Spring is almost here, and it is getting exciting. I love spring for a lot of reasons as I am an avid outdoors man, but
baseball is always the best part. As a kid playing baseball, smelling the brand new glove that I got for Christmas, hearing the clink of a baseball bat and a ball making contact, and watching my parents get excited every time I got a base hit was, and still is a huge part of my childhood. I bet I know of someone who is even more excited, mainly because all offseason he has seen his role on our beloved Chicago White Sox be down played to, maybe, a utility player. His name is Carlos Sanchez. Yeah, that’s right, Carlos Sanchez is out for the starting shortstop role on this team, and I believe he will get it. We have all seen Carlos make amazing plays at second base, we know he can play defense. But a lot of people point to his poor offense as an indication that they do not believe he will be an every day player in the lineup for this team.
At the same time a lot of people really forget just how much he improved his plate appearances towards the end of the season. In May when Carlos was hitting incredibly poor, it was honestly hard to watch. If he had continued to be so poor at the plate, his batting average would have been below .200. But that is the thing, he did not continue to be so horribly bad, as he showed during the month of August when he hit .247/.286/.355 with a .641 OPS. To me that says that he improved, and improved quite considerably. He went from a poultry .191 to almost .250 in a very short amount of time. He managed to finish out the season with a respectable slash line of .224/.268/.326 with a .595 OPS for a first year player who struggled mightily early on. I say respectable in the context that he improved a lot over the course of the season, not in the context of that that would be acceptable over the course of the 2016 season.
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Meanwhile the guy that everyone has been talking about as the starting shortstop, Tyler Saladino, actually got worse as the season went along once he was called up. Don’t worry, I do not have a personal problem with Tyler, I think he would make a fine utility player as he has played every position in the infield at least a little bit, and he would be an adequate defensive replacement at times. I just do not see anything that Saladino can do, that Sanchez can’t to this point in their careers. Their minor league days actually show that Sanchez has always been the better player statistically. In seven minor league seasons Carlos has hit for a slash line of .288/.354/369 with a .723 OPS and a .984 fielding percentage, while Saladino, in six seasons has hit for a slash line of .261/.351./395 with a .746 OPS and a .958 fielding percentage.
The power has been slightly in Saladino’s favor, but we can all agree that neither player is leaving the yard at a rate that would suggest we should play one over the other. I am not saying that Saladino has no shot of winning the shortstop job in spring training, just that we should not count Sanchez out for any reason because as you can see, he has just as good of a shot. Both showed during the season that they can play the field at an adequate to above average rate. To me it will come down to who comes out swinging the bat better in spring training, and Sanchez has shown that he can do just that.
This is also the reason why I do not think we need to sign someone like say, Ian Desmond who has been mentioned in speculation quite a bit recently. Desmond does not really bring anything to the table that these guys can not, other than that he can produce better offensive numbers at the big league level. We also should not forget about Tim Anderson as an option depending on the way his spring goes, but I am more in the belief that we should not rush him to the big stage unless he is absolutely ready. I think he needs some time at Triple-A to improve his defense, as it is right now it is still not on par with what the big league club needs at a key position such as shortstop. I would hate to see a guy that can be something special get his confidence shredded because the team tried to force him in there too early. Anderson in my opinion could possibly one day be a special big league player, but I hope the team does not force him to try it so soon. If hypothetically around mid-season we are contenders, and Anderson is tearing apart the competition in Triple-A, then sure let’s bring him into the fold. Especially if Sanchez, and Saladino are not working out. But until then, let’s enjoy the battle that is brewing for the starting job, and be excited about the season we have coming up as it definitely could be a special one.