Thank you, Yolmer Sánchez!

A decade of fun and laughter: The White Sox gave him a chance, and Yolmer Sánchez has capitalized on it for the past 10 years. (Ashley Sanders)


As my favorite Chicago White Sox player, the recent moves surrounding Yolmer Sánchez have been difficult to comprehend. Instead of dwelling on something that I cannot control, I decided to go back and research (with the tremendous help from Baseball-Reference) Sánchez’s progress throughout the Sox organization and celebrate the life that he has given to his team and fans.

Sánchez became a member of the Chicago White Sox organization on May 6, 2009. At the time, Sánchez was known as “Carlos”: A 16-year-old, switch-hitting infielder looking for a chance to make it to The Show. (For respect toward his name, Sánchez will be referred to as “Yolmer” throughout the article.)

The timeline of Sánchez’s impact as a member of the White Sox:

2009-11

For his first two years in the organization, Yolmer played for the Dominican Summer League and the Appalachian League. By 2011, Sánchez made his way out of rookie ball, playing second base and shortstop for the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators.

For the four months (June-September) that Sánchez was in Kannapolis, he batted .288/.341/.345. He accumulated 76 hits in 63 games, snagged seven bags, and even shot a long ball into the stands! As for his defense, Sánchez had a .980 fielding percentage at second base (53 games) and a .949 fielding percentage at shortstop (10 games).

2012

Sánchez’s early success propelled him to start with the High-A Winston-Salem Dash for the beginning of the 2012 season. From April to July, Yolmer slashed .315/.374/.395 in 92 games. With 19 stolen bases, six triples, and another home run, Sánchez was promoted to the Birmingham Barons (Double-A). In 30 games, Sánchez’s batting line looked like this: .370/.424/.462. On the up-and-up again, Yolmer traveled to his third minor league team in just one baseball year, the Triple-A Charlotte Knights.

At 20, Sánchez was one of the youngest players in Triple-A. The actual youngest at the time? Mike Trout, 19.

In a limited, 11-game window, Sánchez batted .256/.256/.308. Collectively, Sánchez was positioned at shortstop for 68 games and second base for 60, where he was credited with .967 and .982 fielding percentages, respectively. He aided 46 double plays at short and 39 at second. Overall, 2012 saw Yolmer surging through the ranks, as he was firing on all cylinders.

Sánchez did participate in the Sox’s Arizona Fall League, and played winter Venezuelan baseball to cap off his successful 2012 campaign.

2013

Yolmer started and ended his 2013 season with the Charlotte Knights, continuing where he left off the year prior. In 112 games, Yolmer slashed .241/.293/.296. He still saw roughly even playing time at short and second. Playing 52 games at shortstop, Sánchez had a .943 fielding percentage; for the 61 games at second base, Sánchez fielded .983. He was a part of 67 total double plays, and he only committed four errors while playing second.

For the third straight year, Sánchez went on to play winter ball in Venezuela.

2014

For the second straight year, Sánchez started the season with Charlotte. He played 110 games, all the while fighting to not fall back into organizational filler status. After a disappointing offensive 2013, Sánchez performed to the high standards of a .293/.349/.412 batting line. Yolmer played twice at third, 44 games at short and 64 games at second with outstanding fielding percentages across the board.

Establishing himself as a reliable defender and an uprising hitter, Sánchez received the call in July and made his way to The Show!

On July 13, 2014, Sánchez donned No. 77 in his major league debut for the Chicago White Sox, a team who had all the faith in a Venezuelan teenager. Batting second and playing shortstop, Sánchez began a five-year stint in the majors. Unfortunately, he went went 0-for-5, popping out to second base in his first plate appearances and striking out twice. However, Yolmer was perfect in the field, foreshadowing his incredible skill that would eventually earn him a Gold Glove in 2019.

In his second major league baseball game on August 2, Sánchez secured his first major league hit, a single to right field off of Detroit’s Shane Greene, in a 3-for-4 performance!

