Earlier, I took a look at the White Sox as a team and how they performed in the first-half. In this article, I graded the player(s) that started at each position (outside of SP). Players like Tyler Saladino, Willy García, Jacob May, and Cody Asche were not included, because they were not the primary player at their position for an extended amount of time.
Catchers: Kevan Smith (C+) and Omar Narváez (C)
Smith First-Half Stats: .288/.309/.371; 1 HR, 14 RBI, 2 BB, 25 K, 84 OPS+, -0.1 WAR
Narváez First-Half Stats: .257/.344/.279; 0 HR, 6 RBI, 18 BB, 21 K, 73 OPS+, 0.4 WAR
Narváez and Smith have been given about the same amount of at-bats this season, and neither has displayed much production at the plate. Defensively, Smith is 22nd in the majors in framing runs (per Baseball Prospectus), a statistic which measures a catcher’s pitch framing abilities. This is why Smith earns a “C+” despite his below average production at the plate. Narváez, on the other hand, is given a “C”, because while his plate disciple (as seen in his BB:K ratio) is veteran-like for a 2nd year player on a team of mostly free-swingers, his offensive production and pitch framing abilities are subpar (Narváez ranks 73rd out of 83 catchers in framing runs). While both players have potential upside, they will need to dramatically increase their offensive production if they hope to stay on the major league squad once a player like Zack Collins breaks onto the roster.
First Base: José Abreu: A
First-Half Stats: .299/.349/.522; 16 HR, 58 RBI, 22 BB, 62 K, 132 OPS+, 2.0 WAR
José has continued to produce as the slugger the White Sox signed him to be in 2013. He appears once again be on pace for a .300/30/100 season, and his OPS+ (well above the league average of 100) is a sign of his value as a key contributor to the club. He is a veteran in the clubhouse who can provide support and guidance for Moncada, Robert, and others, assuming the White Sox keep him around for the foreseeable future. Come 2020, if he continues to produce as he has, don’t be surprised if he is here as the veteran DH.
Second Base: Yolmer Sánchez: A
First-Half Stats: .265/.328/.398; 4 HR, 25 RBI, 22 BB, 55 K, 96 OPS+, 1.5 WAR
Yolmer has been one of the biggest surprises of the first-half. Since taking over full-time at 2B due to Saladino’s injury, Sánchez has been reliable with both the bat and the glove (.985 FLD%, 6 defensive runs saved), proving he can handle the duties of a starter. He has also performed well above his career numbers throughout the season, showing the maturity that has come with more time in the major leagues. Once Moncada is brought up to the MLB, look for Sánchez to remain a valuable bench option for the White Sox, as he has shown he can play multiple positions as well.
Shortstop: Tim Anderson: C
First-Half Stats: .240/.263/.369; 9 HR, 28 RBI, 9 BB, 87 K, 69 OPS+, 0.0 WAR
The concept of a “sophomore slump” has unfortunately held true for Anderson in his second big league season. His production, or lack thereof, has resulted in a replacement-level first-half (0.0 WAR). Defensively, the story hasn’t been much better. He has a .938 FLD% and has committed a major league-high 19 errors. His has a DRS (defensive runs saved) value of -6, meaning he is 6 runs worse than the average shortstop. The good news: this is a rebuilding team that can afford a sophomore slump from Anderson. In addition, he had a good series to end the first-half in Colorado, hitting the go-ahead homer in the lone victory of that series. Look for him to hopefully turn his season around in the second half as he continues to grow as a player.
Third Base: Todd Frazier: B
First-Half Stats: .213/.335/.444; 16 HR, 44 RBI, 47 BB, 67 K, 109 OPS+, 1.8 WAR
While his batting average leaves much to be desired, Todd Frazier has performed like a veteran this season at the plate. His OBP is currently at its highest mark since his 2014 All-Star season, and his BB:K ratio is one of the best on the team. Defensively, Todd has a .956 FLD% at 3B and has recorded 3 defensive runs saved (DRS). In June, Frazier owned a .367 OBP, .565 SLG, and a .932 OPS, hitting 8 homers and driving in 16. Should he continue to produce as he did in June after an early season slump, there are many teams who could use a 3B at the trade deadline who can produce and provide the veteran leadership that Frazier can.
