Like a Phoenix rising out of the desert, the Chicago White Sox have survived the Great Free Agent Failure of 2019. Guess what? There is a season to be played and a lot to be excited about after all.
Amidst the fan base outrage, optimism collapse and withering of all hope – and we all know why – some encouraging signs have begun to emerge from the White Sox first week of Spring Training games.
What? All is not lost? Sports fan psychologist and uber pragmatist Dr. Phun Goh says no, there is, in fact, a tremendous amount to be excited about. Dr. Goh is a human specimen displaying many individual personal qualities, but perhaps none more so than flaming optimism. He’s practically the Richard Simmons of Camelback Ranch.
It would feel better if the team’s record after five games wasn’t 1-4-1, but this is the first week of Spring games and it’s not like the projected starting lineup is playing every day. No, these games are about extended rosters and non-roster invitees demonstrating performance and development to allow management assessments of the options they have.
Here are five noticeable surprises that Dr. Goh and I have watched. Sox fans, feel free to comment and share with each other what you think on each or add your own comments and observations. It’s time to start getting excited again!
1.Yoan Moncada looks just fine. Moncada worked hard in the off-season, and despite too many strikeouts, he had a decent 2018 campaign. If he cuts down on the strikeouts and increases his consistency at the plate and in the field, 2018 might look like nothing more than a young player’s learning curve.
The move to third base might also help provide a more known framework and a higher level of focus that allows his fielding to stabilize and bat to flourish.
The position change also provides a now clear shot for Nick Madrigal to step in and be the projected White Sox second baseman of the future. There may come a day in the not too distant future when fans say “Manny who?” and not out of bitterness.
2.Blake Rutherford is growing. Rutherford had a bounce-back campaign in 2018 and demonstrated the plate command and consistency he displayed in his early time in the New York Yankees farm system. He appears bigger now and his frame filled out, especially in the upper arms and shoulders. In the first week of Spring Training games, he’s batting .364 and appears ready to demonstrate continued upward progress in 2019.
3.Carson Fulmer and Daniel Palka are shrinking. Each player lost 15 pounds in the off-season for different reasons. Fulmer aims to reclaim the command and velocity of his college days, while Palka worked hard to develop his fielding skills and make a case for playing right field full-time. Each player’s motivation is palpable, and it will be interesting to see how their respective performances and approaches turn out this season.
4.Kelvin Herrera and Ervin Santana – how healthy can and will they be? Each pitcher represents major potential if healthy. Herrera is coming off surgery for a torn lisfranc ligament in his left foot, while Santana had a mostly lost 2018 season due to a chronic finger issue on his throwing hand. If these guys are healthy either by the start of the season or soon after Spring Training concludes, they represent two major contributors to the pitching staff. These are big questions that involve not only “if” they could contribute but “when”.
5.Charlie Tilson is for real. Forget all the nagging injuries – I’m sure Tilson would like to – this guy looks solid this Spring and may finally be realizing the potential the White Sox saw in him when traded Zach Duke to St. Louis. Stronger and more confident, could Tilson be a dark horse to make the club as an outfielder, pinch hitter and pinch runner? He can hit, field and run. If he continues to contribute he could present the Sox with additional options.