A common belief in baseball is that a winning team is created up the middle. As the Chicago White Sox undertake in a rebuilding movement in order to place the team in a position to compete long term, they have made steps to do so by enhancing their team up the middle.
As the 25-man roster sits right now, the White Sox have two top-of-the-rotation arms in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, an All-Star caliber shortstop in Alexei Ramirez, an improving Gordon Beckham, and their long-term answer in center field in grinder Adam Eaton. GM Rick Hahn has enhanced these positions for the long term in his brief year-and-a-half at the helm with the acquisition of Eaton, while signing Sale and Quintana to lengthy extensions.
With all three of the players at the age of 25, the Sox believe that these pieces will be the face of the future. However, with Ramirez being 32 years old and Beckham being prone to fall off the map offensively, the team is prepared to upgrade at those positions in any way they see fit.
It is well-documented how deep the White Sox are in their minors in regards to the middle infield. Marcus Semien has displayed that he has the range to play at the big league level, and Micah Johnson has excelled at a rapid pace both offensively and defensively during his tenure in the minors. However, it is another budding prospect, Carlos Sanchez, who might be the one that pushes Ramirez or Beckham out of town.
Throughout his six-year career in the White Sox minor league system, Sanchez has quietly shot up the ladder. In his third season in triple-A Charlotte, he is off to the best start of his career. Batting .301 with an OBP of .381, Sanchez has been an on-base machine in an otherwise sparse lineup.
While Sanchez presents no power, his two home runs this season are a career-high already, and his ability to hit to all fields stands out. An ideal leadoff hitter due to his bat and speed, the switch hitter could solidify the No. 2 hole in the Sox lineup. Coupled with Eaton and Conor Gillaspie at the top of the order, Sanchez would give the Sox three hitters that possess an ability to reach base ahead of big bats like Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia when they are both healthy.
At the age of 21 and already possessing six years of minor league experience, Sanchez has shown that he is well ahead of the curve. With Ramirez under team control for another two years after 2014, he presents the Sox with an intriguing trade chip this summer. His $10 million dollar price tag in 2015 and 2016 will not be the easiest to move, but also will not incredibly difficult.
Only Hahn knows how long the team will believe in Beckham. The second baseman’s history of inconsistencies point to the fact that he will probably start hitting around .260 in the coming weeks. He also could be moved this summer due to him being under team control next season and his team-friendly $4.175 million contract this year.
With the emergence of Sanchez, the Sox are less hesitant to deal one or both parts of the double play tandem that has been together on the South Side since 2009. Promoting Sanchez will be the next step in the Sox’s plan of solidifying the team up the middle for years to come.
Out with the old and in with the new: a fitting motto of what the White Sox are trying to do.