Baseball

2019 Stats

.186/.307/.349

3 HR 12 RBI

13.7 BB% 38.2 K%

.285 wOBA 77 wRC+ .656 OPS

-4 Defensive Runs Saved

 

Tell Me A Story: While not on the same level of anticipation for the likes of Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins’ minor league career was watched very closely this season with the expectation he would be up and making a difference with the big club sooner rather than later. The waiting game ended on the 19th of June when Beef Welington went on the IL with some type of brain damage and Collins’ contract was purchased by the White Sox, officially putting him on the 40-man roster.

The expectation among sportswriters, bloggers, and fans alike was that Collins would be getting ample playing time at catcher, first base and designated hitter. What would the point of him being up at the major league level if not to see what he can do? In Collins’ first full game against the Rangers on the 21st of June, he showed just a taste of what he could do by smoking an Ariel Jurado fastball just right of dead center in Arlington (estimated at 445, no cheapie) for his first ever major league hit and home run.

Unfortunately that would be the only highlight of his first stint in the majors, as he played less than half the time before he was sent back down to Charlotte on July 14th. During that three-week span that he was up, Collins only started in seven of a possible 21 games, losing playing time and at-bats to White Sox legends like AJ Reed and Yonder Alonso. Why did the White Sox call up Collins and start his service time clock to park him on the bench 66% of the time? I honestly have no idea, and I have a sneaking suspicion neither does Rick Hahn or Renteria. Hahn would later claim that they saw something wrong with his approach at the plate and banished him back to AAA to work on it.

Credit where it’s due, after being sent down to Charlotte to work on that nebulous issue Collins began to absolutely rake at the plate. He slashed .281/.403(!)/.951 the rest of his time down there until he was inevitably called back up during roster expansion this past September. After being called back up, Collins got consistent playing time the rest of the month, both behind the plate and at 1B. He started out slowly after his return, but caught his stride the last 12 games of the season, hitting .293 with an .882 OPS and just under half of his hits being the extra base variety.

Behind the plate, Collins seemed to struggle to manage the game effectively. Runners stole bases on him at will, only being caught 11% of the time. He was at least able to keep the ball in front of him, however, only accounting for one passed ball which makes him look like a young Pudge Rodriguez compared to Welington Castillo. Granted he only started 6 games at catcher after being recalled, which again is kind of weird considering the Sox would certainly want to see what he has defensively if he’s going to be in the mix for catching in The Future™.

Contract: Team control next season, arbitration eligible 2023. Base salary is $550,000

Welcome Back or Boot In The Ass: Unless there’s a team out there who tosses an offer Rick Hahn’s way that he absolutely cannot ignore, Collins is coming back to the Sox in 2020 and will most likely be with the big club the entire season.

The main question concerning Collins’ playing time will be answered here shortly in December at the winter meetings. If Hahn is able to secure a player like Yasmani Grandal to play with the White Sox in 2020, Zack Collins’ positional future is gonna be in flux. In that scenario, Collins would most likely be splitting time between first base and designated hitter, with occasional starts behind the dish at catcher.

Even if the Sox don’t land Grandal, Hahn will most likely be shopping for a backup catcher as long term profile for Collins doesn’t show much more than occasionally spelling James McCann full time behind the plate. In a perfect world, the Sox sign Grandal and create a rotating conga line between 1B, DH and C for Grandal, Collins and Jose Abreu (who is almost certainly a lock to return.)

If Collins is able to progress at even half the rate Yoan Moncada or Eloy Jimenez has, the Sox will have themselves the kind of player who can get on base at an excellent clip (I don’t expect him to have a +.400 OPB again, but even .370 isn’t out of the question) and occasionally hit for power from the left side of the plate. Guys like that don’t grow on trees, and with some advancement in skill it will be worth the Sox time to try and find a spot in the lineup for him, wherever that may end up being.

Baseball

2019 Stats

.209/.267/.417

12 HR 41 RBI

6.4 BB% 29.5 K%

.287 wOBA 78 wRC+ .684 OPS

-10 Defensive Runs Saved (ouch)

 

Tell Me A Story: Ahhh Beef Welington. The latest in the long line of White Sox free agent signings that made me go “I like it!” and ended with “give this asshole to Elon Musk and let him fire him to the moon.” Almost immediately his two-year, $15 million dollar contract proved to be a ginormous mistake when he was busted for PEDs in May of 2018. This resulted in an 80-game suspension that lasted till the middle of September, after which he hit a very pedestrian .241/.293/.478.

Castillo said he was going to double down on his efforts over the winter to make sure the Sox got their money’s worth out of him. Undeterred, Rick Hahn came up with a Plan B in the form of James McCann, which turned out to be a very wise move indeed. Castillo came out of the gate in April sputtering, only managing to hit .204 while McCann blasted everything thrown at him. It wasn’t long after where Castillo began to lose more and more playing time to McCann, essentially relegated to being Reynaldo Lopez’ personal catcher before long.