Left Field: Melky Cabrera: B+
First-Half Stats: .286/.332/.416; 10 HR, 51 RBI, 24 BB, 47K, 102 OPS+, 0.6 WAR
Melky, more than anything else, has been steady. The consistency we have seen throughout his time with the White Sox has been on display this season as well . Always fun to watch in the outfield, Melky’s overall defense hasn’t been bad (2 errors, .985 FLD%), but he is well below average with -5 DRS. His 0.6 WAR is well below what he has been at in recent years, which makes him a difficult player to move at the trade deadline. However, his consistency and clubhouse leadership will lead an aspiring playoff team to trade for Melky by the August waivers period. Until then, enjoy his antics.
Center Field: Leury García (A-) and Adam Engel (B-)
Garcia First-Half Stats: .298/.345/.459; 6 HR, 22 RBI, 9 BB, 34 K, 116 OPS+, 2.0 WAR
Leury’s first-half was a nice surprise for the White Sox, until he unfortunately went down with an injury. However, performing at a 2-win rate is nothing to scoff at, and his .345 OBP shows an ability to draw walks over a full season of at-bats. Considering his natural position is SS, Leury has performed well in CF this season, committing just two errors (.983 FLD%) while recording 7 defensive runs saved. Once Leury returns from his injury, I expect him and Engel to split time in CF until one of the two establishes consistency at the plate.
Engel First-Half Stats: .247/.330/.358; 2 HR, 5 RBI, 8 BB, 25 K, 87 OPS+, 0.4 WAR
In limited action, Adam Engel has shown an ability to produce at the major league level. While his statistics are not eye-popping, his range in the outfield is well above average, and he has stolen 4 bases in 5 chances. His speed and versatility are welcome in an outfield that currently lacks both of those. Look for Engel to continue to get more at-bats as White Sox staff and fans can begin to get a better idea of the player that Engel will be.
Right Field: Avisaíl García: A
First-Half Stats: .310/.353/.497; 11 HR, 51 RBI, 13 BB, 68 K, 127 OPS+, 2.6 WAR
Our lone All-Star has quite the first half of the season. While he fell into a 2-for-34 slump to head into the break, he is still hitting .310 on the season, showing the consistency he maintained for most of the first-half. While his defense still shows some need for improvement (9 errors, .949 FLD%), he has recorded 3 defensive runs saved, which is the highest mark of his career. The secret to Avi’s success has been an improvement in launch angle, as many of his career numbers (BB%, K%) have not changed. He has swung at more pitches in the strike zone than in the past, yet holds a respectable .353 OBP. His first All-Star Game will hopefully ignite Avi’s second-half start as he hopes to regroup from the slump he ended the break in.
Designated Hitter: Matt Davidson: B
First-Half Stats: .245/.284/.515; 18 HR, 42 RBI, 13 BB, 106 K, 110 OPS+, 0.1 WAR
Considering Davidson was drafted in 2009 and still hadn’t played a full season coming into 2017, it appeared he was going to become a bust. However, in his first full season with the White Sox – and in the majors – Matt Davidson has shown that he can drive the ball out of the ballpark consistently. His 18 homers currently lead the team, and his .515 slugging percentage is a clear indication of his ability to drive the ball to the gaps as well as over the wall. However, there are several signs of potential struggle for the young slugger. While he does have 42 RBI’s, only 9 have come in games in which he has not homered. His strikeout rate has not decreased; in fact, at a 44% strikeout rate, it is even higher than his 2015 minor league strikeout rate of 36%. Now, this might be a little more acceptable if he walked more often, but with only 13 walks and a .284 OBP, he fits right along with the “swing away” mentality of the White Sox this season. Given all this, he has still performed well in his first full season, but he needs to begin to make significant adjustments if he wants to stay in the league long term.
Same as before: agree or disagree? Let me know. On Thursday, I’ll be previewing the second-half for the White Sox and some storylines that we can follow as fans.
**All statistics referenced were taken from either FanGraphs or BaseballReference, unless otherwise specified.**