The Chicago White Sox currently ranks last in the MLB in home runs with just 26. Losing Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert doesn’t help the cause. Yasmani Grandal’s slump certainly does not help things either. His backup decided he would try and help. Zack Collins provided the White Sox with some timely power on Friday night.
Zack Collins is a really big part of the 2021 Chicago White Sox team.
In a scoreless game, Zack Collins stepped to the plate in the fifth inning. Royals starter, Brad Keller, had yet to allow a hit in the game. With two strikes Collins ripped a solo home over the center field fence to break the tie and give the White Sox the only run they would need in a 3-0 victory. It marked Collins’s second home run of the season. While the home run was the highlight of the night, it has been his work behind the plate that deserves some positive attention.
Collins was selected 10th overall in the 2016 draft with the hopes that he would be the catcher of the future. However, he faced constant obstacles on his way to the big leagues. He was forced to constantly work on his defense after receiving criticism throughout his minor league career. While other White Sox prospects were being called up to get major league playing time, Collins was always blocked by a veteran catcher.
First, it was Wellington Castillo. Then it came in the form of Yasmani Grandal and James McCann. When he was finally called up he received very little playing time and wasn’t allowed to truly get his feet wet in the Majors. His timeline never matched the White Sox window on contention. When he received consistent playing time in Triple-A Charlotte, he showed what he can do hitting .282 with 19 home runs, 74 RBIs, and a .403 OBP.
Collins entered Spring Training having to battle for a roster spot once again when the White Sox brought in another veteran catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. Instead of sulking, Collins developed a new approach at the plate. He came into the box more aggressive and looking to swing more.
Walks have been one of his strong suits and he still wants to draw them but by attacking pitches in the strike zone, especially early in the count he hoped to drive the ball more. It worked. At one point Collins led the team in batting average and OPS during Cactus League play.
He also worked hard on his defense. He befriended Yasmani Grandal and made sure to pick his brain. The pair worked together during the offseason on how to handle a pitching staff. Collins also worked with new catching coach Jerry Narron and developed a new stance. He began to catch from a knee in an effort to improve his pitch framing. He also made great strides in his blocking ability. Collins was rewarded with a roster spot and has made the most of it in 2021.
Collins has silenced the critics on defense. On April 11th he picked off three Royals caught stealing. He was behind the plate for Carlos Rodón’s first career no-hitter. It was just his 15th career start behind the plate and served as a milestone for the 26-year-old.
“There’s a ton of people who have said I would never catch in a big-league game. I would just be a first baseman/ designated hitter” Collins said. “Just the work that I put in the last couple of years and the last six years. And then learning from guys like, I can’t give enough credit to McCann, has and these guys who have helped me through this. I feel extremely good behind the plate right now and obviously tonight pretty good.” The battery was on the same page all night with Rodón throwing whatever he put down.