As much as we may not want to look back on 2018, we have to before we can look ahead to 2019. The infield as a total generated 7.7 WAR and saw the most consistency of all of the offensive positional groups, with the lowest mark of games started at 3rd base by Yolmer at 85 percent. Only one guy really spelled first and third in Matt Davidson who is also profiled in this retrospective. He became a fan favorite for his pitching prowess, and played with his hair on fire in Kansas City, unfortunately the White Sox don’t play their home games there. Overall the team was disappointing but there are guys that will make an impact from this list when the team is competing for championships. Today well take a look at 3.7 of those Wins Above Replacement, digging into the elder statesman, the spark plug, and every White Sox fans favorite two way player.
We’ll start at first base where Jose Abreu made 75 percent of the starts. Jose was named the all star starting first baseman, becoming the first White Sox player to be named an all star starter since Frank Thomas in 1996. He was hampered the last month by two injuries, an ingrown hair and testicular torsion. This season was his worst offensive year to date, he slashed .265/ .325/ .473 and a .337 wOBA, a 1.2 WAR, all the lowest of his career. He also had the lowest amount of barrels this season with only 36, down from 48, and had 13.9 percent of his hits not leave the infield on a fly. Jose definitely had a down year but he is often referred to as a stabilizing force in the clubhouse and someone the young players, especially young Cuban and latin players, look up to.
Swinging over to third base is the new king of the Gatorade shower, Yolmer Sanchez, he made 85% of the starts at third base. Most of his offensive stats were down this year slashing .242/.306/.372, but he greatly improved his walk rate from 6.6 percent to 7.4 percent. His plate discipline wasn’t bad only swinging at 31.2 percent of the pitched he saw outside the zone. The most glaring concern would be his .130 isolated power which places him second to last among third basemen with at least 600 plate appearances.
Think of the names Shohei Ohtani and Babe Ruth, man those are some great two way players, but the list is missing only one name, Matt Davidson, those are the three men in baseball history to make at least 3 pitching appearances and hitting at least 20 home runs. We’re just gonna focus on his hitting here where he got better from last year. Matt started 45 percent of games as the designated hitter, 18 percent of games at first base and 14 percent of games at third. At the plate he had an almost 6 percent better walk rate and a lower strikeout rate by almost 4 percent, two things he set out to improve on before the season. As a side effect he raised his on base percentage from .260 to .319,his power numbers dropped but wRC+ jumped from 84 last year, which is 16 percent worse than average to 104, 4 percent better than average.and was worth almost 2 more wins above replacement than last year.
That’s the corner infield wrap from 2018, the consistency is something to be looked well upon but I do not think that Yolmer is an everyday third baseman, and I also do not think that Matt Davidson can keep pace with the Babe and Ohtani. Matt will have to keep improving his on base and power profile and will need more work in the field if he stays on as a utility player especially with Yolmer, hopefully, moving from a full time third baseman to more a super utility role on the next great White Sox team. Jose Abreu is a curious case that will be explored more and more by everyone in the coming weeks months and maybe year as his contract runs out after 2019 and he will be one the White Sox have a decision to make on whether he is worth more to the 2020 White Sox than the prospects he could net as a return.
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