The first half of the 2019 season is in the books. The Sox have had a great season to this point in terms of growth and development. Their record of 42- 44, is a bit of a surprise as well. They’re close to playing .500 ball and have turned the corner of the rebuild and look to be ready to compete next year. We have many surprises and a few disappointments to the season thus far. I will be ranking these highs and lows in terms of unseen and importance to the big picture of this team’s future.
Top 5 Disappointments
5. Daniel Palka- Wow, what a difference a year can make. Last year, Palka was one of the few bright spots to the season and looked to be the DH of the future. This year, he looks lost and definitely not a major leaguer. He has a putrid slash line of .022/ .154/ .022. Yes, you read that correctly. No typos. He’s made Chris Davis, of the Orioles, look like Ichiro. He was sent down for a month and was called back up just to continue to suck. He had 27 HR’s in 2018 and has ZERO in 2019. His WAR is a solid -1.1 through 52 plate appearances! He has been epically bad.
4. Carson Fulmer- The former first round pick in 2015 continues to disappoint and not build confidence in the Sox organization in drafting players. Fulmer was supposed to be an ace and he has been far from it. He’s pitched in 15.2 innings and allowed 11 ER which equates to an ERA of 6.32. His FIP is 5.82 and nearly a 2 WHIP. He has a good 10.3 SO rate but a disastrous 8 walk rate. At this point, you’re not getting anything of value for Fulmer and he can’t even produce out of the bullpen. I hope he figures it out but it is very unlikely.
3. Yonder Alonso- Let’s be honest here. Yonder had one job and that was to help bring Machado here. He didn’t and fans had a sour taste in their mouths from that alone. Add in brutal numbers and you have a very strong dislike from a fanbase. The DH has to go out and put up decent numbers. At least solid power for the middle of the lineup, and that is where he failed. He had 7 HRs through 251 Plate appearances. His slash line of .178/ .275/ .301 was abysmal. All of that equates to a -1.3 WAR. He is higher than Palka on this list due to the Machado situation, the amount of at bats he got, and the cost to acquire him. Total failure.
2. Injuries to the future- The Sox have had terrible luck when it comes to the health of their young players. Last year was Kopech, Yoan, and Burger to name a few. 2019 said “hold my drink” to 2018. The long list include names of Burdi, Burr, Burger, Lambert, Hamilton, Kopech, Rodon, Dunning, Adolfo, and recently Tim Anderson. Can this all be just bad luck? Or is there more to it. Is the medical staff not diagnosing injuries properly and bringing guys back too early? Is the Training Staff not properly conditioning the players for the marathon of a season? Are we drafting injury prone players recklessly? Something is going on and it appears to be more than just bad luck.
1. Reynaldo Lopez- My biggest disappointment so far, has to be Reynaldo Lopez. He looked great last year! Not an Ace but a solid number 3 with 2 upside. This year he looks like 2018 Lucas Giolito. So far, he is 4-8 with an ERA of 6.34 (nearly 2.5 higher). His FIP is a lousy 5.78 and nearly a 1.6 WHIP. Surprisingly, his K and BB rates improved slightly. The most frustrating thing has been the Sox give him early big leads where he proceeds to give them away and eventually lose. His WAR is at -0.6 after being a 3.1 WAR player last year. Lopez has a ton of talent still. I’m thinking he has a bounce back second half and 2020. Just sad to think where this team could have been had he been the Lopez of last year.
Honorable Mentions: Kelvin Herrerra, Ricky Renteria, Ivan Nova, Carlos Rodon
Top 5 Surprises
5. Leury Garcia- What a fantastic first half Leury has had! After his slow start, I wanted him gone. He has proven me wrong. His slash line is .293/ .327/ .395. I think he is the main reason for Moncada’s uptick in stats and Abreu’s monster RBI numbers. He gets on and sets up the table for everyone else. He has a WAR of 1.4 and on pace for close to a 3 WAR. He plays good defense and has a decent arm. Not to mention he is versatile defensively, manning Shortstop while Timmy gets healthy. I see a lot of people say the Sox should sign Puig or another OF next year. I don’t think they need to if this is the Leury we are to expect.
