So help me God if I have to watch José Rondón play baseball for the rest of the 2019 campaign.
Rondón isn’t the worst hitter around and he’s a jack-of-all-trades type fielder, but simply put the White Sox have better options. Unfortunately, that’s not the only case of mismanagement of the Chicago roster we’ve seen this season. It’s time to dive into where the Sox went wrong and what the proper solutions are.
Zack Collins, Chicago’s 11th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, came into the league with a boom. Well, he actually walked in his first plate appearance. But his first hit was a towering home run against Texas back in June, and Collins had Sox fans dreaming of more dingers for years to come. After that moment, though, Collins struggled mightily in the big leagues. He was demoted at the All-Star Break and finished his stint with 14 strikeouts and a .418 OPS over 26 at-bats.
Wait a second, 26 at-bats? Rick Hahn and Co. called up their former first-round pick and sent him packing after just 26 at-bats?
Yes, Welington Castillo came back from injury to take Collins’ spot on the roster, and the White Sox are paying Beef a lot of money. Yes, Castillo has slightly better numbers than Collins this season, but that’s not saying much. However, Castillo’s production and cost should not matter to Chicago. The Sox have made clear through Hahn’s media comments and their lack of free agent urgency that they were never prioritizing contention in 2019. In fact, the one thing that’s been stressed is development. So in what world does it make sense to give an aging, deteriorating Castillo appearances over one of your top prospects?
Let’s dismiss the fact that 26 at-bats is way too small a sample size to judge a player’s big league value. The idea that a return to Triple-A Charlotte can benefit Collins at this point is laughable. The pitching there just isn’t very challenging. Moreover, Collins’ approach is set in stone: hit bombs, walk, and strikeout (hopefully in that order). At this point, what he needs is extended time in the majors to settle in and get accommodated to major league pitching. Now is the perfect time to do that, with the Sox out basically out of contention and the team still emphasizing development. Let Zack work out the kinks over the next few months so that he can come into 2020 ready to mash and help a team that then will want to contend.
Castillo will likely be gone via a declined team option next season anyway, so just trade or DFA him now. He’s 32 and rocking a .625 OPS, for Pete’s sake. Give the plate appearances to someone who may actually be on your next playoff team.
The other player on the Knights being neglected is Danny Mendick. While not a premier prospect, Mendick is having a good year in the minors with a .798 OPS and an impressive fielding resume — just 2 errors in 748 innings pretty evenly spread among second base, third base, and shortstop.
I don’t predict that Mendick will be a long-term contributor at the big league level. But as we’ve seen with AJ Reed and Ryan Goins, it’s worthwhile to test guys out and see if they have some potential. Reed is an example of a guy who doesn’t seem to be panning out, while Goins just might have the potential to surprise.
Regardless, what’s the point of having Rondón on the roster? He’s already failed his “test run,” with a .537 OPS over 151 PAs with the White Sox this year. Mendick is just as versatile of a fielder and almost certainly will be more productive at the plate. Admittedly, Rondón seems to be an active, fun member of the clubhouse. But that doesn’t translate to much of anything on the field for the South Siders, while Mendick might just make some noise.
Collins and Mendick likely aren’t the types of guys that will make a difference between a championship winner or loser. But they are signs that the front office should do more critical thinking when making roster decisions now and in the presumably bright future.
Image: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights