A rough week in the life of Jeff Keppinger
Well, Jeff Keppinger is terrible.
It’s an unreasonable presumption, obviously, but after what’s likely the longest stretch of games that anyone from Chicago has seen or paid attention to him, the newest-latest White Sox infielder is 1-21 with no walks and two strikeouts. He’s made it harder to hide his offense by displaying his below-average range in the field and booted a tough hopper at first base Saturday, allowing a run to score. By the end of the day, there was some light booing coming his way for routine groundouts
This isn’t much in the way of horrifying revelations for Keppinger. His appeal as a defender is that he can be playable at multiple positions, not that he can be good at any one in particular. A spray chart full of rolled-over grounders to the left side and weak fly balls to right field show a hitter pretty solidly out-of-sync in his first week, even if nothing about his early contact rates suggests anything serious. Robin Ventura suggested the weather as a factor, which is a new one. Rationalizations based on waiting for the Chicago weather to normalize are…interesting.
But this is a besides the point. Keppinger is likely fine. What’s of interest is him placing an awful-looking slump right at the start of the season when his role on the team is as destabilized as possible. The length of Keppinger’s contract always suggested that he could slide into a super-sub role, but if he continues to scuffle while Conor Gillaspie rides the lightning of his shocking spring training, it only allows for Ventura to further explore the idea of a third base platoon. Sunday served as a bit of a “You look like you could use a day off,” game for Keppinger, but was also a day off against a right-handed starter. Not a bad idea for those to continue and the White Sox surely noted his platoon splits before signing him.
The lack of instant stability provided from Keppinger is also under more scrutiny due to his spot in the order. The No. 2 spot has been a sinkhole for too long and Jeff Manto’s effusive praise toward Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez (who batted second on Sunday) suggest neither is much more than a hot couple of weeks away from grabbing a larger role away from someone who hasn’t proved they deserve theirs.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan