(Spring) 1919 World Series rematch ends in 3-3 tie (sans Mafia or bans)

(@WhiteSox)


Well, that was … a game.

The Good Guys managed to pull out a 3-3 tie in the ninth, with a homer from who else but spring training hero Yermín Mercedes.

Dylan Cease showed definite control issues with two walks (one scoring), a home run, and a hit batter, he’s not the only one who had a rough day.

Tim Anderson, despite having a 2020 goal of cutting down on errors, bobbled a very easy grounder for another error. Eloy Jiménez had a dive-and-miss in left. Nick Madrigal made a brief appearance before he took a grounder off of his face; he walked off on his own, though, so I think our most prized draftee lives to fight another day. An inning later, Andrew Romine missed an easy play by trying to flip a slow hop from his glove instead of his bare hand, allowing an infield hit.

So, the defense could have been better. The best part of spring training is that the White Sox can get these kinks worked out now, and they’ll be just fine by regular season (hopefully).

Someone on the diamond was already Opening Day-ready on defense: Yoán Moncada. Our $70 million man had the bright, shining defensive moment with an excellent play at third, as he works towards a spring highlight reel on SportsCenter.

 

After Cease got pulled, we got another look at the usual bullpen guys of Steve Cishek, Aaron Bummer, Jimmy Codero, and Evan Marshall and Kelvin Herrera, so it’s looking like the Sox are starting to solidify the reliever rotation.

Yasmani Grandal had a double and a homer, so he’s recovering from his “early spring training injury” quite nicely.

Grandal’s homer shortened the Reds lead to 3-2 and Mercedes tied it up in the ninth, but Sox offense never made it past a couple moments of contact to do much more damage. There was a brief moment in the eighth when it looked like the day was going to be saved by a brigade of Guys Off the Bench, but Zack Collins struck out staring so those hopes were dashed. The offense — can somebody, anybody make contact? —definitely needs to get worked out between now and March 26, or else we’re staring down another sad season of strikeouts.

The Reds displayed an excellent use of the shift, which got them some solid outs to back-up Anthony DeSclafani, who pitched well for four innings. Between that and Cincinnati’s solid defensive outfield, they might be a fun team to watch this year — after all, PECOTA picked the Reds to win the Central, so there’s someone new to root for against the Cubs.

RANDOM SPRING TRAINING MUSINGS (working title)

  • Nicky Delmonico playing first is an interesting choice. He didn’t do poorly or have any issues. Just an interesting choice.
  • Amir Garrett is 6’6´´ and played college basketball. Is the trend of tall pitchers a new thing, or am I just now noticing it?
  • Was Pedro Strop only allowed to be on the Reds after Puig got traded?
  • Roger Bossard puts activated charcoal on the field, which is also what I use on my face when I have a breakout, so the infield and I have something in common.

 

Yermín Mercedes, on the road to the Majors

Happy to be here: But determined to mash. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


Yermín Mercedes is having the time of his life right now. He is currently slashing .350/.381/.850 with a three homers, including that mammoth grand slam above and a two-run shot that capped scoring at San Diego on Sunday. Nobody seems to be having more fun than him, and because of his bat and personality some Sox fans are clamoring for him to break camp with the White Sox.

But is that a smart decision, or even realistic? First off, let’s start with how far along Mercedes has come in a short amount of time.

The White Sox selected him in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2017 from the Baltimore Orioles. His first contract was with the Washington Nationals, but they released him in 2014. That season, Mercedes spent time playing in two different independent leagues and earned his way back to affiliate ball with the Orioles. In total, from 2011-17, he only played 12 games in the high minors (Double-A, the highest level he reached).

Now, it wasn’t because of his bat that Mercedes was slowly moving up the minors — in terms of wRC+, he has had at minimum, an above-average season at each level, every single year; It was because of his defensive abilities.

From 2011-17, in affiliated ball, Mercedes was a catcher the majority of the time, when he was actually on the field— he would spend some time at first base and even got cups of coffee at both corner outfield spots, but if not catching, he was mostly a DH, which is probably why the Orioles did not protect him in the Rule 5 draft. In Mercedes’ final season with Baltimore, he only caught about 37% of games he played in, which was lower than his 2016 rate. That did change with the White Sox, though.

Maybe it was because the Sox did not really have fantastic catchers in their system (especially defensive catchers), but Mercedes’ time behind the plate ramped up. In 2018 with the Winston-Salem Dash, Mercedes played 77% of his games behind the plate, but again got some time out at first base. Last season, between Birmingham and Charlotte, the number fell to about 61%. That rate is still better than what he was getting with Baltimore and the Nationals, but it still did fall — and in Charlotte, Mercedes even added a couple games at third base.

Advanced numbers in the minors are not easy to find, and advanced catching statistics are even harder. Baseball Prospectus, which does keep track of advanced catching stats in the minors, actually liked Mercedes in 2018 and 2019. But coming off a season with only 61% of games played at catcher still is concerning as to how the club actually views him defensively. Mercedes caught in five of his first eight games this spring, but it is clear that the reason he’s on the 40-man roster and the cusp on the majors is because of the bat.

Yeah, the video is from 2017 but who cares, Mercedes has been able to hit at every level. But 2019 and so far into 2020 have been special.

Mercedes started out 2019 in Double-A with Birmingham, and was probably there too long. He slashed .327/.389/.497 for a 157 wRC+. Just so you all know, that wRC+ was actually slightly better than Luis Robert’s wRC+ (155) in Birmingham and rated 11th overall in the Southern League (min. 150 plate appearances). Mercedes crushed the ball in Birmingham. The power was there with .170 ISO, but remember, Double-A does not use the MLB ball, so Mercedes was not able to fully realize his power potential till Triple-A — and boy did it skyrocket.

Even with the MLB ball, Charlotte is a power-friendly park, but with it, it’s downright unfair for pitchers. As you saw in the video above, all Mercedes has to do is flick his wrists on pitches low and below the zone to clear the fence. His ISO with Charlotte in 2019 was a whopping .337, with 17 homers in just 53 games. Again, that .337 was not his batting average — it was his ISO, .337! In the International League, that number was tied at the top with a couple of notable power names, Aristides Aquino of the Reds, and Luis Robert (min. 200 plate appearances).

Obviously Mercedes’ success with the bat has continued this offseason. It did not stop with 12 games in the Dominican Winter League, and has continued in spring training. The only thing stopping Mercedes’ march to the majors right now is his lack of defensive ability. He is, for all intents and purposes, a 27-year-old designated hitter prospect on a team that already has Edwin Encarnación and José Abreu as defensive liabilities. On top of that, it seems like the former first round pick, Zack Collins, will get every opportunity to show he belongs, even if he also has concerns defensively.

Mercedes’ path to the majors has always been a hard one, but at least it is not improbable anymore. According to J.J. Cooper from Baseball America, it was just up to luck he was even able to stay in professional baseball after being released by the Nationals. In a story from November 2019, Cooper writes, “if [Mercedes] wasn’t a catcher, that likely would have been the end of the story. But because he was a catcher, he’d been brought over to the States for spring training before he was released. (Teams always need large numbers of catchers to catch bullpens at camp). Because he was in the States and had a visa, he was able to latch on to play in the independent Pecos League.”

Mercedes’ story is a wonderful one, and he will be on the South Side at some point this season. It may not be on Opening Day, but the inevitable injury will come and he should be one of the first up, especially if that injury is to Encarnación. It is possible Collins finally wears out his stay and Mercedes can come in and save the team with his bat, but the White Sox do love to give their top prospects and draft picks every chance they can. It is very possible the last two spots for this team go to Collins and Carson Fulmer, both guys who are at low points in terms of prospect luster.

Mercedes’ path is still an uphill climb to the majors, but nobody can say any longer that he doesn’t deserve it.

SSHP Podcast 19: Yoán Moncada extension

(Tom Borowski/South Side Hit Pen)


SSHP managing editor and Future Sox senior editor James Fox hops on to talk with Brett Ballantini about his latest scoop, breaking the Yoán Moncada contract extension. The two also talk about future White Sox contract extensions, the 2020 starting rotation and the battle for the 26th man on the roster.

You may have heard: We’re on Apple Podcasts!

SSHP Podcast 18: Chuck Garfien

(Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)


Chuck Garfien joins Clinton Cole to talk White Sox spring training baseball and everyone’s favorite player, Yermín Mercedes. The pair also cover other bright spots of camp so far, including Nicky Delmonico, Andrew Vaughn and Adam Engel — and celebrate the fact that there’s an actual battle for the final active roster spot this season!

 

Hey, we’re on Apple Podcasts too!

Podcast 17: Yolmer Sánchez, and more Cactus chat


Effervescent engagement editor Ashley Sanders hops on the podcast with Brett Ballantini to talk (natch) the dear, departed Yolmer Sánchez. Also, learn about Ashley’s road to Sox fandom and persistent tryout for a “boys” baseball All-Star team. Finally, we wrap with some Cactus talk, including the amazing February of Yermín Mercedes and Carson Fulmer’s last stand.

I don’t know how many times I need to keep saying this, but hell yes we’re on Apple Podcasts.

Eight-run inning propels White Sox to wild win

Magic Man: Nick Madrigal tied the game with an RBI single during the White Sox’s eight-run inning. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


It was a disastrous start, but the White Sox redeemed themselves in a wild victory over the Angels.

Ross “Big Boss” Detwiler got the start for the South Siders, and to say the least, he had a rough afternoon. Brian Goodwin and some guy named Mike Trout got back-to-back hits to open in the bottom of the first. Then, the Angels’ newest prized possession, Anthony Rendon, opened the scoring by launching a three-run homer.

In the second, Goodwin extended the Angels lead to four with an RBI single to drive in Andrelton Simmons. The following inning, Simmons drove in a run with a single of his own, and Luis Rengifo made it 6-0 with a sacrifice fly. All six runs were charged to Detwiler, who lasted 2 ⅓ innings, allowed those six runs (all earned), seven hits, issued no walks, and struck out three.

The White Sox appeared to be dead in the water, as they entered the fourth inning with a six-run deficit. However, they put up a rally that will likely turn out to be the biggest inning they have this spring. Yermín Mercedes, who we have heard a lot from this spring, put the White Sox on the board with an RBI double. The next batter, Nicky Delmonico, followed with an RBI double, and oddly enough, Cheslor Cuthbert followed the White Sox’s third consecutive RBI double.

After the three straight doubles, Luis González and Austin Romine drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Adam Engel took advantage of this scoring opportunity by driving a two-run single to left to pull the White Sox within one. Nick Madrigal tied it with an RBI single, as he became the eighth consecutive player to reach base safely (mercy). That streak ended when Andrew Vaughn grounded out, but Engel came around to score on said ground out, putting the White Sox ahead, 7-6. The final run of this wild inning scored on a two-out base hit by Nomar Mazara, making the score 8-6.

The score remained 8-6 until the bottom of the fifth, which was a rough time behind the plate for Mercedes. Mercedes failed to catch a pop fly by Albert Pujols, which put Pujols on first with one out, when there should have been two outs with nobody on. Pujols was given credit for a single, but that was a questionable scoring decision. After a wild pitch, a ground out that advanced pinch-runner Joey Curletta to third, and another wild pitch, the Angels trimmed the deficit to 8-7.

Fortunately, the White Sox’s crazy eight-run fourth inning brought enough offense for them to hold on. The wild pitch that brought Curletta home was the final run scored by either team. The relievers did a great job with damage control after Detwiler’s awful start. Will Kincanon, Tayron Guerrero, Ian Hamilton, Codi Heuer, Bernardo Flores Jr., and Vince Arobio combined for 6 ⅔ innings, only allowing one run, which likely should have been unearned. Flores Jr., who covered the seventh and eighth innings, and Arobio, who closed it out, were especially dominant. They combined for seven strikeouts, and neither of them allowed a hit.

