in seeing Leury Garcia do anything full-time, or even make the Opening Day roster for that matter.
Anders Johanson: The severity of Tilson’s injury is yet to be seen so for the time being I’m not too concerned. I’ve been very curious in regards to Tilson since the White Sox acquired him but unfortunately he keeps getting hit with injuries.
Tilson has two major league at-bats in his career so there is definitely not enough of a sample size to say anything for sure, but he’s a career .293 hitter in the minor leagues. He hit .295 with the Cardinals’ double-A affiliate in 2015, with 46 stolen bases and 85 runs scored. People pegged him as a below average prospect but I think he will surprise everyone. If he stays healthy.
Matt Smith: I’m not overly concerned about Tilson’s injury. Don’t get me wrong; I am excited about his potential and would love nothing more than for him to establish himself as an everyday center-fielder with high OBP skills. That said, the White Sox aren’t competing for anything this season other than worst MLB record so they can draft Seth Beer.
And who knows? Maybe Peter Bourjos can establish some value and be used as a trade chip in advance of the deadline. Either way, the only injuries I’d be concerned with at this point are to those players with current trade value since any setback will lessen the return in a trade.
Matt Grabianski: Not at all. He’s not going to miss more than a few games, and even then, it’s a very minor injury. Should something crazy happen in the future, I hope that the Sox send Avisail Garcia out to center so I can laugh at them.
You never know, but for now, I think Tilson will be fine. If he misses extended time somehow, I would insert newly-signed Peter Bourjos at center field. He hit .251 last year, not too shabby, and I think with all his pro experience he deserves a shot.
Owen Schoenfeld: I’m not overly concerned about Tilson’s stress reaction because it seems to be a byproduct of him favoring his right leg as his left one recovered. While it feeds an emerging narrative that Tilson is made of glass, I expect him to land the starting job. If he goes on the DL though, Peter Bourjos may have caught a “break” of his own. Once a top prospect, Bourjos counters a light bat with a speed/defense combo fitting of a fourth outfielder.
He’s a nice band-aid, but the player I’d like to see emerge is top prospect Adam Engel. Oozing with tools, Engel’s major flaw has been lack of consistency. He still built on his AFL MVP award by holding his own in Birmingham and getting the call to Charlotte to end the year. All told, the counting stats looked great as he amassed 30 2B, 12 3B, 7 HR, and 45 SB across three levels. He flashed a nice OBP (.352) across 357 PAs in Double-A to go along with a plus glove in center field. He’s got a fourth outfielder floor but you can still dream on the upside. At 25 years old, Adam Engel’s time is now.
Which White Sox pitching prospect do you believe will crack the major-league rotation first?
Patrick Flowers: I believe that Lucas Giolito is probably the conventional answer, but I would like him to spend some extended time at Triple-A working on his simplified mechanics, he had a brief stint at Triple-A with the Nationals before the brought him up to the major-league level in 2016 because they needed another arm for their playoff push.
I’m going with another return in that Nationals trade from December, Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez is the most major-league ready of the bunch at this point, possessing three solid pitches and a keen ability to fill the strike zone consistently for the White Sox. Disclaimer: None of them will break camp with the White Sox, but Lopez should get the first look at MLB action when the time arrives.
Anders Johanson: I like Patrick’s pick of Reynaldo Lopez but I’m going to go with Lucas Giolito. As Patrick pointed out about Giolito, he’s going to work on his delivery and control but the White Sox have had good success with young pitchers.
Chris Sale was a monster, Carlos Rodon is slowly improving, Jose Quintana has turned into one of the best in the league (albeit relatively quietly until last season), and the next crop of pitchers shows arguably even more potential. Kopech throws hard, Lopez has amazing stuff, but Giolito seems like the most well-rounded to me and should make a huge impact when he hits the scene.
Matt Smith: I’m going to go with Reynaldo Lopez. He’s already found some success at the big league level (3.92 FIP across 44.0 IP), making him the most MLB-ready starter in the system. And I think the White Sox are going to want Lucas Giolito to spend some time at Charlotte to work on his control and the repeatability of his delivery.
Dane Dunning and Michael Kopech need to work on a variety of things, and while Spencer Adams has a nice ceiling, he needs more time in the high minor leagues. Lopez has his own control issues (4.5 BB/9), of course, but if we dig a bit deeper, they are not as bad as they appear. Removing his start against the San Francisco Giants (5 BB, 4.0 IP), for example, puts his BB/9 at 3.197. Not great, but pitch-able. I think he sees the 25-man before any of the other guys.
Matt Grabianski: Carson Fulmer. He’s already pitched at the MLB level and he’s probably going to end up in the bullpen anyway, meaning he doesn’t need as much time in the minors to develop. Giolito and Lopez need that extended practice as they have better chances to start, so they’re more likely to be in the minors for a longer period of time.
Tim Moran: I lack creativity in my answers, so I’m going to echo everything that Anders said, because Anders is very intelligent. I love Anders.
Owen Schoenfeld: The White Sox have a pitching pipeline simply overflowing with talent. In Carson Fulmer, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez, they have a trio of close-to-the-majors arms gunning for a rotation spot. The safe bet here is that Lucas Giolito is the first to cement himself. Fulmer had a nice recovery last season at Charlotte but will likely start the season with the Knights to show he can stick. Ditto Reynaldo Lopez, who has a three pitch mix but needs to improve the repeatability in his delivery.
By far Giolito is the most polished despite struggling mightily in his short MLB stint. Don Cooper has already tweaked some of the inconsistencies that plagued Giolito’s delivery in the bigs. With two plus-plus offerings at the front of his profile, he could survive in the rotation out of Spring Training. Service time considerations will likely keep him down through May, but at that point he’ll be a tailor made plug-and-play option for the South Siders.