Castillo was brought aboard the team strictly for his ability to hit for power, which while not ending up as Yonder Alonso-levels of shitty, was still not what the Sox thought they’d be getting when they signed him to the deal. In 2017 with the Orioles he hit .282 with 20 home runs with a 25% K-rate. With the Sox, his K-rate spiked to 29% and he only managed to hit 12 bombs. His career line drive rate of 21% was merely wishful thinking in 2019 as it fell to a career low 16.5%. His hard hit rate also dropped about 6% during his tenure with the Sox. I’m not going to say the lack of PEDs in his system resulted in this power dip, but I’m also not not saying it.

His defense became an issue as well. In the past, Castillo was a bat-first defender but had posted a few years with a positive DRS score, most recently in 2017 with the Diamondbacks when he was a +3. In the month of September in 2018 he managed a -6, and then in 2019 it all fell apart. Any ball in the dirt or above his shoulders was going to the backstop, and he made the entire thing look like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees.

The Sox were in the bottom 3rd of the league in allowing passed balls with 13. A whopping nine of them were attributed to Castillo. When you consider the fact that he was only the primary catcher in less than a quarter of the games the Sox played, that’s pretty fucking terrible.

Contract: Team option for 2020 at $8 million dollars with a $500,000 buyout, which the Sox will exercise.

Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Big ole boot in the ass for this one. The Sox will exercise the $500,000 buyout for Castillo’s last year and send him on down the road like sad Bruce Banner in the Hulk TV show. With Zack Collins and James McCann available for catching duties and the looming possibility of Yasmani Grandal being available it makes zero sense to keep Big Beef Welington around. I’d say it’s been fun, but that would only be true if I were comparing it to the time Yonder Alonso spent here. Hard pass on both.

Previous Sox Reviews

James McCann

 

 

Baseball

Sox fans got another toy to play with (well, watch) last night when it leaked out that Zack Collins will be called up in time for the NBC Sports Chicago Holy War at Wrigley Field over the next few days. Collins is the White Sox top catching prospect, though there is some conjecture about whether he can stick at catcher over the long haul. But we’ll get there. He’s going to have to catch to play in the next two games, as there won’t be a DH, and the Sox aren’t going to sacrifice Jose Abreu.

Collins certainly has impressive numbers in the minors, especially for a catcher. He had a .364 wOBA in Charlotte this year, and a .363 wOBA in AA last year. Especially for a catcher, you’d take that in a heartbeat. They’re not other worldly, and pale in comparison to the totals that other prospects like Jimenez or Moncada put up before getting their call, but the parameters are different for catchers. Also, considering AAA has gone to the major league baseball this year and have hence been flying around like Canadian soldiers before drowning in Joba Chamberlain’s sweat, you might want to see it a touch higher (now that’s a reference for you!).

The big concern with Collins is the whiff. His strikeout rate has gone up every season and promotion to every level in his journey to 35th and Shields, and in AAA this year his K% was a scary 32.9%. Yes, it’s a strikeout game, but what that portends to at the top level is enough for teeth-grinding and collar-tugging. What Collins does have that a lot of young players k-ing at that rate don’t is an absurd walk-rate. He was getting a free pass at 17.5% this year, and was at 19.4% last year. For comparison’s sake, the leader in walk percentage in the majors is Mike Trout at 21%, and that’s MIKE TROUT who most are terrified of. The next is Dan Vogelbach at 18%, so you can see where Collins’s handling of the zone is unique. You’d think that someone who knows the zone that well would get the bat to the ball more often, but we said the same thing about Adam Dunn. Still, if you’re on-base is over .370, as it has been for Collins at every level, you don’t really care where the outs come from. And if he ever did improve his bat-to-ball skills, then you really have something.

It may just be as an injury fill-in for Welington Castillo, who tweaked his back yesterday. Most Sox fans are happy to see the back of Castillo, as he’s been outplayed by James McCann by some distance and an appetite for Collins. Still, you wouldn’t want to call Collins up and then have him be simply a backup. Perhaps the Sox can get him ABs at first and DH, where Yonder Alonso is leaving mostly a foul smell after his Manny Recruitment assignments lie in ruins. Collins did play nine games at first this year for the first time in his pro career, so you know the Sox were at least thinking about this.

And it might not even work that way. Don’t look now, but McCann’s numbers have been sliding since April. His hard-contact is down, his average is down, his grounders are up, and he’s no longer getting the ridiculous fortune of righteous BABIP Kung Fu Treachery, which was over .400 for a good portion of the season. He still very well may be an All-Star, but it’s a trend worth keeping an eye on.

It’s hard to pinpoint why McCann’s contact has dropped off. He’s being thrown the same mix of pitches as before, though over the last month fastballs up in the zone have been the go-to. But if McCann continues to slide, it only opens up a larger window for Collins.

Exciting times on the Southside…until Despaigne takes the mound at least.