The professionals do a fine job of belittling fans, expressing exasperation at the ideas and feedback of readers and listeners, and chastising all those who might err on the side of high expectations for their premium-priced professional sports franchise, but after 96 games, it's noticeable that the goalposts have moved.
No longer is the populace--and media--scanning for a sign of life after the horrid reckoning that was 2013, they've moved on to viewing what this team is lacking to be a playoff contender in the here and now. With all that's happened so far, that could be the new mindset going for 2015 for fans and management alike, but it still takes away from what we were aiming for coming in.
It occurred to me early on that this was getting way too expansive for a single post and would need to be broken up.
Get the new guys feet on the ground
-Avisail Garcia dislocated his shoulder, so that's not going well. He continues to be optimistic about returning for at least the final month, so there's potential for not all being lost, but this time would likely serve just to kick off four-to-five months of rust sooner than later. Garcia has more or less lost a year of much needed development. He's still very young (23), so this is not analogous to the Jared Mitchell injury, but if it turns out he's still too raw to be productive just yet, that would have gone over much better this year than next.
-Adam Eaton has certainly been worth Hector Santiago, if nothing else. When healthy, he's been a player who fulfills a lot of needs on this club, and whose weaknesses are not huge issues here. He's a plus-fielding, confident and sure-handed centerfielder in the middle of an outfield defense that's been typically helpless. A .340 OBP with no power is not an amazing hitter, but Eaton takes pitches on a team that does not, has the leadoff role nailed down, and has shown spurts of even better play in the past. Can't be mad at him.
-Erik Johnson has been very easily forgotten about, which isn't a good sign. If only there was some sort of easy injury explanation for his velocity and control loss, but no, there is plugging away in Charlotte, not getting anyone out nor throwing any strikes and horrifying poor Knights fans. Between MLB and Triple-A, he's thrown 100 innings already. He's basically out of the long-term plans until something drastic happens.
-Marcus Semien earned plenty of praise for how he handled a difficult role, but the excitement has been dampened a bit. He was praised for knocking in late runs in Chicago, and his Triple-A line (.221/.323/.400) still has plenty evidence of a mature plate approach amidst another feverish slate of position changes, and can be explained as poor batted ball luck (.236). But Semien was barely a prospect until he forced the issue with production, and now he's not forcing anything. With a 31.3% career MLB strikeout rate, he can't even provide reasonable assurance that he could equal the work of Alexei Ramirez or Gordon Beckham, and that's what's kept those two guys entrenched for so long already.
-Matt Davidson had a really good month of June and has hit a lot of home runs this year, but would have to be showing significant momentum to make a .287 Triple-A OBP promotable. He was never going to be an awesome OBP guy nor post a high batting average, but he either needs to be less of an extreme strikeout guy or more of an extreme plate patience guy. Right now, there's nothing forcing the issue. Conor Gillaspie has proven himself more than an effective placeholder at third, and the first base/DH slot is still jammed. This isn't an Erik Johnson situation where you should forget Davidson exists until told otherwise, but the next competitive Sox team does not start or stop for Davidson.
-Jose Abreu is too good. Not actually too good, but too good to qualify as a guy getting his feet under him. He's now a member of the core, he's a clear foundational piece in his prime, and Sox management has to think about getting the best use out of Abreu's best years. He's the best, but he also created more work for everyone! No one would change their competitive window for a first baseman with a .810 OPS.
Tomorrow, we will focus on the status of the core of the franchise. Yay!
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