White Sox don’t have reliable option for leadoff position in lineup. Can veteran utility infielder become permanent solution at the top of the order?
During a six game winning streak for the Chicago White Sox, the bats came alive and the arms in the rotation and bullpen continued to impress. One player who has quietly helped composed the impressive six game hot streak for the Sox was lead off man Tyler Saladino. Saladino will enters Monday’s series with the Kansas City Royals hitting .221.
He snapped his six game hitting streak on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers but went 8-25 (.320 AVG) during that time. The question still remains, should Tyler Saladino stay as the White Sox leadoff man?
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According to James Fegan of TheAthleticChi, White Sox manager Rick Renteria discussed on Sunday morning to the media about Saladino’s increased discipline at the plate and how it’s translated to being moved to the leadoff spot:
"“Yeah, I don’t know, again, when you go to that slot, I don’t know if the mindset of the hitter changes. You hope it doesn’t affect him too much but if it does in a positive way in seeing a few more pitches, things of that nature. He’s been able to control the strike zone quite a bit more over the past three weeks or so. So hopefully it’s a good trend, something that he will continue to use moving forward.” Rick Renteria"
Renteria was referring to Saladino’s increased walk rate and plate discipline to start the season. It is something that has not been talked about enough. As Saladino proved last season in his first full big league campaign, taking pitches and attempting to walk is not his IMO. You can argue that he didn’t need too last season considering he did hit .282, but he did walk just 13 times in 298 at bats. It became apparent that Saladino had changed his approach coming into the 2017 season as the newly named leadoff hitter.
In just his first series of the year, Saladino walked three times in just two games. A stat that may not be all that impressive, but it took him 25 games in 2016 until he reached the three walk plateau.
Saladino at the end of the day is still hitting just .221 in his first month of play. His .329 OBP to go along with that woeful batting average isn’t impressive for any hitter, especially Saladino. When he hit .282 last season, his OBP was just .315. This is 14 points lower than his current OBP in 2017.
It isn’t clear cut that Saladino will will break through once again and perform offensively like how he did last season, but his current hot streak, along with his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls Put in Play) being an impressive .341, shows that Saladino’s hitting will soon catch up with his newly found plate discipline. If both come together, Saladino can pose as one of the better leadoff men in the league. Although there is much upside in regards to Saladino hitting, there are just as many concerns as well.
In just under a month of play, Saladino has recorded just two RBI’s, four XBH’s, and no home runs. Saladino displayed a surprising amount of extra-base power last season. 22 extra base hits in 298 at bats (14 doubles, eight home runs).
With Saladino’s speed and his ability of being to able to use the entire field, it comes as a surprise he hasn’t been able to find the gaps more. With his recent surge at the plate, Saladino is bound to go line-to-line or gap-to-gap more as the season progresses.
For the foreseeable future, you will be seeing Saladino and his fantastic mustache at the top of the White Sox order.