The Major League Baseball Hot Stove is, well, about as cold as the temperature outside.
With still well over 100 free agents on the open market just two weeks ahead of pitchers and catchers reporting to camp, it’s safe to say this off-season has not played out the way many of us thought.
In recent weeks Sox fans have been overwhelmed with rumors surrounding Manny Machado, and most recently Joc Pederson. Should the Sox be successful in acquiring these two players, the team will be significantly better in 2019.
How much better in terms of wins and losses is still a matter of some conjecture and could hinge on additional moves. One thing that is for certain is the Sox roster composition is somewhat of a cluttered mess. I’m operating under the assumption that team is going to carry 13 pitchers to open the season, so that leaves very little room for roster flexibility.
Oh, by the way, Eloy is going to be here sometime around April 15th, so someone is going to be getting a ticket back to Charlotte with absolute certainty.
So how are the Sox going to go about piecing together this roster?
The way I see it, there are 10 guys that guaranteed roster spots: (again this is making the assumption that the Sox succeed in acquiring Machado and Pederson, and Eloy is up around 4/15).
That leaves two spots on the roster and you need to have a RHH CF option for platoon purposes, and an infielder that can handle multiple positions, including SS ideally. Although, the need for a utility infielder being able to handle SS may be up for debate given the Machado presence on the roster.
So with two spots available, I hate to say it, somewhere along the way there is going to be a player or two that are popular with the Sox fanbase that will need to get comfortable playing at BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte.
Rondon got his first taste of the big leagues last year with the Sox, accumulating 107 PAs and slashing: .230/.280/.470 with 6 HRs. The .319 wOBA he put up is slightly above league average and for a player that has defensive versatility, you can make the case that he is a player deserving of an opportunity in a reserve role on a big league club.
Rondon did most of his work defensively at the hot corner where he amassed 3 DRS in 73 innings. He also appeared at shortstop for 58 innings and totaled -2 DRS, and spent 23 innings at 2B where he had 0 DRS. I know this is a very small sample size here, but the thing that really caught my eye with Rondon during his time on the South Side was the emergence of power to his profile.
This is coupled with the 18 homers he launched in hitter-friendly BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, and Rondon had by far his greatest power output as a professional. In fact, prior to 2018, Rondon had never reached double-digit long balls in any season professionally. This is an important trait for a bench player to have along with defensive versatility.
White Sox Twitter’s spirit animal and a favorite of the @Fromthe108 crew, Palka emerged on the scene last season and hammered 27 homers in 449 PAs. Many of these homers were of the blistering variety as he frequently was hammering baseballs with some of the league’s top exit velocities in 2018.
For the year, Palka was able to put up a .329 wOBA, which is certainly a serviceable number for a guy on a Major League roster. Palka does have his limitations, however, as he was only able to get on base at a .294 clip.
His 6.7% BB rate was almost a full 2% below league average and his 34.1% K rate was almost 12% above league average, so bat-to-ball skills will be called into question for Palkamania. It is interesting to note, however, that for his minor league career Palka routinely had walk rates in the 8-10% rate.
If he is able to improve the plate discipline skills allowing him to barrel up balls with more frequency, there will be no debate about his worthiness of a roster spot. Defensively…to quote Steve Stone “he’s a good hitter.”
Nicky “Steaks” Delmonico
I really want to like Delmonico, but I just don’t see how they can justify keeping him on the roster at this point. A lot of people like to talk about his great 2017 season as a reason for optimism, but consider this:
-8/1/17 – 8/24/17: 91PAs, .307/.429/.573, .424 wOBA
-9/6/17 – 9/30/18: 393 PAs, .214/.298/.374, .294 wOBA
Delmonico’s hot August in 2017 during his first taste of Major League action caught a lot of people by surprise but he sustained a wrist injury on 8/24/17 and he seemingly has not been the same since. He was plagued by more injury issues in 2018, but the fact remains that since his hot first month he just hasn’t been a good hitter.
