Deep Dive: Yolmer Sánchez’s past, present and future with the White Sox

Precious metal: Sánchez, who’s been with the White Sox organization since 2009, just won his first Gold Glove Award. What will his role be, if any, in the White Sox organization for 2020? (@CarlosSan29)

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

How did he get here?

It’s hard to believe, but Sánchez has been in the White Sox organization since 2009, the year the Venezuela native received an international signing bonus from the team as a 17-year-old (of course, back then, he was known as “Carlos”). Sánchez received his first taste of professional ball in 2010 with the DSL White Sox, and showed off his potential by walking 41 times (as opposed to 26 strikeouts) in 52 games. The 2011 campaign saw Sanchez begin with Bristol, although he played the vast majority of the season with Kannapolis and fared well by slashing .288/.341/.345 in 63 games.

The 2012 season was pivotal for season, as he slashed an impressive .323/.378/.403 for the organization’s top three affiliates while playing his usually high standard of defense. He struggled with the bat in his first full season with Charlotte the following year, as he slashed just .241/.293/.296 in 112 games. Sánchez bounced back nicely in 2014, however, as he slashed .293/.349/.412 in 110 games with Charlotte, which earned him his first trip to the majors, where he struggled in 100 at-bats.

Sánchez began the 2015 season again with Charlotte, but after beginning the year with a .344/.368/.466 line in 29 games, earned a longer trip to the majors, where he again struggled — this time slashing just .224/.268/.326 in 120 games. The Charlotte-to-Chicago train kept running for Sánchez in 2016, as he split the season nearly equally with both teams with decent but uninspiring results.

The 2017 season was Sánchez’s best to date, as he slashed .267/.319/.413 in 141 games as a third baseman with 19 doubles, eight triples, 12 homers, 59 RBIs, eight stolen bases, 35 walks (6.6%) and 111 strikeouts (20.8%). His production slipped a bit in 2018, however, as he slashed .242/.306/.372 in 155 games with 34 doubles, a league-leading 10 triples, eight homers, 55 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 49 walks (7.4%) and 138 strikeouts (20.8%).

With the White Sox in 2019

With budding superstar Yoán Moncada switching to third base, Sánchez moved to his more natural position at second. After struggling defensively at the season’s outset, Sánchez improved his glovework enough to win a Gold Glove, which he richly deserved. After a terrible start offensively to begin the season, Sánchez finished the year by slashing .252/.318/.321 in 149 games with 20 doubles, four triples, two homers, 43 RBIs, five stolen bases, 44 walks (7.9%) and 117 strikeouts (21.1%). Sánchez fared far better as a right-handed hitter (.292/.348/.392) than a lefty (.239/.309/.298). Weirdly enough, Sánchez did much better in night games (.282/.342/.347) than during the day (.208/.283/.282). He also posted respectable numbers with RISP, as he hit .282 in those situations. What’s not mentioned in Sánchez’s stats are his charisma and childlike enthusiasm, which are both infectious — especially for a younger club.

Unfortunately, his modest numbers on offense somewhat negated Sánchez’s defense. Even with the lack of significant offensive production, however, Sánchez still supplied the team with a 2.1 bWAR. Considering that each WAR point is worth approximately $7.7 million on the free agent market per FanGraphs, Sánchez still proved an impressive $11.545 million value when considering his 2019 salary was $4.625 million. Of course, this doesn’t even include his off-the-field value to the team.

What does the future have in store?

This is where things get tricky. First-rounder Nick Madrigal seems slated to play significant time at second base this year, which would essentially relegate Sánchez to reserve status. MLB Trade Rumors estimated Sanchez’s 2020 post-arbitration salary at $6.5 million, which would make him a great bargain if he were a starter; as a reserve, there’s no way to expect that Sánchez would finish next year anywhere close to a 2.0 WAR. When you add in the fact that Danny Mendick (not to mention Leury García) could fill that infield utility role at significantly less cost, Sánchez could be looking for a new home in 2020.

Even if the White Sox non-tender Sánchez, it’s possible that both parties could negotiate a smaller deal — especially if the team believes that Mendick wouldn’t quite be ready for full-season major league duties. As a player who’s actually been in the White Sox organization longer than anyone else, it would be nice to see Sánchez contribute —even if it’s just as a reserve infielder — to a winning team for a change.

