With the second half of the season underway, it’s time to look at the position player grades for the White Sox. It wasn’t always pretty or according to plan in the first half, but there are still a good number of positives to bank on for the Sox in the first half. Let’s take a look.
With Welington Castillo suspended, Narvaez and Smith found themselves shouldering the majority of the catching duties for the team in the first half. Smith missed some time with an injury he suffered while playing in Charlotte, but since being called up has hit .314 and gotten on base at a .348 clip. Pretty good for a player most didn’t expect to play much above Charlotte this year.
Smith’s production isn’t the only surprising bit of production coming from behind the plate for the White Sox. Omar Narvaez, since becoming the primary catcher has been one of the most productive bats in the lineup. Hitting .287 and getting on base at a nearly 36% clip, 2018 has been kind to Narvaez at the plate. He also already has more home runs this year (3) than he did all of last year (2). His and Smith’s production has been a pleasant surprise for a team that hasn’t had a legitimate offensive catcher since A.J. Pierzynski left.
Unfortunately for both, and the reason their combined grade isn’t higher, is the defense still severely lacks. Narvaez remains a frustrating pitch framer and poor pitch blocker. Narvaez is tied for the league lead with 10 passed balls this season. His pitch framing has bitten the Sox in the behind at multiple junctures this season, and it frustrates a young pitching staff.
Regardless of the defensive issues, the burst of production from the catching position has been a welcome and surprising addition to the team and deserving of a nice B grade.
Suspended half the season for PED’s? Fail.
Jose Abreu: B-
The White Sox lone All-Star and first fan voted starter since 1996. That alone is worthy of a decent grade for the leader of the White Sox clubhouse. Unfortunately, Abreu’s numbers heading into the break were not the prettiest. A prolonged slump left the slugger hitting in the mid-.250’s and with only 13 home runs.
These numbers will need to turnaround in a major way for Abreu in the second half. The Sox are counting on him to be one of the major bats in this lineup, and he simply was not that in the first half of the season. His All-Star appearance was a rare bright spot in an otherwise dreary season, and is worth a passing grade, but the second half needs to better or his end of year report will not be as friendly.
Yoan Moncada C+
Yoan Moncada is perhaps the most polarizing player in the White Sox lineup. Depending on who you ask, Moncada is either a bust or the next great thing. Not a ton of middle ground as far as opinions go on one of the centerpieces of the rebuild. The reality is, if you remove Moncada’s strikeout numbers from the equation (difficult to do I know), he has been essentially a league average second baseman this year.
He has streaks where he hits anywhere from .280 to .300 for prolonged periods, and then will follow it up with a stretch where he strikes out at an almost 50% rate. Despite all that, Moncada’s slash line is fairly league average at .237/.313/.425, which isn’t bad for a player still adjusting during his first full year in the bigs. His rough stretches prevent him from receiving a higher grade, but there were still many positive signs from Moncada in the first half.
Tim Anderson is at times the forgotten piece of the rebuild. His struggles last year mixed with the sudden influx of talent the farm system experienced, led to Anderson being somewhat lost in the shuffle. But make no mistake, Anderson as it currently stands is still a vital piece of the rebuild.
Tim has already walked 10 more times this season than he did in all of 2017, and he is also striking out less. Although his batting average has fallen somewhat from last year, nearly every other major statistical category has gone up, including stolen bases. Anderson unlocking his speed and mixing that with a new and improved ability to get on base has made him an under the radar value in the lineup this season. Not to mention he’s one of the few regulars in the Sox lineup that has not dealt with some nagging injury or another. In all, a solid first half for Anderson.
Yolmer Sanchez B+
Yolmer has not only become a fan favorite on the South Side, but has been perhaps the most consistent player in the entire lineup. Batting .259/.306/.406 and routinely providing plus defense at third for the Sox, Yolmer has worked his way into the team’s future plans. He clearly keeps things loose in the clubhouse, and makes the season the team is enduring a little easier to stomach. Should Yolmer continue his high level of play, he will hear his name in some trade rumors, but likely will stick around as a super utility man for the team.
Some say, Matt Davidson only hits in Kansas City. They say his numbers (14 HR, 48 RBI’s, .438 SLG%), are a product of a few good games in an otherwise underwhelming season. While there may be some small degree of truth to this, Davidson had a mostly solid first half of the season as you can see from the numbers.
Although he is striking out a bit more, his on base percentage is up nearly 70 points, and his power numbers remain a steady strength of his. While his role on the team moving forward is not necessarily as clear, he provides a value bat for the Sox in their lineup, and can spell Jose Abreu at first when he needs a break. A strong first half of the season for Davidson.
The story for Avi in the first half was one of struggles with injuries. He missed nearly a month early in the season with a strained hamstring, and before that looked like pre-2017 Avisail. Upon return, he became the best hitter in the lineup for a stretch, before injuring the hamstring again. We will see what the second half of the season holds for the former All-Star, hopefully it’s health. Until then, Avi has showed just enough to earn a passing grade. If Avi continues to show that he has finally harnessed all that natural power he is supposed to have, it could be a good second half of the season for him.
Palka came up in April, and was a pleasant surprise for the team. He became one of the best power bats in the lineup, and one of the hardest hitters in baseball with his 114 mile-per-hour exit velocities. Palka entered the break carrying a paltry .234 batting average, but his power numbers prop that statistic up and make his value for the team real.
Adam Engel survives. Despite a negative bat and negative value in the field, he survives. No one is really sure what the outfielder brings to the table but Ricky Renteria and co. seem to see something. But this writer does not. Fail.
Nicky Delmonico N/A
Nicky Delmonico has suffered from the injury bug again, and as a result has not provided enough sample size to grade on. Hopefully Nicky returns healthy and can be an impact bat in the second half for the White Sox.
Leury Garcia C+
Like the other names on this list, Garcia has been badly bitted by the injury bug. When healthy, he’s been a big time plus bat in the lineup, hitting .289 and also displays major positional versatility. Unfortunately the injuries keep him from having a higher grade, but there’s no doubt he deserves a passing grade.
Tilson finally got his chance. After missing essentially two years with injury, the Chicago-area native finally got his chance at big league ball. Before being sent back down recently to make room for players returning from injury, Tilson hit .264 and provided a solid glove in the outfield. He should probably be on the team instead of Engel, but we don’t call the shots. A nice stint for Tilson in the first half of the season.
So what surprises does the second half of the season hold? That’s yet to be seen, but it should have call-ups and hopefully some surprise performances. Should be at least interesting to watch, if not actually fun.
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