The White Sox are 5-3 this spring, and their next game will be tomorrow at 2:05 CST against the Padres. Dallas Keuchel is set to take the mound against Chris Paddack, who had a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts as a rookie last year. That one will be played at Camelback Ranch, where Janice Scurio will be on the scene for our recap.

Bench sparks a Sox stomp on Cleveland, 8-3

(@WhiteSox)


Friday’s game could be described as the opposite of a Hot Pocket: cold open, hot middle, warm close. The White Sox bullpen allowed just one hit after the fifth — but before that, it wasn’t looking good for our guys.

ESPN had a win probability at 50.3% for Cleveland in the bottom of the first, which seems a bit premature and rude. Sometimes the stats aren’t our friends, and sometimes ESPN needs to keep their opinions to themselves:

win probability

The White Sox got a look at Cleveland starter Logan Allen, who was part of that three-team deal among San Diego, Cleveland, and Cincinnati that swapped Trevor Bauer for Yasiel Puig, brought Franmil Reyes and Allen to sunny Cleveland, and dropped Taylor Trammel to the Padres.

Having Madrigal lead off is not a great position for him in the lineup, but I’m going to look on the bright side that he’s getting some time there solely for more at-bats. After hearing last year about all his patience at the plate, there wasn’t a lot of patented Madrigal chill today. But he made a fantastic play in the top of the second that can quickly erase the sadness of an 0-for-3 day at the plate:

Cleveland was making steady progress toward a win, chipping out three runs on five hits before the White Sox broke it open in the bottom of the sixth. After loading the bases with Jaycob Brugman, Zach Remillard, and Roman González (pinch-running for Nicky Delmonico, Chester Cuthbert, and Danny Mendick, respectively) Yermín Mercedes pinch-hit for Seby Zavala and continues to make it all look easy: Mercedes clocked a grand slam that’s still on the way to Mesa.

It was nice of Nomar Mazara to wait until the bottom of the seventh to decide he wants to get a hit — I’m so glad the White Sox have him instead of Yasiel Puig (*cough*). Roman González brought Mazara in on a double to right, putting the Sox up by three, and a Rutherford single pushed it to 7-3 after bringing González home.

If you were taking a nap, Andrew Vaughn reminded us why he’s our top prospect not named after a Spanish panther, hitting a homer that just stayed fair in the eighth; Dakody Clemmer’s slider forgot to bite, and the Sox topped off their scoring, 8-3.

A three-up, three-down ninth pushed the White Sox to 4-2 in Cactus League action. Not a lot of progress from the starters today, but guys coming off the bench showed them how it’s done.


Random game thoughts

  • New Era can buy all the spots they want between innings to advertise those terrible spring training hats, and I’m still going to think they look like they got stuck in a printer
  • Can we get some new MLB Flashbacks? They’ve been playing the same ones all week, and there were more than four cool things that happened last year.
  • Russ Langer and Rich King can get very dramatic, especially claiming the Sox had to make a comeback at the *checks notes* second inning.
  • Today I learned that Al Michaels called his first MLB game for the Cincinnati Reds, playing the White Sox in spring training, and Harry Caray was the next window over in the broadcast booth.
  • I genuinely want to know what has happened to Daniel Palka.
  • Ernie Clement (CLE) forgot his No. 84 jersey — there’s really not a lot to keep track of in spring training, so you’d think remembering to put your jersey on is a no-brainer — and wore No. 28 today.
  • The name of the catcher for Cleveland that Rich and Russ couldn’t pronounce (and kept referring to as the “catcher to be named later”) is Kungkuan Giljegiljaw. According to an article in CPBL Stats, it’s a name change from Chu Li-Jen to his Taiwanese aboriginal name. It’s a pretty interesting read if you’re up for it — and comes with a handy pronunciation guide.

