The Chicago White Sox have been what you would call, bad, but hey, they finally have good problem. So, let’s try to find a way to make it work because for the first time in a while, the White Sox have some little thing called depth.
Who knows how some of these guys look in the next 7-10 days, which may be the time frame of Eloy Jimenez’s return after having an appendectomy in early May. Regardless, right now Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets have been taking advantage of their playing time and when Jimenez does return it could become difficult to find consistent playing time for Burger and Sheets.
We all know how insane Burger has been this year and he hasn’t missed a step despite going on the injured list with a minor oblique strain. Heading into Thursday’s series finale against the Cleveland Guardians, Burger had a slash line of .278/.348/.747, with 10 home runs in 89 plate appearances.
Meanwhile, Sheets has been decent, posting a .250/.318/.448 slash line. However, Sheets and Burger are hitting right-handed pitching, which has been a flaw for the White Sox even when they were playing winning baseball in 2021. Here are their numbers against right-handed pitching so far in 2023.
Jake Burger vs. RHP
.271/.323/.695, 7 Home Runs, 13 RBI, (59 At-Bats)
Gavin Sheets vs. RHP
.261/.330/.467, 6 Home Runs, 16 RBI (92 At-Bats)
Before Eloy went down a couple weeks ago, he was finally starting to get hot, slashing .424/.472/.636, with two home runs in eight games.. During that stretch Jiménez was 14-for-33 in 36 plate appearances.
So, for me, the quick solution to keep all three guys in the lineup against righties would be to put Eloy in right field. I know Sheets put in work with coaches to get better in the outfield, but give me the actual outfielder in the outfield. The main issue with Jimenez’s defense is that he made dumb plays that led to injury rather than being a bad defender. All right, then you move Sheets to DH, which leaves Burger at second base?
Wait what??? Actually, no, and here’s the problem. You absolutely love the story because Jake Burger has gone through so much early on in his pro career with major Achilles injuries and yes that’s plural. He’s battled back and has established himself as a legit MLB power hitter, but he also doesn’t have a position.
We’ve seen Burger at third base and I know Yoan Moncada has become a polarizing player among White Sox fans, but there is no arguing that he plays outstanding defense at third. Oh and Moncada is hitting again, so you’re not taking him out of the lineup.
I bring up second base because my guy Zo, who has been the most anti-move Burger to second base, all of a sudden pivoted to that being the solution on this week’s Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast. (26:40)
So, the real debate becomes, does Burger’s bat out-weigh his sub-par defense at third and if you believe the answer is yes, then the White Sox have to consider moving Moncada back to second base, right? Because again, I think Burger at best is passable at third, but there is no chance in hell you throw him out there at second with his limited agility and range. And he’s been your best power hitter. You need Burger’s bat in the lineup.
Hey, at the very least, and this does hinge on everyone actually staying healthy for longer than a few weeks, is that the White Sox do appear to have actual options on the bench to turn to throughout the season that aren’t going to kill you in the lineup.
Unfortunately, this depth and well, health, would have been more of a help in April, because despite a better month of May so far, the White Sox remain 13 games below .500, after losing 3-1 on Thursday. They were 13 games below .500 after April ended.
So, maybe later in the summer, this conversation probably will shift toward, who should get traded.
But then you think about the people in charge of making roster decisions and that’s a much bigger problem that needs to be fixed.
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much bigger problem that needs to be fixed.