Couple this with the fact that he has -7 DRS in LF since being called up and I just don’t see how you can bring him to Chicago at this point. He and Palka are both LHH DHs at this point, but only one of them hits the ball out of the ballpark.
Few people on White Sox Twitter have been harder on Adam Engel than I have. By all accounts, he’s a very nice guy and a solid teammate. But he’s simply not a Major League player. Engel has 799 PAs in the bigs at this point and he’s slashed: .207/.260/.314 for a .253 wOBA.
For the parts of two seasons he has played in Chicago his defense is neutral by DRS. Given the roster constraints this team is faced with you can’t allocate one of your few spots to him, he’s an AAA player.
The oft-injured Garcia is a rarity on the Sox roster, a guy that has positional versatility. Leury has played all 3 outfield positions while also making cameos at SS and 2B over the last 2 seasons. In the time frame, the results have been adequate for the small sample size.
When playing CF, Garcia amassed 3 DRS in 406 innings in 2017, but -1 DRS in 164 innings in 2018. He has only appeared in the infield for 114 innings in the last 2 seasons but does have 1 DRS at both SS and 2B.
So the defensive versatility and ability to be plugged into multiple spots should the need arise is very important for this roster. Offensively, in 601 PAs the last 2 seasons Garcia has slashed: .271/.310/.401 for a .307 wOBA with 13 HRs.
This is kind of what you expect from a bench player that isn’t on the Dodgers. If Garcia is healthy, and believe me that’s a big IF, he’s a valuable player on a major league roster.
Everyone’s favorite, goofy, self-dumping Gatorade cooler knucklehead is the final candidate. In the last two seasons, Yolmer has proven himself to be a tremendous asset defensively seeing time at 2B, SS, and predominantly 3B.
During that time he has been stellar defensively. In 2017 he accrued 8 DRS in 620 innings at 2B, 8 DRS in 393 at 3B, and -1 DRS in 51 innings at SS.
He continued that by posting 5 DRS in 1234 at the hot corner in 2018, and 0 DRS in 74 innings at 2B. It’s clear that Yolmer is a very competent Major Leaguer defensively.
With the bat in the last 2 seasons, Yolmer has totaled 1,196 PAs and has slashed: .253/.312/.390 good for a .304 wOBA. Those totals are slightly below league average but when you combine that with his defensive contributions, it’s clear that he is a player that is very deserving of a roster spot.
So Who Gets The Roster Spots?
I firmly believe we can eliminate Delmonico and Engel from the discussion at this point. So that leaves Rondon, Palka, Garcia, and Sanchez for two spots. I think Leury has to get one of the spots by default because of his ability to at least play a passable CF.
So now we are down to one spot for two fan favorites and a guy with 107 PAs in the Show. I thought Rondon would be sent to Charlotte to start the year but he’s now out of options and that could pose to be a problem. The White Sox could try and sneak him through waivers at an opportune time but he’s earned the right to at least compete for a bench job in major league camp. If they are able to do so, that still leaves decisions for Palka and Sanchez.
There are compelling cases to be made for both players. If I were GMing, Yonder Alonso wouldn’t be on this team and Palka would be getting his DH at-bats, and we aren’t having this discussion. But I just can’t see carrying him on the roster after Eloy arrives given that he and Alonso are both LHH players.
I think this really shows the conundrum that this team is in with their current roster composition. So for my money, the two spots have to go to Leury and Yolmer to start the year. With that being said, I would in no way be surprised if Yolmer were moved for an additional bullpen piece or another depth area during spring training.
Should the Sox land Manny, I believe the Sox can fill his void with Jose Rondon long-term, and do so with the presence of more power at the plate.
All in all, this is a really weird mix of guys on this bench. I can’t wait for a time in a few years, hopefully, when the bench options are a lot easier to make and aren’t compromised by area code and familial relationships.
Follow Steve on Twitter @Sox2727