White Sox can’t win for losing
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DETROIT – The only good thing about falling out of contention in the final two months of a season should be the opportunity for prospects to get playing time, develop at the major league level and be evaluated.
For the snake-bitten White Sox, they can’t even make that happen. Two days after making his major league debut Tuesday, outfielder Charlie Tilson – acquired in the only Sox trade before Monday’s non-waiver deadline – will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn left hamstring.
Tilson joins third baseman Matt Davidson, catcher Kevan Smith and outfielder Jason Coats as prospects who didn’t finish their debuts because of injuries, or in Smith’s case, never got on the field because of a pregame back lock-up.
What are the odds?
“It’s crazy, it’s unfortunate,” manager Robin Ventura said Wednesday of Tilson, who was rated as the Sox’ fifth-best prospect by MLB.com after the Cardinals dealt him for veteran left-hander Zach Duke.
“I can’t even imagine. For these kids, this is a dream. He gets called up, gets a hit in his first at-bat and after that it all gets taken away from you for a while. It’s tough. ‘’
With a good showing in August and September, Tilson, who probably rated a slight edge above AAA center field prospect Jacob May, could have gone into spring training as the one to beat in center. Now the Sox won’t have anything to go on aside from Tilson’s minor league scouting reports.
Same for Davidson, an Arizona Diamondbacks first-round pick who had taken a step forward at AAA Charlotte after struggling for two seasons.
“More importantly for them, for their future,’’ Ventura said. “They would have an opportunity to play and impress or get an opportunity that a lot of people don’t get. There are a lot of guys that play this game that don’t get an opportunity, that aren’t afforded it, and I think that’s where you really feel for the kids.’’
It’s not like the Sox have a stockpile of kids to look at. They have been stuck in the middle of the baseball pack since their last playoff appearance in 2008 and the reasons run deep but start with a system that has graded poorly for drafting and developing talent, especially position players. To patch up roster deficiences, they’ve traded away good prospects such as Marcus Semien (for Jeff Samardzija) and Trayce Thompson (for Todd Frazier).
“They have nothing,’’ one major league scout said. “The cupboard is bare.”
To compensate on the fly, general manager Rick Hahn has tried to patch up the dearth of young talent with trades such as Jake Peavy for Avisail Garcia, Hector Santiago for Adam Eaton, Addison Reed for Davidson and Duke for Tilson. So far, only the Eaton trade can be called a win.
Meanwhile, the Sox’ last two first-round picks, pitchers Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer, are still finding their way in their second and first seasons, respectively. Both have premium stuff but are fighting command issues, Rodon (2-8, 4.67 ERA) after an excellent second half as a rookie last year and Fulmer (0-1, 12.79 ERA) as well, albeit only over six appearances. But Fulmer wasn’t a strike-thrower in the minors, either.
This current state of the Sox has many fans as well as some in the Sox organization pushing for a bold rebuild that could involve trading lefty All-Star Chris Sale, who was excellent again but lost 2-1 to the Tigers Wednesday, or All-Star lefty Jose Quintana, who starts Thursday. Or both.
That didn’t happen at the deadline as many hard-core fans were hoping but it could during the offseason, that is, if chairmain Jerry Reinsdorf is prepared to do it. Sources say Reinsdorf, who always leans toward trying to put a winner on the field now with the resources available, isn’t totally convinced that’s the way to go.
Perhaps watching the current product on the field these last two months will make things clearer, one way or another.