Sanchez Rookie Season.JPG

On September 27, 2014, I snapped a shot of my favorite player for years to come. Note the lack of accent mark on the jersey in those less-enlightened days. (Ashley Sanders)

Sánchez finished the rest of the 2014 season with the White Sox. He played 28 games: one at short and 27 at second base. He recorded an almost-perfect fielding percentage of .992 at second. Offensively, Yolmer batted .250/.269/.300.

Once again, Sánchez went to Venezuela to play winter ball for the Tiburones de La Guaira to finish his 2014 baseball campaign.

2015

When the 2015 season came rolling into view, Sánchez started his year with the Sox (debuting his new No. 5 jersey). However, it was a short-lived stint from April 8 to April 10, heading back to Charlotte from April 12 to May 13. Not losing any hope for a long-term major-league stay, Sánchez put together a .344/.368/.466 batting line back on the farm. With 26 games at second base, Sánchez put together a .980 fielding percentage, and he played perfect defense at third base for three games.

Tearing up the minors as he did, the White Sox brought Sánchez back up to the big leagues. And shortly into his second stint of the season with the Sox, Sánchez made a major impact.

Sanchez 2015.JPG

On July 11, 2015, Yolmer Sánchez signed a baseball for me down in St. Pete, my very first player autograph. (Ashley Sanders) 

Later that month, my man, Yolmer Homer, ripped a long ball to the stands!

The following day, this happened:

Hyping my No. 1:

Selfie Sunday Sanchez

Arguably the best-ever promotion by the White Sox (#SelfieSunday) gave me another chance to meet Sánchez, on Aug. 30, 2015. (Ashley Sanders)

Sanchez Photo Bomb

Sánchez photobombed a picture featuring my Mom, Avisaíl García, and me. (Ashley Sanders)

First Selfie with Sanchez

Sánchez and I snapped a selfie, a tradition for many years to come. (Ashley Sanders)

Sánchez finished the 2015 season playing 120 games with the South Siders. He batted .224/.268/.326, crushing five home runs, notching a triple, and going 2-for-2 in steals. Defensively, Sánchez played all his games at second base, securing a .990 fielding percentage. Overall, he made a lifelong fan.

Winter 2015 was the last time Sánchez ventured back to his home country to play winter ball.

2016

In order to improve his bat, Sánchez started his 2016 campaign with the Knights. He played 61 games, racking up a .255/.309/.421 batting line, with a .984 fielding percentage between short and second base. Staying true to pattern, Sánchez found his way back to the majors … twice!

And after the July 27 call-up, Sánchez was up with Chicago to stay.

He played 53 games with the Sox that season. He put up a disappointing slash line of .208/.236/.357 with four home runs, but Sánchez did not lose hope.

2017

Before the 2017 season, Sánchez was asked, for the first time in his professional career, how he would like to be addressed. He responded with, “Yolmer,” and a resurgence of Sánchez occurred!

#LeadoffYolmerHomer

Sánchez played 141 games in 2017 with a much-improved batting line: .267/.319/.413. He hit a career-high 12 homers on the season (#YolmerHomer) and had a career-high 59 RBIs. Splitting time between second base (78 games) and third base (52 games) (with two outfield appearances and one at shortstop), Yolmer had .981 and .977 fielding percentages, respectively. This was his best season as a South Sider. Overall he established himself as a reliable, dependable player in his first full season with the White Sox.

2018

This influence carried over into the 2018 season where Sánchez earned his first ever spot in the Opening Day lineup! He started at third base, his primary position of the season. Having a solidified spot in the lineup, Yolmer went on to have another impactful year.

Yolmer April 2018

The first Yolmer selfie of the 2018 season (April 23)! (Ashley Sanders)

And Yolmer kicked off the season with the most iconic Gatorade celebration of the century:

Yolmer Father's Day 2018.JPG

Father’s Day selfie. (Ashley Sanders)

Back at St. Pete where it all began:

The goofy shenanigans strike again:

When I thought that I couldn’t love Yolmer any more than I already do:

Silly Yolmer

Sept. 1, 2018 was one of the best days of my life. (Ashley Sanders)

When 2018 came to a close, Sánchez put up a .242/.306/.372 batting line with eight long balls and 55 RBIs. He recorded a hat trick for career-highs in games played, plate appearances, and triples: 155, 662, and 10, respectively. In fact, Sánchez and Mallex Smith led the American League with 10 triples apiece.