SSHP Podcast 15: Less meatball, more sauce


Janice Scurio takes time from her busy podcast appearance schedule to hop back on to discuss her fun White Sox fan-primer piece on South Side Hit Pen, her personal social media practice (and new SSHP mission statement) of LESS MEATBALL MORE SAUCE, a bit of crosstown talk, and storylines from spring training.

Hell yes, we’re on Apple Podcasts!

Mercedes homers, White Sox rally late to force tie

Power surge: 2019 first round pick Andrew Vaughn hit a double off the wall to raise his way-too-early spring average to .500 and his way-too-early spring OPS to 1.750. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


Offensive highlights were hard to come by this afternoon, as the White Sox tied their Camelback Ranch buddies by a score of 2-2. A decent chunk of the offensive highlights we did see came courtesy of Nicky Delmonico, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles. Unfortunately, nobody was able to drive Delmonico home. Delmonico did not get a fourth plate appearance, as he was pulled for a pinch-runner in the sixth (Jaycob Brugman).

The pitching staff managed to hold the Dodgers off the board for most of the afternoon, as the game remained scoreless until the bottom of the sixth. 26-year-old righty Alex McRae started on the mound for the White Sox, and he threw two innings and set down all six batters he faced. Adalberto Mejía contributed two scoreless innings of his own, and Evan Marshall added a scoreless fifth. Marshall would not have escaped unscathed, however, if not for this excellent defense by Danny Mendick.

The first run for either side crossed the plate when right-hander Ian Hamilton allowed a solo home run to Cody Thomas. Three batters later, Omar Estevez followed with another solo shot off Hamilton. As a result, the Dodgers led by a score of 2-0 after six.

Although Delmonico had nearly half of the White Sox’s hits, the loudest hit was a seventh inning blast by Yermín Mercedes, which cut the deficit in half. Did I mention this thing was crushed? Because, seriously, it was. Have a look. Hopefully, you will enjoy this as much as I did:

 

Whether or not the White Sox will have room for Mercedes on the 26-man roster remains to be seen. However, today was certainly a step in the right direction for him. The next batter, Andrew Vaughn, nearly followed with a solo blast of his own. Instead, Vaughn settled for a double off the top of the wall. Last year’s third overall pick finished 1-for-2.

In his only other plate appearance, Mercedes led off the top of the ninth inning with a single. That turned out to be a big hit, as the lead runner came around to score on a Matt Skole double to tie the game.

In the latter innings, Codi Heuer, Jacob Lindgren, and Will Kincanon all pitched admirably, as each threw a scoreless inning to make the offense’s job easier. As a result, the Skole RBI double was the last time either team scored, as this game ended in a 2-2 tie.

Nick Madrigal was the center of attention for White Sox Twitter this morning. This was because for the second straight season, Keith Law decided not to include him on his Top 100 Prospects list. As a result, I wanted Madrigal to succeed even more than usual today. Though Madrigal did not strike out (of course), he did not reach base, either, finishing 0-for-3. You win this small battle, Keith, but Madrigal will win the war.

With the tie, the White Sox’s record stands at 1-0-1 this spring. Tomorrow will be a split-squad day, as there will be a pair of White Sox games, both at 2:05 CST. One will be a road game at Goodyear Ballpark against Cleveland. Left-hander Bernardo Flores Jr. is set to take the mound for the Sox, while Shane Bieber is Cleveland’s probable starter. In the other matchup, a home game, Drew Anderson will take the mound for the White Sox against Kevin Gausman of the Giants. The latter game will be streaming on whitesox.com.

Hitter’s Camp Day 3: batting cages

The sights and sounds of sweet, sweet baseball: Among the players featured at Hitter’s Camp in Glendale is Seby Zavala, shown here working on his swing plane. (Chicago White Sox)


White Sox TV presents some raw looks at several young players at Hitter’s Camp, including Blake Rutherford, Luis González, Danny Mendick, Seby Zavala, Micker Adolfo, Gavin Sheets, Luis Basabe and Yermín Mercedes.