There has been a lot of buzz lately about the White Sox needing to make a move to acquire a utility infielder or make an upgrade at second base, where Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez will compete for a spot in the starting lineup. However, the White Sox have enough prospects with high ceilings to take a wait-and-see approach before they trade away the farm (system), as former general manager and current executive vice president, Kenny Williams, was prone to do.
Much Ado About Nothing?
Stephen Forsha recently wrote about the rumors regarding the White Sox possible interest in Tampa Bay Devil Rays second baseman, Ben Zobrist and Stephen Drew. As it stands, the White Sox have two healthy infielders, Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson, to fill two roles- second base and utility infielder. Why must the Sox acquire another player? Let’s remember, we’re talking about an infielder that will likely bat ninth in the order. After shipping off Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt, and Rangel Ravelo already this offseason, would it make sense to trade away more of the team’s remaining prospects for a short-term, marginal upgrade?
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I say marginal upgrade, because the White Sox boast a talented duo in Johnson and Sanchez. Not only that, but their talent compliments one another. Micah Johnson is known to have good speed and make contact at the plate. Fangraph’s Kylie McDaniel notes, “Johnson is a 65-70 runner that has good range at second base, makes a lot of contact and spent most of last year in Triple-A.” Indeed, while playing 65 games for the Charlotte Knights in 2014, Johnson hit 28 RBI and swiped 12 bases. While he hits left-handed pitching slightly better, he’s no slouch against right-handed pitching. Johnson hit .263 with a .304 OBP and 23 RBI against right-handers in Triple-A, while punishing them to the tune of a .360 batting average and .438 OPB in Double-A, according to MiLB.com.
Carlos Sanchez is more than adequate defensively at second base, compiling a .992 fielding percentage in 2014 compared to a .984 league average fielding percentage at the position. While Sanchez had problems against right-handed pitching in Chicago, something that helped balance the scales for Sanchez was his ability to manhandle left-handed pitching. Playing in 28 games for Chicago in 2014, Sanchez posted a .364/.382/.485 slash line against southpaws. Sanchez can also play shortstop when Alexei needs a rest, as he played more than 90 games at the position in Triple-A and made one error-free appearance for the Sox at shortstop last season. Ramirez and Sanchez also had good defensive rapport as you can see below.
Then there’s Tyler Saladino, who Rick Hahn is hoping to have back with the team by Opening Day. Saladino was named to the Triple-A International League All Star team in 2014, and appeared ready for be a September call-up for the White Sox before injuring his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) while throwing out a runner from left field in July. In 82 games with Charlotte last season, Saladino posted a .310/.367/.485 slash line with 43 RBI and 7 stolen bases. Tyler played all over the diamond, spending most of his time at shortstop, but also playing four games at second base, three at third base, and eight in left field. It would seem wise for the White Sox to find a spot for Saladino in Chicago after he is fully healed.
Three organizational prospects, three hungry kids ready to contribute at the big league level, and three players under team control at reasonable costs. I see no point in trading away anymore young talent for an expensive aging veteran, such as Zobrist or Drew. The White Sox should find out exactly what they’re holding in their hand before they fold it in favor of another that may or may not be any better. Let the kids play, and if changes need to be made at the non-waiver trade deadline, so be it, but I think Sox fans will be pleasantly surprised with the results from this group of talented young infielders.