White Sox depth at second base suffered after team released Brett Lawrie on Friday. What options do White Sox have at second base to fill void?
Last week, the Chicago White Sox front office made a shocking roster move when they released second baseman Brett Lawrie. It was a shocking move because the Sox traded two prospects for the 27-year-old infielder and he still had another year left on his contract.
Lawrie was one of the marque acquisitions from two years ago and it seemed like annual problems at second base were finally solved. Gordon Beckham was underachieving and on a steady decline since his rookie season. Also, the conveyor belt of makeshift second basemen were not much of an improvement either. Lawrie was a solid bat, a solid fielder and a great clubhouse guy but the concerns that preceded his arrival in Chicago have now become reality.
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He had only played more than 125 games in one season and that’s mainly in part because of a variety of different injuries. In his only season with the White Sox, he played 94 games and hit .248 with 12 home runs and 36 RBI. Unfortunately for Lawrie, he has a chance to be a great player statistically if he can stay healthy, but that’s a big if.
This spring, Lawrie was already suffering from leg and lower back injuries that kept him out of the lineup. The Sox released him with only 94 games played for the team, the last game he played was on July 21.
Moving forward, the competition for the hotly contested spot in the middle infield has now become much more intense. With the player who played the majority of his games at second base now released, three players are left in the mix for the vacant spot, one big-time prospect and the other two who have been competing for this very spot for years.
Yoan Moncada, who the White Sox said is going to play second base for the time being, has found himself a better position with Lawrie out of the picture. While many have said that Moncada is likely to start the season in Triple A Charlotte, Moncada has a chance to impress the coaching staff and really make a push for not only a spot on the Major League roster, but the starting second base spot.
Moncada has flashed the leather on a few dazzling plays at second base and he’s starting to find his comfort zone in the batter’s box. After going hitless in his first seven Spring at-bats and first five Spring games, he recorded three hits in 6 at-bats in two consecutive games, including two RBI but three two strikeouts. If Moncada can continue to improve in these upcoming weeks, knocking a few more hits and making an impact on the field, it might be hard for the coaching staff to leave him off of the Major League roster.
The other two in contention are players who are both entering a pivotal year in their careers. Yolmer Sanchez, formally known as Carlos Sanchez, is entering his fourth year in the Majors and his results have been extremely varied. He has been on steep decline every year since he entered the Majors with the Sox in 2014. Another lackluster season from Sanchez could be detrimental to his career. Tyler Saladino is going into his third year and has shown improvement from his rookie season to his second season. Another year of progress for Saladino could propel him into a bigger role on the team.
In 2014, Sanchez only played 28 games and had 100 plate appearances. In those 100 AB’s, Sanchez hit .250 with 25 hits, had 25 strikeouts, scored 5 runs and drove in 5 runs. In 2015, he played 120 games and only hit .224. In 2015, he played 53 games and hit a dreadful .208. Despite limited batting success, Sanchez is an exceptional fielder and is a decent option to fill in any missing gaps all around the field.
As of right now, I’d say the best option at second base would either be waiting for Moncada or going with Saladino.
Saladino has gone quietly under the radar these past two seasons, but he’s been very solid filling in for players who were injured or who needed rest. He played 68 games in 2015 as he and Conor Gillaspie helped cover third base for most of the season. Though he only hit .225 with four home runs and 20 RBI, he proved to be an excellent asset on the field defensively.
In 2016, he had many more opportunities to play regularly with injuries and poor team performance. Technically, he played every position except for catcher last season but he logged 83 of his 93 games at second base and shortstop. From 2015 to 2016, he raised his season batting average from .225 to .282, he raised his OBP and SLG, nearly doubled both his home runs and runs batted in and logged more hits, extra base-hits, stolen bases and only had 11 more strikeouts in 60 more at-bats.
Because Tim Anderson has the shortstop position completely locked down, the focus of the coaching staff with Saladino will be on second base and he’s proven to be impressive defensively and the better bat between him and Sanchez. Even if the position does go to one or the other, they could easily be keeping the spot warm for Moncada when he’s ready to make the jump up to the big leagues.
It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Saladino and Sanchez sharing the load at second base to start the season. Both players have acted as the utility man on the team but what will happen remains to be seen with a new manager and new direction for the team.