A most important offseason

Winter re-do: Hahn gets another chance to triumph, as a second consecutive “must” offseason looms. (YouTube)

The winter of 1981 saw new White Sox owners Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn pose a question to general manager Roland Hemond: “How can we change things with this team?”

Hemond’s answer was succinct: “Sign Carlton Fisk; that will send a message.”

With that, Einhorn and Hemond began negotiations with Fisk’s agent, Jerry Kapstein, and on March 19 after three weeks of talks, signed Fisk to a five-year, 2.9 million deal.

As Reinsdorf later said, that signing changed the entire perception of the White Sox franchise: “We were the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball, we got no respect.”

But the White Sox weren’t done. When Philadelphia was ready to let go of slugger Greg “the Bull” Luzinski, the Sox immediately jumped in. For mere cash, the Niles native came back home to provide more power to the lineup. Luzinski’s deal was completed on March 31.

Those two signings, along with the earlier inkings of Ron LeFlore, Bill Almon and Jim Essian and the trade acquisition of Tony Bernazard revitalized a moribund franchise. Even with the summer’s labor impasse that wiped out two months of the season, the White Sox had a winning record, their first since 1977. There was a new energy to the team, and new owners who were spending money fed a promising future, capped off with the 99-win season in 1983.

The White Sox now face another significant and crucial offseason, perhaps their most important since that winter of 1981.

This franchise which has had seven straight losing years, and 10 of the last 13, has shown some signs of the rebuild working. Players like Tim Anderson, Aaron Bummer, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada have shown signs of breaking out into the elite class. Some help is expected to come up from the minor leagues, namely Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert, around May 1.

But there are still holes to fill, and the White Sox having only $20 million committed to payroll right now have got to get the job done and fill them, which would, as Hemond said in 1981, “send a message.”

Can this front office, which botched the previous offseason dealings with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, do it? The one that’s given Sox fans such “stellar” acquisitions as Jeff Keppinger, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, John Jay, Yonder Alonso, Jeff Samardzija, Ervin Santana and Kelvin Herrera? History would say no.

But the stakes are very high now, as a fan base that already was angry over last offseason’s failures is losing patience and trust in the organization. Another winter with little to no help for the lineup, especially given the ridiculously low payroll, would send many fans over the edge, off the bandwagon and to the point where they simply no longer trust the front office ever again. And deservedly so.

General manager Rick Hahn raised expectations last year with his repeated insinuations that “the money will be spent,” to the point where he was cutting off questions along those lines at Sox Fest because he was tired of repeating himself, instead making his infamous claim that the Sox would be players and “have a seat at the table.” Hahn can’t afford to talk and then have it blow up in his face again or he risks losing any shred of remaining credibility he may still have.

Some of the expected top free agents have already signed extensions with their old teams and the odds of the Sox inking a Gerrit Cole or an Anthony Rendon are very slim. But there are still quality players out there, not “dumpster dives” that could really help as the Sox look to break through in 2020 and at least pull off a winning season.

First off the Sox need pitching badly, starting pitching to be exact although another two good bullpen arms wouldn’t hurt. On paper the Sox, if everything went right, would already seem to have an excess of pitching but in fact, every single one of the pitchers the Sox are counting on has questions, in some cases multiple ones.

Lucas Giolito went from one of the worst pitchers in the league to an All-Star and one of the best. But who is the real Giolito, the one from 2018 or the guy who lit up the league in 2019? There simply isn’t a long track record of success to inspire confidence yet.

Reynaldo López has shown flashes of brilliance and electric stuff — then in his next outing he can’t get out of the first inning. He simply hasn’t been consistent. Can the Sox count on him learning how to be consistent?

Michael Kopech is coming off Tommy John surgery and has only pitched 14 innings in the major leagues. He’s still raw, and will probably be on an innings limit. The Sox have little to no idea what he can give them moving forward.

Dylan Cease had a rocky first season in the majors. In almost every game he would give up a dreaded “crooked number” inning. Like López, Cease has great stuff and is highly regarded — but can he harness that stuff, learn to avoid big innings and the home run ball, and win? Or will he turn into Javier Vasquez 2.0, a pitcher with great stuff who was his own worst enemy?

Then you have Carlos Rodón, coming off Tommy John surgery and expected back around midseason 2020. Another pitcher with ace talent, but like Kopech Rodón probably will be on an innings limit. Rodón’s entire career has been derailed by one injury after another.

