The First Ever Baines Herald Mailbag – Part 3

Eloy Jimenez in the batting cage. (WGN Radio)

Continuing the effort from my two previous posts, I’m responding to some of the great emails I’ve received about this blog with yet another entry on a single topic, because it’s a doozy. And it likely will have to be covered again next Spring Training.

As always, if you’d like to share your Sox thoughts or just general baseball questions, you can reach me at TheBainesHerald@gmail.com.

– JM writes: I mean we have to keep Eloy down this year. I’m still upset that we brought Moncada up last year.

When the mid-season prospect ratings came out last year, multiple places listed Moncada as the very best in the game. There had already been calls for his promotion (especially in light of his brief appearance with the BoSox in 2016), and not just from fans hoping for some excitement on the Southside.

There were plenty of baseball pundits who said Moncada had done enough to earn the promotion and/or didn’t have anything left to prove at the minor league level. But given what we’ve seen in the season and a half since, maybe Moncada could have used more minor league time to develop his game.

And maybe not. Maybe these struggles had to happen at the big league level and it’s good we started that process when we did. But the correct answer to that question is unknowable. And that’s the point: prospect development is a very inexact science. So it’s silly when people get all up in arms that it’s a travesty that a player hasn’t been promoted yet.

Yet that’s all I heard about Eloy when the Sox chose not to promote him in September. And not just from fans – from professionals who write about baseball, from local to national types. They even go as far as to chastise fans like me who agree with the decision to not promote Eloy, as if it’s an absolute truth that the only reasonable decision was to promote Eloy.

But while Eloy dominated everything thrown at him this year, he still was able to rack up only 228 total plate appearances at AAA. In his career he’s only had 529 PAs above A-ball. And he’s still only 21 years old (he’ll turn 22 in November).

Sure, if the Sox needed the help at the big league level, this kid absolutely was ready for the call. But they didn’t. The only reason to promote Eloy was for the good of his longterm contribution to the White Sox.

But can you really argue that having a month of ABs in mostly meaningless games is going to make that much of a difference for this kid? As in so much that it’s reprehensible that he wasn’t promoted, as some people are trying to paint it?

Any chance that it would make some major difference to Eloy’s career is offset by the equally slim chances that the kid gets hurt (see: Kopech, Michael) or struggles (see: Moncada, Yoan).

Instead, the only knowable factor in this equation is the one that the front office clearly used, even if it obviously can’t say so. That if the Sox wait until the third week of the 2019 season to promote Eloy, they pick up an additional year of team control.

A chance to re-sign Eloy for whatever arbitration dictates for one more year, rather than lose him to free agency.

You probably remember that with Kris Bryant, and it occurs with at least a few elite prospects each season. Eloy isn’t even the only guy in this situation right now. Vlad Guerrero Jr., who possibly had an even better stat line than Eloy this season, was similarly denied a September call-up by the Blue Jays and likely will also have to wait until the same mid-April 2019 promotion date.

Does it feel a bit off to have that be the deciding factor? Yep. Wanting to keep a guy from playing ball for your team in order to secure his services for an additional year isn’t ideal.

But that’s the system the White Sox have to compete within, that’s the same system their competitors are utilizing to their advantage. It was stupid for MLB and the union to set it up that way, where September call-ups and opening day roster decisions could be restricted by service time manipulation benefits. But that is the reality.

So go back to that Kris Bryant situation. He was a year older than Eloy, had more plate appearances at both AA and AAA, had played college ball, and, most important, the Cubs were planning to compete in 2015!

Yet they still kept him down until a few weeks into the year, secured the extra season of control, and to what downside? Bryant was a beast that year, winning the ROY, while the team surpassed even the loftiest of expectations, winning 97 games, a wild card game, and an NLDS series.

Bryant has shown no signs of dissatisfaction with the Cubs, serving as the face of the franchise and now set to try to recruit Bryce Harper to the organization. The Cubs’ reputation with their prospects and around the league hasn’t taken any hits, as they continue to get excellent development and are viewed as a model franchise by the players.

So yeah, I absolutely agree with the decision to deny Eloy the call-up. And I’ll agree next Spring Training when they park him in AAA up until the very day they’re allowed to call him up and still secure that extra year of control. It’s not pretty, but it’s what’s best for the Sox.

Brian Pollina is a second generation White Sox fan proudly raising a third generation on the North Side.  When not busy trying to get a Sox Mt. Rushmore of Big Frank, Harold, Uribe, and Don Cooper commissioned, he works in the radio industry.