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White Sox: Recent Injuries and the need for a “Critical Mass”

According to physics, a critical mass is the minimum amount of fissile material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction. Rick Hahn has uttered a multitude of lawyerly euphemisms like, “If I had my druthers”, “forcing the issue”, and “mired in mediocrity” in the past. Another quote of his that needs to be taken at face value is “critical mass”.

Hahn has often referenced the need for the organization to procure a critical mass of talent in the minor league infrastructure. Last February, long-time White Sox scribe Scott Merkin wrote about this “critical mass” that Hahn was desiring on mlb.com. Merkin opined at the time that Hahn was determined to add as much high upside talent as possible to create a young core. The general manager also said that it was necessary for his club to attempt a rebuild because their roster was extremely top-heavy with limited supplemental resources available.

As nice as it is to be able to draw up an organizational big board with starting players already lined up, it was apparent that targeting specific positions in trades and the draft was never the focus. The point of a tear-down is to accumulate as many assets as possible without getting too pigeonholed in one position.

This is an important factor when identifying the main reason why it was necessary for the residents at 35th and Shields to embark on a rebuilding process in the first place.

Hahn said, “It had to do with what was going on with not just 1 through 25, but 1 through 35 or 40. So now as we approach this, we have to build that organizational quality depth, not just insurance policies but real high caliber depth”. The White Sox are in a great place as an organization and their farm system is as good as it’s ever been. The job is not complete though. Setbacks occur and that has been evident with some of the young players over the last six months.

White Sox 2017 first round draft pick Jake Burger ruptured his left Achilles tendon running to first base during a spring training game on Monday. Burger was not going to be part of the 2018 White Sox but it’s a significant blow to a young player that was impressing in camp so far.

He’ll spend the year rehabbing and hopefully make up for lost time during Winter ball. The injury doesn’t affect the outlook of this season for the big league club but it’s a stark reminder to take a step back every once in awhile. Outfield prospect Micker Adolfo also has an elbow injury that will relegate him to designated hitter duty for most of the upcoming season. Left-handed starter Carlos Rodon won’t be in Chicago until June at the earliest with a shoulder injury and closer of the future Zack Burdi underwent Tommy John Surgery and likely won’t be pitching in meaningful games until 2019. Some of the prized young players that should factor into future plans have had setbacks of some kind and the expectation should be that these unexpected instances aren’t totally in the rear-view mirror.

More prospects will get injured. Some of them won’t make it past Double-A in the White Sox system. The hit rate on prospects has also been less than expected and that’s a big reason why Hahn using the term “critical mass” is so important. It’s also why fans should temper expectations about the next truly good White Sox team.

This process will take some time and Hahn has been reluctant to hold the organization to a specific time period publicly for a reason. The White Sox are still closer to the beginning of their rebuild than they are to the end of it. It would behoove the front office to acquire 15-20 more prospects in some fashion. They have some veterans that possess trade value whom I expect will be dangled during the 2018 season.

They also have $4.75 million in international bonus pool space that can be spun off for prospects. The White Sox have been diligent purveyors of the waiver wire as well of late. The White Sox will need two more draft classes to insulate the powerful farm system that is already in place as well.

The whole point of tearing down the talent base and taking a step back in order to take a giant step forward was to set up the club to eventually compete for the World Series on an annual basis. Winning championships is the point of professional sports. That’s still the goal.

The critical mass of talent is referenced because depth is important. Teams need to have an organizational infrastructure. Much of that infrastructure is built and some of the star-studded prospects will be key cogs on the next good Sox team. Great teams find contributors that weren’t originally a part of the plan though. Guys like Charlie Tilson, Ryan Cordell, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, and Matt Davidson should be afforded the opportunity to impress in a rebuilding year. All five of those players could be gone in short order or a couple of them could be considered part of that “critical mass”. The White Sox don’t need Mike Moustakas, Carlos Gonzalez or a Melky Cabrera redux.

They need to let their current roster sort itself out and I’m sure the general manager will be conjuring up his new catchphrase while it’s all happening. 

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1 comment on “White Sox: Recent Injuries and the need for a “Critical Mass”

  1. Pingback: White Sox Minor League News & Notes, 2/5 to 3/5 | FutureSox

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