What to do with an impending Sox outfield crunch originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Chicago White Sox outfield is about to be crowded.
It could count as one of those good problems to have, of course. And Luis Robert’s return is certainly a very good thing for this team.
But while Robert and Eloy Jiménez were on the shelf, the guys who stepped in and stepped up did a more than admirable job helping to keep the White Sox championship hopes afloat. Now, with Jiménez back – although with questions about getting his legs ready for the daily grind giving in to four consecutive misses with groin strain, he’s not exactly the left fielder yet. everyday – and Robert is nearing the end of his rehab mission, what happens to those bench players who have provided invaluable replacement work?
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“There have been a lot of fuss about getting into this role,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said on Sunday. “We knew we were going to play here without their buddies, and they continued to be productive. The guys who were brought in late in the organization, they stepped up.”
Gavin Sheets and Brian Goodwin have only given the White Sox two home runs this season, claiming two of their most exciting wins.
Leury García’s versatility will never cease to be attractive, no matter how fans react to his presence in the lineup.
Adam Engel has been quietly excellent, with six home runs and a .927 OPS in just 25 games this season.
And Billy Hamilton, although currently on the injured list with a tight slant, is the obvious possessor of game-changing speed, the guy who has put in the team’s most impressive defensive play of the season and someone La Russa constantly praises for his timely shots.
And also: Do you remember Jake Lamb? He too is nearing the end of a rehabilitation mission at Triple-A Charlotte. How does it fit into all of this?
It’s quite a puzzle that the White Sox will have to piece together. And just as Danny Mendick and Jake Burger have fallen victim to recent list crashes, there could be more role-playing contributors in the coming days.
“We’re going to have a lot of tough roster decisions to make,” White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said ahead of Jiménez’s return last month. “We have guys who play ball really, really, really well.”
Indeed, Goodwin has just come out of his signing moment into a productive season, breaking through to beat the Cleveland Indians on Sunday. He took some valuable batting and played valuable innings in the outfield while Jiménez and Robert were on the set, and he carved out a place for himself on this team.
“Just grateful to be able to have the opportunity. It is first and foremost. Without this opportunity I have no chance to do anything,” Goodwin said after the game. Sunday. “Much love to Tony and the guys up here, and my teammates for coming together, supporting me and just showing love to me. I appreciate everything I’ve got. . I try not to let the opportunity pass, take advantage of each day. “
Then there’s Sheets, who has worked hard to add right fielder to his defensive repertoire over the past two years. He took advantage of opportunities in right field and on designated hitter and produced six home runs and a .807 OPS in 26 games.
But when asked how the outfield would fit in with Robert and Lamb back on the 26-man roster, La Russa’s comments signaled, perhaps, that Sheets could end up as the Strange Man, just because it will be hard to find him at bat with Jiménez and Andrew Vaughn splitting the time between left field and DH and Robert absorbing the center starts, pushing all available outfielders to the right.
“(You) watch the playing time,” La Russa said on Tuesday. “Brian shows he can play all three outfield positions, that’s really important. Jake played a third goal to go along with the outfield work. And Sheets was really impressive.
“But can we give him enough hitters that he feels like he’s on the right track and not regressing? That will really be the key.… That’s really the problem with Sheets,” if he’s here, can he play enough to help us and help himself. “
While Robert’s return feels it immediately gives him the day-to-day centerfielder job, and Engel doesn’t think he’s going anywhere as a sensational defender with excellent attacking numbers, someone who has received a ticket to the important fourth outfielder before the start of the season, the other guys might find that there aren’t enough bats – or places on the roster – to share. For what it’s worth, Goodwin, Sheets, and Lamb are all left-handed.
So, Sheets, the youngster in the group who showed a lot during his brief stint in the majors, could he follow his buddy Burger on his way back to the minors? It’s a possibility. Of course, the lists will expand in September, providing an easy path to a return trip for Sheets. Others may not be able to be brought back so easily.
All of this before the White Sox are forced to make bigger decisions when building a playoff list.
Obviously the big win is to get Jiménez and Robert back into the day-to-day roster, and no matter what contributions from those who have replaced, this is the most important thing for the White Sox to get on with it. ‘before. But they also wouldn’t be where they are without the Goodwins and Hamiltons and Engels and Sheetses of the world, and they could benefit from the depth these players provide as they keep chasing a championship, which makes the puzzle important – and difficult – one to assemble.
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