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P.O. Sox: Answering an abundance of White Sox questions

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Mailbag topics include 2017 plans for Luis Robert and 2018 plans for pitchers and catchers

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In fielding P.O. Sox questions for Monday’s podcast, I received an overflow of time-sensitive topics worth addressing. I could only tackle a few of them in audio form since we try to keep the podcast runtime to an hour, but with the White Sox off today, I have time and space to handle the bulk of the others, so let’s do it.

In no particular order ...

His plan is to ply his trade outside of the United States for the entirety of 2017 in order to increase the value of his signing bonus, as he wouldn’t be paying U.S. taxes for working in the Dominican Republic during that time. Rick Hahn said he’ll finish out the year in the Dominican Summer League, then partake in the DSL instructional league if he’s healthy enough to do so.

It doesn’t sound like this is a pressing concern right now, because Davidson says there hasn’t been much improvement with his wrist. If his absence stretches into the last week of August, I’d imagine they’d send down a pitcher, since the staff can be replenished as soon as Sept. 1 rolls around. After Sept. 4, all Charlotte Knights are back in play, as the 10-day rule doesn’t apply after the minor-league season ends.

Ugh, radio callers are the worst.

Carlos Rodon is there, and I’m assuming Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito hold their ground and have every case to get a lengthy audition. I’m assuming Carson Fulmer either returns to Charlotte for one last stand as a starter, or makes the jump to the bullpen.

With those conditions, the rotation looks a lot like it did opening the season, where veteran arms might be needed in order to protect the next wave of minor-league starters — Michael Kopech, Jordan Guerrero, Spencer Adams -- from being pressed into action until the time is right. That being the case, the Sox may as well keep rolling out James Shields as long as quality starts are possible. Maybe he can be to the Sox’ young starters what David Wells was for Mark Buehrle, as Keith Law said Shields helped Giolito find a couple ticks when he was rehabbing with the Knights.

That leaves one open spot for a veteran, which means another one-year make-good deal seems likely, even if Derek Holland failed to capitalize on his. I said this on the podcast a couple weeks ago, but Tyler Chatwood is fascinating to me for a number of reasons — a rare two-time Tommy John surgery case who is still starting, gets grounders with a decent strikeout rate, and extreme home-road splits at Coors Field, which is why he’s 6-12 with a 5.15 ERA this year. He’s on the verge of losing his rotation spot, so he might seek a rebound contract if his second half ends as poorly as it started.

Over his last 16 starts, Fulmer is 2-7 with a 7.10 ERA, a .280/.386/.474 line allowed, and 50 walks to 58 strikeouts over those 77 13 innings. He doesn’t have a case to start, but not many White Sox pitchers do, which clouds the picture.

It seems like if the Sox were ready to turn the page and convert him to relief work, it’d make sense to leave him off the roster in September. That way, the Sox could carry over the same service-time scenario from 2017 into 2018, where he could be called up in mid-May without losing a year of team control. However, if they need guys who can sop up three or four innings, he might be a better bet than, say, Tyler Danish.

It would be true to the White Sox’ franchise roots, but it seems the Red Sox and Yankees seem to have the priority. They were pushing for a matchup in London this past offseason, and those two teams are the logical choice, as cliche as that might be, what with the name recognition and the shortest flights.

According to SI.com’s research, Guaranteed Rate Field finished 18th among stadiums in terms of food safety violations:

Cold food held up to 30 degrees above regulated temperature? Dozens of mice droppings in multiple locations? Flies under prep tables? The mid-June inspection at Guaranteed Rate Field revealed a plethora of violations—many critical—in Chicago. Other critical problems related to poor hygienic practices, like missing or inaccessible hand sinks or employees not washing hands before putting on new gloves. The stadium also failed its first inspection last year, before improving in follow-ups.

Having finished a similar project at work, I’m somewhat desensitized to these reports. Part of it’s because different inspectors have different standards, so restaurants in one county can get slammed while a similar restaurant in another county can skate. The other part is the onslaught of violations. By the end of it, I’m of the opinion that everything is gross and you shouldn’t eat anything from anywhere. I’m lucky I’m still alive, based on some of the reports on the places where I regularly ate in college.

In this case, it’s helpful to know that Wrigley Field finished eighth with the same agency, so that suggests the White Sox can do better. It’d be ideal if they addressed it publicly, although it doesn’t make sense for them to make the first move since 1) there are at least two tiers of stadiums worse, and 2) they’d be drawing attention to a story most haven’t seen. Dodging questions, though, would make them look sketchy.

All things being equal, it’d be optimal to take a college player over a high school talent. Take the 2013 draft. It’s not quite fair to measure Kris Bryant (taken second) to Clint Frazier (taken fifth) because Bryant was an exceptionally quick study. You wouldn’t count on a collegiate player already being a three-year star and an MVP by age 25. But even if Bryant were half as accomplished, he’d be ahead of Frazier, who is just starting to battle the rookie learning curve at the MLB level after a fairly smooth rise up the ranks.

That said, if the draft is teeming with high-quality prep position players, there’s no reason to fight it (Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek taken ahead of Carlos Rodon and Aaron Nola makes me consider pitchers differently). If there’s somebody who looks as likely as anybody of being on the Manny Machado/Carlos Correa/Francisco Lindor developmental curve — your Brice Turangs or your Jarred Kelenics — by all means.

Lucroy’s game deteriorated on him this season. Maybe it’s not a total surprise when a catcher declines rapidly at the plate at age 31, but it’s strange to see his once state-of-the-art pitch framing abandon him. Ben Lindbergh drew an unfortunate conclusion:

Maybe Lucroy’s issues are purely mechanical or mental, the product of bad habits or frustration about his slow start at the plate. But it’s probable that age and injuries have taken their toll. Lucroy suffered a fractured finger in 2011; a fractured hand in 2012; hamstring soreness in 2014 and 2015; a fractured toe in early 2015; and a concussion in late 2015. Maybe that accumulated wear and tear has made him less low, less mobile, and less steady behind the plate.

The bad news for Lucroy — and, for the rest of this season, the Rangers — is that large changes in framing performance tend to be sticky; it’s rare for a catcher to suffer a significant decline as a receiver and then bounce all the way back. In other words, the elite Lucroy, and even the average Lucroy, may be gone for good. At least we’ve got those GIFs.

The Rangers acquired him for Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell. The next deadline, they traded him to Colorado for a player to be named later, and Robinson Chirinos looked like a better use of the playing time, anyway. That’s a pretty stunning fall.

Lucroy might be the Matt Wieters of the upcoming offseason. His track record for a catcher is excellent, but his numbers behind the plate are going the wrong way, his hitting isn’t making up for it, and age is no longer on his side. Nobody could point to anything Wieters did particularly well, and so Scott Boras couldn’t find a taker until his price dropped low enough for the Nationals to roll with him on a two-year what-the-hell deal. Even then, Wieters is basically replacement level.

If Lucroy can make a positive impact on the Rockies’ postseason pursuit, he can distinguish himself from an unimpressive cast of free agent catchers. But based on the way he’s played through four months, Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez might be better than anybody the Sox can add via free agency.

I guess I’ll have to go with 2013 Times Union Player of the Year Justin Yurchak. On a related note, according to MLB Pipeline, Trey Michalczewski is no longer a top-30 prospect. That’s rather amazing, on both sides of the equation.