Despite some sputtering and buffering on the offensive side, the White Sox are still off to their best start in years.
Despite a lot of wheeling and dealing from Rick Hahn, the individual contributions of the new guys aren't really playing much of a part.
Running through the players coming and going, the White Sox aren't winning many individual battles with regards to talent evaluation as the season nears the three-week mark. Three weeks are but a drop in the bucket, of course, but first impressions have an annoying habit of how the following months are perceived.
Likewise, winning records have a way of covering for individual shortcomings. The White Sox were so frustrating over the previous three years that you can excuse early stumbles if they were a temporary consequence of a larger change of identity. But based on where some of these situations are starting, production will have to pick up in order to allow us to gloss over the rough starts in September.
White Sox: While Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto provided middle-of-the-pack production for a good price in 2015, Rick Hahn wanted to see something different. We thought it was different enough when he signed Alex Avila, but then he non-tendered Flowers in exchange for Dioner Navarro. The idea was to make the offense more watchable, but that hasn't been the case so far:
- Avila: .185/.267/.222 over 30 PA
- Navarro: .080/.080/.080 over 25 PA
The good news? When it comes to framing, Avila is hanging close with Flowers (albeit with more chances), and Chris Sale is no worse for the wear through four starts. Navarro, on the other hand, is 60th out of 65 catchers in this department, but at least he's getting a share of the credit for Mat Latos' surprising early success.
Tyler Flowers: Flowers is revisiting his past by rejoining the Braves as a backup to A.J. Pierzynski, and he's enjoying the home cooking, with eight hits and three walks over his first 25 plate appearances. Granted, half of those hits came in one game against the Dodgers on Wednesday, and he's struck out eight times. Still, he had twice as many hits in that one game as Navarro has all season.
Geovany Soto: He's also producing in a similar arrangement with the Angels (.316/.381/.474 over his first 22 plate appearances). Also like last year, he's outhitting the team's No. 1 catcher. We'll see if it means a larger share of the playing time with Mike Scioscia.
White Sox: Neither Jimmy Rollins nor Tyler Saladino is lighting it up, but their .233/.273/.400 line isn't yet an emergency. Rollins' vanishing range at shortstop necessitates a little more production in order to keep this tenable.
Alexei Ramirez: He's off to another slow start with the Padres, hitting .224/.286/.276. It's still better than what he gave the Sox early on last season, but nothing his old club is regretting yet.
Ian Desmond: He face-planted out of the gate, hitting .158/.226/.246 -- and that includes a decent series against the Astros. Perhaps the position change is a bit of a drain, as he's already committed a couple of errors in the outfield.
Todd Frazier trade
White Sox: Like so many big names that have come before him, Frazier's transition from the National League to the White Sox is far from smooth. He's hitting just .206 with a .254 on-base percentage. However, there are more signs of life than usual, including four homers and a bevy of athletic plays at third base, which is half the reason he was acquired.
Trayce Thompson: Injuries to Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford have allowed Thompson to get early playing time. He hasn't matched his dynamic introduction with the White Sox, but he's hanging in there (.267/.333/.333 over 33 PA).
Micah Johnson: He was briefly called up to replace Crawford on the roster on April 9, then was sent down two days later. He appeared in both games, going 0-for-3, before Howie Kendrick came off the DL and replaced him. He's hitting .250/.263/.250 with Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he is playing outfield more than second base.
Frankie Montas: He had his first right rib removed in February after suffering a stress reaction. The original timetable was two to four months, but he has yet to pitch in that window.
Brett Lawrie trade
White Sox: So far, so good. Lawrie is hitting .286/.355/.411, and the strikeout-to-walk ratio is starting to level off as a frightening start. He's second on the team in OPS behind Melky Cabrera, and his defense has been acceptable, from what I can tell over two weeks.
Zack Erwin: The fourth-rounder traded to Oakland is off to a so-so start at High-A Stockton. He's allowed just one earned run over 10⅔ innings, but there are two unearned runs to go along with 10 hits, five walks and one HBP.
J.B. Wendelken: He's getting regular work at Triple-A Nashville: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 9 K.
Jeff Samardzija trade
White Sox: While Year One of the trade determined what the Sox received in the deal, Year Two is more telling with regards to what the White Sox gave up. It's not getting any better.
Marcus Semien: He's still hanging in there as a shortstop, with only one error over 16 games despite some shaky moments. His true offensive skill set remains difficult to determine, as he's still swinging and missing (13 strikeouts), which is limiting his average (.204). But he's drawing more walks and hitting more homers early on, so should his sub-Mendoza BABIP normalize, he could reach another stage in his development. It's hard to say, as he seems to do everything in clumps.
Josh Phegley: He's holding up his half of the platoon from an offensive standpoint, hitting .375/.412/.438 over 17 plate appearances. There's nothing different to report about his defense yet.
Chris Bassitt: He bounced back from his rough start against the White Sox with two stout seven-inning outings against the Mariners and Royals. That's good for a 2.79 ERA, although he's still battling ugly peripherals (a 4.44 FIP). He's doing so with a couple miles per hour added to his fastball, which could help.
Rangel Ravelo: He's healthy and active to start the season, and he resembles the same batting-eye oriented first baseman he was in the White Sox system, hitting .314/.390/.371 over 41 PA at Nashville.
Jeff Samardzija: He's 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA over his first three starts with the Giants, but only one of those starts could be considered a success, as the other quality start only met the minimum in a loss to the Dodgers. At the moment, he's no ...
Mat Latos: Who is doing an admirable job of filling in for the Shark through three starts.
White Sox: I'm guessing they're happy with Austin Jackson's approach, and unhappy with the number of close calls that haven't gone his way. The ninth inning of Thursday's game was the latest example:
But until the hits start falling for him (or staying fair), he'll have to endure the slowest start of the biggest free agent outfielders.
- Dexter Fowler: .393/.521/.696
Yoenis Cespedes: .291/.371/.636
- Alex Gordon: .231/.333/.327
- Justin Upton: .226/.262/.323
- Jason Heyward: .200/.314/.233
- Jackson: .170/.204/.191
And if Jackson's fortunes weren't bad enough, he's even lagging behind Avisail Garcia in OBP (.226) and slugging (.292).