Christmas Sanchez

Best Christmas present ever. (Ashley Sanders)

2019

For a second straight season, Yolmer Sánchez earned a spot in the Opening Day lineup. Uncharacteristically, Sánchez made four errors within the first 10 games, but had only five the rest of the season.

Sanchez Selfie 2019

Another season, another Sánchez selfie (June 15, 2019)! (Ashley Sanders)

Another year, another trip to St. Pete:

Game recognizing game:

Game Recognizes Game

Icons

Sanchez Autograph

Sánchez wrapped up the 2019 season hitting .252/.318/.321 and came in clutch a few times this season:

His fielding percentage was .987, and he aided in a career-high 108 double plays, and he made many beautiful plays like this:

With his tremendous showing as a second baseman, Sánchez earned the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for 2019, beating out finalists DJ LeMahieu and José Altuve.

From his 10 years playing baseball as a member of the White Sox organization, Yolmer Sánchez brought an infectious personality, a reliable glove, and a guy who meets with the fans before every single baseball game. He has accumulated a 8.6 WAR in his major league career. He’s batting .244/.299/.357, and he has hit 31 #YolmerHomers. His career fielding percentage sits at .986 for second base, and he helped turn 330 double plays. At 27 years old, there is still room for growth. His personality and glove-dependability almost ensured himself as a piece to this team’s future … until the bad news dropped:

It’s a bitter business, and it’s a shame that Sánchez has become a free agent. Forever the optimist, I hope by some miracle that Yolmer is signed back into the South Side. Regardless, he is a player who deserves to be on a team by the time spring training rolls around. I’ll be rooting for him no matter where he goes.

I would like to thank Yolmer for bringing life to the organization, hustling during every play, and for being a fan’s favorite player. He gave me someone to root for, and for all his kind acts, this is the least I can do to illustrate my gratitude.

Here’s to Yolmer Sánchez!

 

What, if anything, should the White Sox offer Tsutsugo?

Potential target: Yoshitomo Tsutsugo could supply the White Sox with a reliable, left-handed bat. (Kyodo)


The White Sox have had an unusual amount of difficulty finding a viable player whose primary focus is hitting. The lineup appears to be on solid ground, but right field and designated hitter are exceptions. Another gap on the roster is the lack of solid bats from the left side of the plate.

Luckily, the White Sox understand the need to address these issues this offseason. Also, the White Sox have an opportunity to sign a player who can patch up both of those gaps without offering prospects or a nine-figure contract.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who turned 28 last month, has been a force to be reckoned with in Japan’s Central League for several years. Tsutsugo broke into Japan’s highest level of play in 2010 at age 18, and though his career got off to a slow start, Tsutsugo has posted some supersized numbers at the plate near the tail end of the decade.

Season AVG OBP SLG wRC+
2019 .272 .388 .511 138
2018 .295 .393 .596 155
2017 .284 .396 .513 148
2016 .322 .430 .680 199
2015 .317 .400 .522 166

Source: Deltagraphs

Tsutsugo had a relatively quiet season on offense last season, with his lowest OBP since 2014. The good news is that even in a down year, Tsutsugo still posted a .388 OBP. Tsutsugo’s slash line last season was .272/.388/.511 (138 wRC+) with 29 home runs, which was still terrific by NPB standards. So far, the high point of Tsutsugo’s career was his 2016 campaign, when he slashed .322/.430/.680 (199 wRC+) with 7.5 WAR, easily a career high, per Deltagraphs. Though the NPB is not comparable to major league baseball, Tsutsugo has shown his potential to get on base and hit for power like very few others in Japan.

Defense is Tsutsugo’s largest issue, and that cannot be ignored. Near the beginning of his career, Tsutsugo’s ability at the corner outfield positions was decent, but that part of his game has declined. In 2019, his defensive value was an insane 25.0 runs below average.

