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White Sox need better fits for short bench

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With a 13-man pitching staff, Robin Ventura's reserves should have skills that are more actual than theoretical

The best contact Jerry Sands made Friday.
The best contact Jerry Sands made Friday.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

It's not a good practice to spend a lot of time worrying about the last man on the bench, because they're largely interchangeable based on the needs of the day or week.

But Jerry Sands has been on this team for all seven weeks of this season. Over that time, it hasn't yet become clear why he should be on a White Sox lineup card on any given day. Ostensibly it's the threat of a homer against left-handed pitching, but he doesn't seem to make the lineup better -- especially when he's batting fourth or fifth -- and his glove is an afterthought for Robin Ventura, too.

The broadcast booth tried to paint his production --.250/.294/.313 entering Friday's loss to the Royals -- in a positive light:

Steve Stone: In limited action, Jerry's actually done very well coming off the bench. One of the toughest things to do in the major leagues -- not getting consistent at-bats, but keeping a consistent stroke.

Hawk Harrelson: Well you can't.

Stone: It's hard. Very hard.

Hawk: Not too many Smoky Burgesses around.

Sands then proceeded to go 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, dragging his line down to .235/.278/.294.

Danny Duffy and Luke Hochevar came right at him, throwing nine of 10 pitches for strikes -- two looking, four swinging, two foul balls, and a lazy flyout to shallow right field. He has now struck out in 43 percent of his 54 plate appearances, which makes me think he is keeping a consistent stroke. It's just not one worth keeping, especially since his strike-zone control is equally problematic against lefties.

With the Sox losing 12 out of 16 thanks in large part to a moribund offense -- and with an eight-man bullpen reducing the amount of position-player switching -- the Sox should take the bench off autopilot. Maybe Adam Eaton deserves a game off and a tough lefty on the mound is a good time for it, but it'd be nice if his replacement offered some offensive or defensive utility in place of a tired star.

This post is basically an one-off spin-off of P.O. Sox:

That's a good question, because there are players who represent possible improvements, if only because the bar is no longer that high.

Right-handed corner infielder: Matt Davidson.

He's finally looking like a normal Triple-A player, although one aided by cozy BB&T Stadium. He's hitting .256/.350/.453 with a finally respectable 27 percent strikeout rate (21 percent in May). He's been much stronger at home and against lefties, but that has some uses, as Sands is around mainly to back up Jose Abreu. He's also somebody who could give Todd Frazier the occasional breather.

Left-handed corner infielder: Danny Hayes.

The 25-year-old first baseman, selected by the Sox in the 13th round of the 2013 draft, has the best batting eye in Charlotte. He's hitting .287/.398/.528 with 20 walks to 29 strikeouts over 129 plate appearances. While his dinger output might be a bit of a Charlotte mirage and he can only play first base, he's had no discernible platoon splits during his climb through the system and therefore could be a bench bat worth trying.

Right-handed corner outfielder: Jason Coats.

He's hitting .300/.369/.464 at Charlotte (including the standard home-heavy bonus), and while he's cooled off in May when it comes to production ...

  • April: .364/.417/.561
  • May: .243/.329/.378

... he's figuring something out in terms of an approach:

  • April: 2 BB, 19 K over 66 PA
  • May: 8 BB, 14 K over 86 PA

He's maintaining his reputation as a player who can do everything a little, but nothing all that well. That makes him a little dangerous for a manager, because ideally you'd like to have your bench players have one standout attribute. At this time, though, the player he'd be replacing doesn't have a cornerstone to his game except raw power, which hasn't translated to in-game use. At least a Coats-type player can be used in more situations (playing right field instead of Avisail Garcia when Eaton needs a break, for instance).

None of these guys are an outstanding bet to become instant MLB contributors, but you could've said the same thing about Sands before Opening Day. At this point, I don't see a reason against cycling through other options. The best one I can think of is 40-man roster spots, but that's only a reason to start with Davidson and save the others for later.