White Sox have had great contributions in first two months of season from unlikely sources. Can a young outfielder become All-Star in 2017?
We’re two months into the 2017 season and this very surprisingly hungry White Sox team is finally taking shape. Avisail Garcia looks like he’s in All-Star form heading into June, along with slugging first baseman Jose Abreu. The pitching staff has dealt with injury after injury, but is doing far better than anticipated, with players on the disabled list returning soon. It’s been a season of trying to find and mold a winning mindset and the results have been stunning.
The Sox are currently 24-28 and only four games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins in the American League Central division. The Sox have been powered by a confident, winning and resilient mentality and strong performances from the usual suspects as well as a few players that have been unexpectedly fantastic.
Aside from the team’s overall considerable success this season, the biggest surprises this season have been the performances of Leury Garcia, Yolmer Sanchez, even Matt Davidson, and of course the All-Star candidate Avisail Garcia. It has been these players who have been the key to the Sox success this season.
Leury Garcia and Sanchez have been on the White Sox – in and out of the minor leagues – for the better part of the last four seasons. They’ve been great utility pieces for both managers Robin Ventura and Rick Renteria when a spot on the diamond needs to filled. They can theoretically play eight of the nine defensive positions as well, while also being effective in a pinch hitter and pinch runner’s role. However, it seems like they weren’t satisfied just being played whenever the team needed them because this season has been by far their best one yet for each player. Leury Garcia has been a bright spot in the outfield, despite the initial concern surrounding the lack of depth in center field.
Although he’s naturally an infielder, he’s taken the starting center field role in stride and with efficiency. Leury Garcia is currently batting .286, with 44 hits, eight doubles, six home runs, and five stolen bases. He ranks in the team’s top five in doubles, extra base hits, batting average, slugging percentage and he also currently leads the team in stolen bases with five. After so much uncertainty with Charlie Tilson and Jacob May no longer a viable option for center field, Leury Garcia has been the best option thus far.
Sanchez has been fantastic this season while playing in a utility role. The 24-year-old has also been filling in at second base which was empty to begin Spring Training. Brett Lawrie was released and the spot was available for Tyler Saladino. After Saladino failed to impress, Sanchez was given the call to see if he could fill that second base spot. It’s safe to say he has been better than most people expected.
The native Venezuelan is a career .236 hitter but only had nine career home runs and 57 career RBIs before this season. This season, he’s hitting a healthy .291, with two home runs – half of the amount he hit all of last year – and 15 RBIs – almost a quarter of his career total. From May 6 to May 21 had a 12-game hitting streak. Six of those 12 games were multi-hit efforts which also included a home run, seven RBIs, and eight runs.
After the game against Seattle on May 20, his batting average was an astounding .333. Sanchez has played well enough to stay at second base until further notice or even stay on the roster if the front office wants to see top prospect Yoan Moncada at second base. Sanchez could very well play a role in the future of the Sox with his youth.
Another infielder who has surprised many this season has been Davidson. Returning from a season-ending right foot fracture in 2016, he’s been productive in his time in the Sox lineup. After a red-hot April, Davidson has cooled-off considerably in May but nonetheless has still provided a lot for his team. He’s currently batting .258, but he’s also tied with Abreu for the most home runs on the team with 10.
Davidson also has 70 less plate appearances than Abreu. Despite being tied for team lead in home runs, Davidson has had a hard time with strikeouts – leading the team with 54. His 25 RBIs are the fourth-most on the team, his .818 on-base plus slugging is third-most on the team, and his .515 slugging percentage is the second-most on the team. If Davidson can improve his plate vision and plate discipline, he can probably expect his name to show up on the lineup card a little more often.
Last but absolutely not least is Avisail Garcia. Garcia has been phenomenal this season and actually in the running for a starting spot on the AL All-Star team. Garcia has the highest batting average (.332) and most hits (63) among all right fielders, which include Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Mookie Betts, Jose Bautista, Carlos Gonzalez, and Bryce Harper.
Even with these former/current All-Stars and MVP candidates, Garcia ranks in the top six of hits, batting average, runs, triples, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, and total bases among all MLB right fielders.
Many thought that this could be Garcia’s last run in the MLB, let alone in a White Sox uniform. His new approach at the plate has revitalized his form and his career, as well as the Sox. Garcia’s 2017 season could be the start of a very successful career with the Sox, even more so because he’s going to turn only 26 years old on June 12.
To see how well Avisail Garica progresses this season as well as in the years to come will be exciting for the White Sox. He can be one of the premier right fielders in baseball but even more importantly, he could also be a franchise player in the middle of the rebuilding process if he continues to play like he’s playing this season.