Season Offensive RAA Defensive RAA WAR
2019 25.2 -25.0 1.5
2018 41.1 -20.6 3.6
2017 30.5 -11.3 3.6
2016 61.6 -4.7 7.5
2015 40.7 -19.0 3.9

Source: Deltagraphs

Based on FanGraphs positional adjustments, a full-time designated hitter over a 162-game season would earn a defensive value of 17.5 runs below average. NPB seasons are shorter (143 games), so if we apply the same rule there, the automatic penalty for DHs would be about 15.4 runs per full season (Tsutsugo has played between 131 and 139 games in each of the past five seasons). In other words, in both 2018 and 2019, Tsutsugo would have been more valuable as a designated hitter (the Central League, where Tsutsugo played, does not use a DH).

Though Tsutsugo can play right field in a pinch, he is not someone the White Sox should feel comfortable putting there on an everyday basis. However, Tsutsugo does not have to be an everyday right fielder to be useful for the White Sox. The White Sox’s hole at the DH slot is massive. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox got the least amount of production from designated hitters out of every team. With a .197/.275/.342 slash line (64 wRC+) and -3.5 fWAR, White Sox designated hitters were dreadful in every way, and the club desperately needs a player who can provide a reliable, left-handed bat without any other major responsibilities. Tsutsugo should fill that role admirably.

Tsutsugo will be 28 next season and should have quite a bit of good baseball remaining. Given Tsutsugo’s age, his slight decline in production at the plate last season should not be a cause for concern going forward. Finishing the rebuild will require some risk, and I would be happy to take a risk on Tsutsugo. The approximate value of 1.0 WAR on the free agent market is $8 million, and most are expecting Tsutsugo’s future contract to have an AAV of about $10 million. During the SB Nation offseason simulation, we managed to win the bidding for Tsutsugo by giving him a 5-year, $55 million contract.

Based on Tsutsugo’s market price, a contract of that size is likely to be more than enough to land him in real life, too. Five years and $50 million should also get the job done. That length and AAV would both figure to be mighty close to the top in terms of what clubs will offer. We should feel confident that Tsutsugo would post more than the 1.25 WAR per season, making the signing worth the price.

While Tsutsugo is far from the only option, having him on the South Side would bring the White Sox closer to completing the rebuild. Make it happen, front office.

So you didn’t sign Zack Wheeler …

Close: But, nope. (@OTHeroics1)


There’s plenty of analytical reasons that laid out the case for the White Sox to have no qualms offering top dollar to Zack Wheeler. Now that Zack (and to-be Mrs. Wheeler) has decided Philadelphia was he and his family’s preferred destination to be multi-millionaires, I need to speak to the contingent on Sox Twitter that is unhappy about another failed FA pursuit.

Zack Wheeler: HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.

If the reports leaking out are true and the White Sox really did offer more money than the Phillies, then tell me: How far were you willing to go? Because, and be honest, you were going to be royally pissed if it took $150 million (call it the Mrs. Wheeler Tax) to get Zack to sign here. But again, not diving into hypotheticals, how can we blame the organization for actually doing what they should have done with Manny Machado — this time, offer the most money?!

The only person to “blame” is Zack Wheeler and whatever forces of chance/fate led to his fiancé’s family settling in the Garden State which evidently meant more to the Wheelers than any of us had an inkling of. But $118 million, a lower state income tax, and a literal Uber ride’s distance from home seems to be enough for Zack. And, once more for those in the back, THAT’S OK.

Jesus Montero Christ, there are multiple pitchers still available (Hi Madison! Hi Hyun-Jin! Hi Dallas!), a Goose Island-sized hole in right field to fill, and a whole metric ton of time to figure it out.

If Grandal is the only signing (other than Bennett Karrol’s premonitions coming true and Felix Hernandez gets fitted for a Sox uniform) and Dylan Covey is getting thousand-word think pieces on his final chance at the fifth starter spot in March, then I’m all for pitchforks and toilet papering Rick Hahn’s house. But for now, grow … the … hell … up … and move on.

Anyway, thanks for letting me rant a bit. Keep an eye out for South Side Hit Pen’s brand-new podcast dropping soon! Clinton Cole and Brett Ballantini are hosting and here to calm your troubled souls, Sox fans! (Don’t worry, they only talk about Zack Wheeler as the No. 1 White Sox FA target for, like, 33% of the podcast!)