One of the major benefits of a rebuild is the amount of playing time that clubs have available. It’s an often overlooked portion of team building that usually goes unnoticed. Rick Hahn made three waiver claims over the past year and none of them really raised an eyebrow at the time. All three players acquired have contributed positively either to the White Sox in a small sample or at a minor league affiliate. It’s unlikely that a major contributor will be unearthed on the waiver wire but players on the periphery of a winning roster often are. Obtaining bench bats with power, utility players with a plate presence and potential high-leverage relievers without giving up anything more than cash at times can be a positive development for an organization.
On November 4th, 2017, the White Sox claimed 1B/OF Daniel Palka off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Nine months later, White Sox fans have Palkamania. The left-handed slugger is a bit of a cartoon character. He’s so likable because you could realistically see him playing in your local weeknight mens’ softball league. Daniel was a 3rd round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks back in 2013 out of Georgia Tech and had compiled 106 minor league home runs prior to joining the White Sox organization.
In 293 plate appearances with the Pale Hose, Palka has hit .232/.276/.489 with 18 homers. His 104 wRC+ places him roughly around league average offensively. The 26-year-old has a staggering .257 ISO while punching out about 34% of the time via the strikeout. Palka isn’t a great player. He might not even be a major league regular but there’s definitely a place for this type of skill-set in the majors, and the rebuilding White Sox are the perfect destination at this time.
In 73 plate appearances, the 6’2″ 225 pound slugger hit .286/.384/.476 as a member of the Charlotte Knights before coming to Chicago. He posted a .381 wOBA and a 142 wRC+ for Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs listed Palka as the Twins #11 prospect before the 2017 season. Eric is a respected prospect evaluator and he seemingly nailed Palka’s profile. Longenhagen cited the lefty’s plus-pull power and said that he gets to it in games because of his “pull-happy, uppercut, beer-league softball swing”. Palka has smoothed out a leg kick that used to be a big part of his approach at the plate and he’s always walked at a decent rate in the minor leagues.
Daniel Palka is easy to root for. He reminds people of the “everyman”. The guys over in section 108 at Guaranteed Rate Field have made him a bit of a cult phenomenon. He’s probably a three-true-outcomes platoon DH or bench guy in the big leagues. He has tremendous raw power to all fields though and hitting substantial dingers will always be fun. Even if he’s not likely to be a first division regular throughout his career, there is a definite niche that can be carved out for this skill-set in the majors.
Video of Palka’s most recent walk-off homer vs Cleveland
Back in December 2017, the White Sox claimed RHP Jose Ruiz off of waivers from the San Diego Padres. Ruiz was the gem of San Diego’s 2011 international class after signing for $1.1 million as a catcher. He struggled at the dish and never posted more than a .500 OPS over four minor league seasons. The Padres converted him to the mound in 2016 and he immediately showed a plus fastball. Ruiz struggled in High-A with the San Diego affiliate as a 22-year-old in 2017. He made one big league appearance in 2017 as well, before being designated for assignment in the off-season. In 50.2 innings in the White Sox organization, Ruiz has recorded 70 strikeouts and only 18 walks.
The 6’1″ 190 pound right hander has made huge strides for the White Sox in 2018. Jose started the 2018 season with the Winston-Salem Dash in the Carolina League. In 13.1 innings, the righty posted a 2.44 xFIP while striking out 14.85 batters per nine and earned a promotion to Double-A Birmingham. Ruiz has thrown 37.1 innings with the Barons and is averaging almost 12 K/9. He has posted a 2.35 ERA with a 3.00 xFIP in the Southern League while displaying high-leverage stuff. He throws his 65-grade fastball in the high 90’s and possesses an above average hard slider with bite as well.
Ruiz has started to throw a changeup to keep left-handed hitters honest and has made positive strides improving his control and command while in the White Sox organization. MLBpipeline.com lists Ruiz as the #24 prospect in the Chicago system in their recent update. Jose looks like a potential high-leverage option in the Sox bullpen in the near future. He will need Rule-5 protection this off-season and should start next season in Triple-A with the Charlotte Knights and could see Chicago sometime in 2019.
Some footage from April courtesy of FutureSox
While technically not a waiver claim, the White Sox acquired Rondon after he was designated for assignment by the Padres back in January. Jose was signed by the Angels out of Venezuela in 2011. The 24-year-old posted a .788 OPS in 2017 on three separate teams in the San Diego organization. The 6’1″ 195 pound infielder has seen a huge power strike since joining the White Sox. In 73 games with the Charlotte Knights, Rondon is hitting .255/.299/.507 in 309 plate appearances.
Rondon has played a solid shortstop defensively and hit 17 homers in the International League. His 121 wRC+ and .252 ISO are eye popping numbers. He also posted a 110 wRC+ with 3 homers in a limited major league sample with the White Sox this year. Rondon is currently a member of the 40-man roster and should get another look with the big club when rosters expand in September.
Rondon hitting his 16th homer Charlotte
The White Sox have added many talented players since the start of the rebuilding process. Small moves can make a difference for a division winner or World Champion however. It’d be uncommon for these players to be major contributors on a championship level club. They could absolutely be contributors though. Jose Rondon doesn’t walk much but his power profile makes him an intriguing utility option. Jose Ruiz could pitch high-leverage innings for the next White Sox playoff team. Daniel Palka is already entertaining the masses and could be a piece on an actual good team potentially as well.
Shrewd moves like these are made by executives every year and the White Sox front office has claimed some duds on waivers as well. These three instances have provided some intrigue though and that shouldn’t be left unsaid. Rebuilding clubs are afforded this luxury and hopefully it continues for the retooling Sox.
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