For all intents and purposes, the White Sox season is over. Despite hopes of contention, Chicago is 49-76, good for fourth-worst in baseball and only half a game ahead of NL-worst Colorado, whom they just lost a series to. Still, the South Siders should still be able to salvage some value out of the last 40 or so games—that is, if they aren’t blind to the situation at hand. Turns out, they might just be.
The issue is encapsulated in Pedro Grifol‘s comment a couple weeks ago regarding playing time allocation:
“We’re never going to compromise a major league win for development”Pedro Grifol speaking to reporters on August 9
While this quote came right after vaguely acknowledging the importance of experience for young players, it’s still completely indefensible. Pedro, your team is 27 games below .500. Twenty-seven! Major league wins are completely expendable, as they mean absolutely nothing at this point.
Currently, the player at risk of being mishandled is Lenyn Sosa. For the sake of discussion, let’s say playing Sosa over Elvis Andrus the rest of the season costs the team three wins. That’s almost certainly too high of an estimate, but we’re giving Grifol the benefit of the doubt here. Congratulations—you’re now 66-96 instead of 63-99! What does that gain you? If anything, it puts the franchise in a worse position by jeopardizing draft order. Simply put, Sosa getting even 10% better as a major league ballplayer is worth more than wins, because wins are worth…nada.
Development, at this point, is the only worthy pursuit for the 2023 White Sox. This is especially true because, believe it or not, there’s a few interesting players worth developing! Sosa has been flat-out terrible in his 119 MLB plate appearances, let’s be clear. He’s probably going to stink for the remainder of the season too, sure. But as crazy as it may sound, that is completely beside the point.
Sosa has previously put up a .933 OPS in Double-A Birmingham and this season has knocked 17 homers in 71 games for Triple-A Charlotte. Most likely, he’s still not fit for the big leagues. And that’s ok! He’s not even in some top-fifteen White Sox prospect lists. But still, Sosa has potential—Chicago would be silly to give plate appearances to the aging Andrus over a young middle infielder with even the tiniest shred of major league capability.
As of a few days ago, there seems to be some doubt on what will happen when Tim Anderson returns from injury.
Sosa has looked more comfortable since returning for this most recent stint, launching a homer in Colorado for one of three hits in four games. Those numbers aren’t eye-popping, but now it sounds like there’s hope.
Oscar Colas, meanwhile, has been granted significant playing time despite his struggles. This is the model to follow! Again, who cares how bad he was in April? Development isn’t linear, and we know what Gavin Sheets is at this point. You may as well let Colas battle again and again and again. It turns out there may be something to it—since August 3, the 24-year-old Colas has a .736 OPS and a 99 wRC+. Yes that’s average, but average is progress. There’s no downside, only upside, to seeing where that progress may take him. Sosa’s case is no different.
Thankfully Grifol’s comment hasn’t manifested itself in any seriously harmful ways thus far. But the return of TA7 is going to be an important litmus test for the South Siders’ manager. Will he prioritize the 34-year-old Andrus over the 23-year-old Sosa?
In a stomach-turning train-wreck of a season, the future is all that matters. Let’s hope the White Sox recognize this and act as such.
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Featured Image: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports