Three Unpopular White Sox Opinions originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago:
The White Sox have not always been a joy to watch, to put it lightly, in 2022. Given some uncharacteristic sloppy play, underperforming veterans, and viral coaching decisions, fans have not always agreed on who is most responsible for the disappointing first couple of months of the season. Moreover, the already scant things that White Sox fans generally have accepted to date are not always as obvious as they may seem.
Below are three unpopular (based on social media and conversations with fellow fans) opinions of mine concerning the 2022 White Sox.
1. Andrew Benintendi is a bad fit for the White Sox:
It is clear that the biggest area of need on the White Sox roster is the offense – left-handed and / or switch-hitting threats could mitigate against what has been historically bad performance against right-handed pitching to date. Andrew Benintendi, however, is not a good fit for Chicago’s roster.
Last year, we saw similar conversations about Adam Frazier, who was then on the Pittsburgh Pirates and later was traded to the Seattle Mariners. White Sox fans saw Frazier, who was an all-star in 2021, as the answer to the lack of lineup balance, despite the many underlying metrics that pointed to negative regression. Since being traded to Seattle, Frazier has hit .237 / .304 / .325 with an 87 wRC +. As Andrew Benintendi has started to become a similarly popular name among White Sox fans online, it is important to look more closely at his performance to avoid making a similar mistake.
Benintendi is having a solid year, hitting .303 / .369 / .394 with a 121 wRC + for the Royals. He is a free agent after the season, so the White Sox would theoretically be able to trade for him without having to give up a prospect like Colson Montgomery or Lenyn Sosa. Finally, unlike Adam Frazier last year, Benintendi’s underlying metrics do not point to severe regression.
So, why is Benintendi not an ideal fit for the White Sox, given its stellar performance and (likely) low price tag? In summary, defense and power. Defense has been one of the biggest issues for the White Sox this season, and Benintendi (who is a left fielder, by the way) has historically graded as a below-average-to-average defender by most metrics. The White Sox already have too many offense-first players to take on yet another, especially when he does not hit for power.
The White Sox as a team only strike out 20.2 percent of the time, which is the seventh-best rate in baseball. However, they score only 3.88 runs per game (fifth-worst in baseball), largely because of their lack of power (.124 isolated power is third-worst in baseball). Andrew Benintendi’s most notable strength is his 14.3% strikeout rate, and his primary weakness is his .093 ISO (isolated power).
Left-handed hitter or not, when a player’s biggest strength is your biggest biggest strength and his biggest weakness is your biggest weakness – all while not even above-average on defense, another area of need – he probably should not be a trade target.
2. There is no need to stress about getting Jake Burger’s bat in the lineup throughout the season:
Surely, this is an unpopular opinion, as outside of managerial complaints, the most popular discussion among White Sox fans right now is how the lineup should look when Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez return from injury in the coming weeks. Many have struggled with the configuration to keep Jake Burger in the lineup, as Burger has been on a tear, hitting .333 / .391 / .738 with a 220 wRC + over the last two weeks.
This is not a “Jake Burger cannot sustain this production!” opinion, as obviously, not even Mike Trout or Juan Soto could sustain a 220 wRC + over a full season. But, the mental gymnastics required to assemble a long-term lineup that both includes Jake Burger and the other important contributors are reminiscent of Yermin Mercedes conversations last April.
Again, that is not to claim that Burger will suffer a Mercedes-esque slump, but to illustrate that in baseball, these things tend to work themselves out. If Burger continues to hit at such a high level, he will absolutely start the vast majority of White Sox games, whether at designated hitter, third base, or even second base. If he experiences negative regression, a smaller role would make sense.
The most likely scenario is that injuries – even minor ones – will prevent this from being a real issue, should Burger continue to hit well. The elusive White Sox “full strength lineup” has rarely existed in recent years, but even across baseball, it is increasingly rare for a team to have all nine of its regulars playing together for extended periods of time. As some players return from injury, others may get hurt, and in the long run, Jake Burger will have plenty of chances to start regularly.
3. Whether or not Burger continues his hot streak, Yoan Moncada will be fine:
There is no need to present his statistics – frankly, it’s probably best not to even look at them right now. Yoan Moncada has gotten off to a rough start at the plate over his first 25 games. Naturally, this has led to all sorts of reactions. First and foremost, the sentiment that Moncada has “always” been this level of player, or that his start somehow invalidates the last few seasons (over which he has objectively been one of the league’s best third basemen) is off base. It is equally unfounded to suggest that he should be designed for assignment or traded for underwhelming returns.
That said, Moncada has been indisputably dreadful at the plate so far. While his underlying metrics do not suggest that he has been significantly unlucky, much like Yasmani Grandal was during his “slow start” in 2021, it is nevertheless difficult to agree with the premise that a twenty-seven year-old Moncada has suddenly forgotten how to hit and will never recover.
Moncada has always been a bit of a streaky player, and while his cold streaks are typically not this cold, we are still talking about just 96 plate appearances over 25 games. If Moncada gets to the 250 plate appearance mark and has not made significant strides on offense, it will be easier to worry about his future. Hopefully, this is just a nasty slump that happened to coincide with a return from injury to become even worse.
Editor’s Note:: “Three Unpopular White Sox Opinions” originally appeared on Sox on 35th.
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