Finally you have Dane Dunning, yet another in the seemingly endless line of Sox pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery. Before he was hurt, Dunning was rapidly moving up the chain and figured to break into the big leagues. Now? Like with Kopech and Rodón, Dunning probably will be on an innings limit, and he hasn’t spent one day pitching in the big leagues to big league hitters.

Every single one of these guys has questions surrounding them, which is why the Sox simply can’t count on everything going right, every pitcher staying healthy, progressing and moving forward. The odds are simply too long for that to happen.

They need to sign two quality starting pitchers, and I’d be even happier with them signing a third one, a rehab case, let’s say, an Alex Wood who can be sent to Charlotte just in case disaster strikes again.

The very last thing Sox fans want to see in 2020 are pitchers like Dylan Covey, Ross Detwiler, Hector Santiago, Carson Fulmer, Manny Bañuelos or Ervin Santana getting starts and sucking the life out of everything.

Pitchers like Steven Strasburg, Dallas Keuchel, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark, Zach Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi and Madison Bumgarner could be available. Every one of those pitchers could help the White Sox in 2020.

The front office needs to aggressively solve the pitching issue, over and above the other problems facing the club. You can never have enough pitching, especially the way pitchers get hurt today.     

Let’s say for discussion purposes that the Sox go into next season with Giolito, López, Kopech and Cease in the rotation, and sign two more. That gives them six. The five who perform best in the spring open in the rotation. The sixth man is the “swing” man, long relief and spot starter when the doubleheaders pile up; with the Sox having 16 home games in March/April next year, you can bet at least a few of those are going to be rained/snowed out and the doubleheaders will pile up.

This rotation can be changed during the year of course in case of injury or ineffectiveness.

What happens, you say, if the Sox get lucky and every one of those pitchers does well, stays healthy and then the Sox add Rodón and Dunning to the mix at midseason? Well in the unlikely event that were to happen, it would put the Sox in an unbelievably strong position at the trade deadline.

They’d have a surplus of the most precious commodity in the game … starting pitching.

Hello … New York! What? You say deGrom just got hurt and you want Rodon? Great! We want A,B and C. Houston hello! Oh I see, McCullers is going to miss significant time. Geez, that’s too bad. You’re interested in López? Sure, we can talk. But the asking price is A and B. How bad do you want him?  

That’s how the big boys operate, folks, from positions of strength, driving hard bargains waiting for some team to panic. And it always happens; there’s always a team that overpays.

Pitching of course, isn’t the only area of need. This past season and for several years before that, the White Sox offense has been inconsistent at best. Between 42% and 48% of their games the past few seasons have resulted in scoring three runs or fewer. Couple that with shaky pitching and poor defense, and you aren’t going to win many games.

For far too long the Sox have had guys that simply strike out, don’t draw walks and have low batting averages. What that means is that it is much harder for them to string together three-four-five hits in a row to score runs.

Assuming Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert are up with the team around May 1 and that José Abreu is re-signed (and his comments that Jerry Reinsdorf has told him he will be back appear to make this a done deal. Coincidentally, Reinsdorf’s comments basically cut the legs out from under his GM in this regard), the Sox are going to need either a DH or first baseman (depending on where Abreu plays) and a right fielder. Both are power/RBI positions. 

Some players the Sox may be interested in include Nicholas Castellanos (who has always hit well in Chicago), Marcel Ozuna (and some stories at have already linked the Sox to him), Yasiel Puig, Kole Calhoun, Starling Marte and Avisaíl Garcia (would the Sox consider bringing him back?).

The available first basemen are not appealing at all, so if Abreu has to play first base again (which also is unappealing) then you have to look at potential DHs to fill an area of need that has been among the worst in baseball for the last several years. But with J.D. Martinez sticking on the Red Sox, it doesn’t leave much that’s desirable among designated hitters, either.

It’s a better group of available outfielders than at any other position of need for the White Sox. Maybe they can sign two guys and ask one, say Castellanos, to move to first base. (That was something Detroit wanted him to do, and he refused without having a new deal in place.)

Signing some guys could also put the Sox in a position to deal some of their up-and-coming minor league talent, to fill a need elsewhere. Blake Rutherford, Steele Walker, Luis Basabe, Gavin Sheets and Micker Adolfo could be traded, assuming they stay healthy and produce at the start of 2020.

