As Mark Teahen inches closer to a return, the White Sox inch closer to the toughest roster decision they’ll make this year.
Well, it really doesn’t seem too tough. Somebody has to go from the 25-man roster when Teahen comes back, and there appear to be three options: Brent Lillibridge, Dayan Viciedo, or Mark Kotsay.
In terms of WAR, this is an easy decision. Kotsay has the lowest WAR of any player on the White Sox, at -0.9. That’s bad. Essentially, there are plenty of players in the minor leagues who could come up and be nearly a full win worth more than Kotsay.
But instead of blasting Kotsay—who, admittedly, has been pretty damn unlucky this year—I want to make cases for keeping Lillibridge and Viciedo. Why should the White Sox keep these two players and not Kotsay?
Lillibridge to somewhere
Regardless of offense, Lillibridge has value to the White Sox. He’s far more versatile than Kotsay, as Lillibridge can play second base, shortstop, third base, left field, right field, and center field.
He also provides plus speed off the bench, which is fairly important to a team that features Carlos Quentin. I’m not trying to overstate the importance of a late-inning pinch-runner, but if Quentin is on second in a close game, putting Lillibridge in there does increase the Sox’s chances of scoring.
And, on top of all of this, Lillibridge actually has been hitting. He has an absurd BABIP of .579, and while he’s been smoking the ball to the tune of a 36.8 percent line drive rate, he’s been well on the lucky side.
But he’s done a fantstic job taking the ball up the middle and to right, and as long as he stays protected in a super-sub role, hey, maybe he can keep up his ridiculous, small-sample-size offensive line.
Nobody’s getting too excited about his 0.4 WAR, but that’s 1.3 wins higher than Kotsay, which is significant.
In summary, Lillibridge’s speed, versatility, and the added bonus of offense are why he should stick around instead of Kotsay.
Dayan, fighter of the night man
I’ll admit I still have some long-term concerns regarding Viciedo and his plate discipline. He’s uber-aggressive, and eventually, the league is going to catch up to Viciedo and expose that aggressiveness.
But, for now, that Viciedo hasn’t taken a walk in 66 plate appearances doesn’t matter a lot. Ozzie Guillen lately has done a good job protecting Viciedo, and the 21-year-old has rewarded the White Sox with a .357 wOBA.
Going into Tuesday, he’s actually seen 33 at-bats against both lefties and righties, with a .417 wOBA against lefties and a .290 wOBA against righties. Viciedo hit his third home run of the year in the first game of Tuesday’s double header, that coming off Detroit left-hander Lance Thomas.
The platoon of Viciedo and Omar Vizquel seemingly has legs. Again, Viciedo has mashed lefties, while the switch-hitting Vizquel has just a .251 wOBA against lefties. And Viciedo has struggled against righties, while Vizquel has a .328 wOBA against righties (note: that wOBA is exactly average, coming in at 100 wRC+).
And that Vizquel has been a defensive replacement for Viciedo late in games has helped alleviate some of the defensive concerns that come with Viciedo at third.
But the biggest point in Viciedo’s favor may be that Mark Teahen can’t hit lefties. At all.
Granted, Teahen only has 31 at-bats against left-handers this year. But he’s been brutal in those at-bats, posting a .173 wOBA (-5 wRC+) against southpaws.
If Viciedo was sent down, the White Sox likely would go with a platoon of Vizquel and Teahen against righties and lefties. Teahen plays comparable, if not worse, defense than Viciedo and hits lefties significantly worse. That platoon, to say the least, wouldn’t make any sense.
Vizquel can’t play every day, so the White Sox would have to go with some sort of platoon situation. And Teahen/Vizquel wouldn’t work, unlike Viciedo/Vizquel.
Keeping Kotsay and sending Viciedo down would necessitate a Teahen/Vizquel platoon, unless the Sox decide to pull a fast one and platoon Lillibridge and Vizquel.
That’s not a horrible option, only because it hopefully would still force Kotsay out of the lineup. Teahen is an upgrade over Kotsay, and while Teahen is still below average, he’s not in the offensive canyon Kotsay occupies.
Really, this all comes down to getting Kotsay out of the lineup. Ideally, the White Sox get him out of the lineup by designating him for assignment, although that would raise plenty of responses about team chemistry.
I’m a firm believer that winning breeds chemistry, or, if not, if your team is winning, chemistry is insignificant.
Keeping Lillibridge and Viciedo will give the White Sox a better chance to win than sending one of them down and keeping Kotsay. So even if that hurts clubhouse chemistry, it won’t matter, because the White Sox will be a better team.
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- Mike also offered his take on the Edwin Jackson trade at White Sox Mix.
- Erik points out that Edwin Jackson’s fastball velocity goes up as a goes on.
- Over at the FanGraphs community blog, Gavin Floyd’s xFIP is discussed.
- I talked with Seth Stohs for his podcast yesterday. We had some good discussion about perceptions of managers and general managers, as I’m a big fan of Ron Gardenhire while a lot of Twins fans don’t seem to be.
- I also wrote my first post for Stan Mikita’s Donuts, The Windy Citizen’s Blackhawks Blog: Why the Blackhawks aren’t having a fire sale.