4. Luis Robert & Nick Madrigal- It is hard to call these two a “surprise” as one was a coveted International player and the other was a top 4 pick in the draft, but they have made huge strides to jump way up the prospects rankings list. Both played in the Futures game. It seems every other night, Robert is either hitting a Home Run or showcasing his elite speed. Madrigal seems to get a couple hits every night while playing incredible defense and refusing to let pitchers strike him out which is a rare thing in today’s game. Entering the season, I would’ve said no way Robert is up this year and a very slight chance we see Madrigal. Well, I think their play is forcing management’s hand. I won’t be surprised if they are both up by September.
3. Yoan Moncada- Here is another name that you wonder if they are a surprise to succeed. He was the centerpiece of the Sale trade after all. His first full season with the Sox was meh. He started 2018 off very well and looked to be a star. Some injuries hit that seemed to nag him all season and he never really recovered from. This year has been different. He was scorching hot in April, cooled off a bit in May and hot again in June and start of July. I remember hearing fans foolishly call him a bust last year. Now, Yoan is laughing in their faces and deservedly so. His slash line is .308/ .364/ .544. He has 16 HRs and 48 RBIs and 49 runs. He is on pace for 92 runs, 30 HRs, 91 RBIs and a 6.1 WAR( currently 3.2). These are huge numbers of All Star caliber players. He has also played a good third base which is new to him. I would imagine he gets even better there, which is a scary thought. Enjoy Sox fans! This kid is special.
2. Lucas Giolito- This could easily be the top biggest surprise of the year. He has rejuvenated his career! He was beyond bad in 2018 with a 6.13 ERA, FIP of 5.56, and 1.48 WHIP. While also leading the league in walks and Earned Runs. He went from epically terrible to top 3 Cy Young candidate. He currently leads the league in wins with 11. Has a healthy 3.15 ERA, 3.20 FIP, and WHIP dropped down to 1.07. His K/9 went up from 6.5 to 10.8 which is phenomenal. His walks per 9 has decreased 1.3 but still a bit high of 3.4. He is also at a 3.1 WAR and on pace for a 6 WAR. If it weren’t for Verlander, I think Giolito would be the first half Cy Young in the AL. That’s incredible considering 10 months ago we were hoping he can end up being a decent bullpen arm in the future. Seeing such a huge turnaround gives me hope for Lopez too. Maybe we should contact his High School coach.
1. James McCann- James McCann isn’t as important or as good as Giolito has been this year but he is the bigger surprise. He wasn’t even the starting catcher at the beginning of the year ( great now I just reminded myself we had Castillo) McCann has been brilliant to this point. He is on pace for career highs in all statistical categories. He has a slash of .316/ .371/ .502. He has a little bit of speed for a catcher going 4-4 in stolen base attempts. He always seems to come up with the clutch or must needed hit. Not only has he been brilliant at the plate but behind it as well. He has to get some of the credit for Giolito’s turnaround. His WAR is currently at 2.3 which is great by itself but imagine if he started the entire year. Easily would be in the 3’s. Oh, and he is an All Star! He is only 29 so he definitely has a spot on this team for the next few years. Pay the man, Hahn!
Honorable Mentions; Aaron Bummer, Tim Anderson, Alex Colome, Eloy Jimenez
There’s a couple ways to look at this first half of the season. You can say the Sox are a fun team with a good offense and an Ace that are well ahead of their predictions and competing curve. The other way is what could have been had they went out and got a couple decent arms instead of tossing out clowns like Despaigne, Fulmer and Covey. Or didn’t have a terrible bottom of the order most the year with names like Engel, Delmonico, Palka, Castillo, and Alonso. I prefer to go with the first option here. Yes, this team could’ve been better and management let down the fans a few ways this offseason. Nonetheless, this team is exciting and I want to watch them now! It isn’t a chore anymore. I love the growth we have seen in the names above and others. We have a bright future and I think Hahn realizes the time to strike is now. Go Sox!!
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