The Sox clearly have a need for some positional players along with a pitching need. That’s a lot to ask of a front office, especially this one, but with the committed payroll as low as it is there’s no excuse not to be able to fill every one of them. If Reinsdorf steps in though and limits the budget — if Hahn has to make a choice — pitching has got to be the priority.

One final thought on this offseason. It has been a rough year, more like a rough decade-plus since the start of the 2007 season. For Hahn, Don Cooper, Steve Stone and Chuck Garfien to verbally dump on fans, as they did at various points last season is totally and completely inexcusable — and yet again shows their lack of understanding of the Sox fan base. This organization has always had a streak of arrogance, a belief that “We’re smarter than you. We know what we’re doing, how dare you question us?”

Well, if the organization since 1981 had produced more than five postseason appearances, maybe they’d have the right to think like that.

What they should be thinking is that after the bad baseball basically since the start of the 2007 season, they should be grateful any Sox fan is still interested and engaged enough to get angry instead of being totally apathetic.

Steve Stone, who I consider to be the best analyst out there, really raised eyebrows on Twitter with some of his comments this past year, literally poking the bear and almost trying to incite the Sox fan base for whatever reason.

His comment of a “house taking five years to build” was particularly strange, given that unless you are building a home by yourself even a multi-multi-multi-million dollar home doesn’t take that long to construct. And if you have that kind of money to build that expensive a house, you have the money to hire as many construction people as needed to finish the job in a reasonable amount of time.   

Sox fans were quick to rebut that belief on Twitter by pointing out that the Astros didn’t need five years to rebuild — and neither did the Athletics, Braves, Brewers, Cubs or Twins.

Some fans were concerned that Stone’s comments were reflective of the thinking of Reinsdorf, in much the way Hawk Harrelson used to channel the Chairman. Stone also said on the TV broadcast he didn’t think pitchers today were worth a long-term, extremely rich deal.

If that opinion came from JR and if the Sox again fail to have a successful offseason, with players who actually produce instead of falling off the face of the Earth as soon as they put on that uniform, then the fanbase has every right to leave in droves and simply not care. 

National baseball writer Ken Rosenthal said it best in a column in The Sporting News in 2004: “Chicago shouldn’t just belong to the Cubs.”

The ball is in the front office’s court … we’ll be waiting to see what happens.

Deep Dive: Charlotte and Birmingham second basemen

Star in the making: Nick Madrigal, the White Sox first-round pick in 2018, hit .311 for three teams last year. Did we mention he stole 35 bases, walked 44 times as opposed to 16 strikeouts, and won a minor league Gold Glove? (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

It’s time to take a look at the second basemen who finished the year with Charlotte and Birmingham; even though Danny Mendick finished the year with the White Sox, he still has rookie eligibility and is thus detailed in this post. These two players are by far the best second basemen in the White Sox system.

(age as of April 1, 2020)

Charlotte Knights

Nick Madrigal
165 pounds
B/T: R/R
Age: 23

Madrigal enjoyed a terrific run with Oregon State University, which culminated in a NCAA World Series championship. For his sophomore season, he slashed .380/.449/.532 in 60 games with 20 doubles, two triples, four homers, 40 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, 27 walks (9.6%) and 16 strikeouts (5.7%). Despite missing much time to a broken wrist early during his junior year, Madrigal still managed to slash .367/.428/.511 in 42 games last year with nine doubles, four triples, three homers, 34 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 16 walks (8.0%) and just seven strikeouts (3.5%). Due to his unique combination of speed, defense and hitting ability, the diminutive Madrigal was selected by the White Sox with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Madrigal played for three affiliates last year (AZL, Kannapolis and Winston-Salem) and fared reasonably well for his first professional season. In 43 combined games in 2018 totaling 155 at-bats, he slashed .303/.353/.348 with seven doubles, 16 RBIs, eight stolen bases, seven walks (4.0%) and five strikeouts (2.9%).

Like last year, Madrigal played for three squads in 2019 (Winston-Salem, Birmingham and Charlotte). Ironically, the least success he enjoyed was with the Dash, where he still posted a respectable .272/.346/.377 line in 49 games with 10 doubles, two triples, two homers, 27 RBIs, 17 stolen bases, 17 walks (7.8%) and six strikeouts (2.8%). After being promoted to Birmingham on June 6, he slashed an impressive .341/.400/.451 in 42 games, including 11 doubles, two triples, one homer, 16 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 14 walks (7.8%) and just five strikeouts (2.8%). Finally, for an encore, Madrigal was promoted to Charlotte where he slashed .331/.398/.424 in 29 games with six doubles, one triple, one homer, 12 RBIs, four stolen bases, 13 walks (9.7%) and five strikeouts (3.7%). For the year, Madrigal combined to slash .311/.377/.414 in 120 games with 27 doubles, five triples, four homers, 55 RBIs, 35 stolen bases, 44 walks (8.3%) and 16 strikeouts (3.0%).

Madrigal ranks as the system’s best second base prospect, fourth-best prospect overall and 40th in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. His hit tool is graded 65 which actually seems conservative, while his field and run skills are also graded highly at 60. This year, Madrigal won the minor league Gold Glove award for second base — which likely had something to do with his terrific range and his committing only four errors in 488 changes (just one error in 77 games with Birmingham and Charlotte). Madrigal’s arm is graded 50 by MLB Pipeline which is satisfactory for second base, while his power grades out weakest, at 40. FanGraphs published an excellent piece regarding the difficulties of evaluating Madrigal’s abilities.

In part because he played just 29 games in Charlotte this year, Madrigal may well begin 2020 there. However, one should expect an early promotion to Chicago for this future South Side dynamo.

Danny Mendick
189 pounds
B/T: R/R
Other positions played: Shortstop, Third base, Left field
Age: 26

After playing his first two years of college ball with Monroe CC (Rochester, NY), Mendick transferred to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell for his final two years. For his senior year, he slashed .321/.408/.455 in 43 games with 16 doubles, one triple, one homer, 30 RBIs, 14 stolen bases, 19 walks (10.3%) and 16 strikeouts (8.6%). As a result, the White Sox took a flier on this River Hawk and selected him in the 22nd round of the 2015 draft. Mendick played that season with the AZL squad and slashed a respectable .256/.340/.394 in 49 games.

Mendick enjoyed a solid season with Kannapolis in 2016 by slashing .274/.343/.355 in 98 games with 22 doubles and two homers, but struggled with Winston-Salem in his 15 games there by slashing just .125/.208/.167. However, upon his return to the Dash in 2017, Mendick slashed a more robust .289/.373/.468 with 18 doubles, seven homers, 30 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, 31 walks (10.2%) and 40 strikeouts (13.1%) in 84 games. Unfortunately, he struggled with a midseason promotion to Birmingham, where he slashed just .197/.280/.293 in 41 games.

The 2018 season was spent exclusively with Birmingham, as Mendick slashed .247/.340/.395 with a career high 14 homers, 59 RBIs, 20 walks, 57 walks (10.8%) and 90 strikeouts (17.0%). He was available for the 2018 Rule 5 draft, but went unselected.

Then, in 2019 in the more hitting-friendly confines of Charlotte, Mendick re-established new career bests in most categories by slashing .279/.368/.444 in 133 games by producing 26 homers, one triple, 17 homers 64 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 66 walks (11.8%) and 96 strikeouts (17.2%). The White Sox called him up on September 3, which obviously meant they didn’t want to risk losing him in this year’s Rule 5 draft. In 16 games totaling 39 at-bats for the Sox, Mendick acted like he belonged by slashing .308/.325/.462 with two homers, four RBIs, one walk (2.5%) and 11 strikeouts (27.5%). Most players who get selected in the later rounds struggle at some point as they advance through the system, but Mendick actually has seemed to improve with each passing year.

Ranked as the organization’s No. 2 second baseman according to MLB Pipeline, Mendick is now regarded as the team’s 26th overall prospect. None of his skills stand out highly per MLB, as his arm and fielding skills are graded the highest at 50. With that said, Mendick does a lot of the little things well: (1) despite playing multiple positions frequently, he only committed four errors for the entire season (two were in Charlotte’s season-ending game); (2) he picks his spots to run, and has attained double-digit steals for each of the past three seasons; and (3) limits his strikeouts while coaxing a fair share of walks (not including the limited sample size with the White Sox).

Mendick has an excellent chance of beginning the season in the majors, as it’s quite possible that long-time defensive stalwart Yolmer Sánchez may not return to the White Sox for the 2020 campaign. Mendick’s future seems to be that of a solid infield (and perhaps even outfield) reserve.

Birmingham Barons

Since Nick Madrigal played much of the year but finished in Charlotte, and other players who played second base this year for Birmingham actually played at other positions more frequently, not one player who finished the year at Birmingham spent the year primarily at second base.