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What do White Sox do with Danny Mendick, second base when Tim Anderson returns?

Vinnie Duber Avatar
June 16, 2022

Danny Mendick has an OPS-plus of 130.

That means he is 30 percent better than the average major league hitter.

Danny Mendick.

It’s not meant to be an insult, as Mendick has proven himself a useful piece for the White Sox during the parts of four big league seasons he’s played in his career. But it remains surprising, considering Mendick has rarely proven himself a noteworthy offensive player, more lauded for his defensive versatility on the infield and ability to spell the big guys when needed.

Don’t look now, but Mendick is currently one of those big guys, at least statistically. That OPS-plus of 130 ranks fifth on the team, behind only Tim Anderson, Andrew Vaughn, José Abreu and another somewhat out-of-nowhere surprise, Jake Burger.

Mendick has been terrific with the bat while filling in for the injured Anderson, who went on the IL after straining his groin against the Cubs on May 29. Additionally, Mendick’s played admirably in other facets, with both great moments – his play to end a bases-loaded threat and preserve a one-run lead against the Rays comes to mind – and some he’d like to forget, like the base-running mistake that cost the White Sox a run, and a win, against the Blue Jays.

But with Anderson on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte and nearing a return to the active roster, what becomes of Mendick?

For plenty, the answer seems obvious, especially with the White Sox struggling, until recently, to score runs and wallowing around .500 through two-plus months of a so far disappointing season: put him at second base.

Before the 2022 campaign began, second base seemed the most glaring hole on the White Sox’ roster. And with free-agent options snapped up before the lockout even hit, Rick Hahn turned to Josh Harrison, a former All Star, as the solution. The addition didn’t wow many at the time, and given a chance to change hearts and minds, Harrison has done little. He’s hitting .198, and that’s after raising his batting average .017 points with a three-hit day in Wednesday’s rout of the Tigers.

Leury García was slated to be in the mix at second base, too, as part of his duties as a versatile guy who can play all over. But he has also struggled at the plate. After a couple recent three-hit games himself, his average is back under .200 thanks to some notable recent struggles, including an 0-for-4 game against the Dodgers after which he admitted to feeling “like shit” at the plate and a mid-game appearance Wednesday, in which he struck out and hit into a double play while facing a pair of position players.

So second base has not been solved, not to this point.

Is Mendick the answer?

If the White Sox’ offense was still stuck in the nasty funk that it has been for much of the year, it’d seem like the perfect move: a hot bat helping a lineup full of holes emerge from a months-long malaise.

But the bats have woken up lately, the White Sox scoring 59 runs in their last seven games. In three straight wins in Detroit, they boosted their horrendous run differential from minus-56 to minus-35. Something to brag about? Not yet – we’ll see what awaits them this weekend in Houston – but a big deal for what’s been a wildly frustrating offense.

That alone doesn’t mean they need to thank Mendick for his services and send him back to Charlotte. He’s on a seven-game hit streak, with a couple homers, eight RBIs and eight runs scored in that span. That’s pretty good! And heck, it’s a lot better than any seven-game stretch Harrison or García have put together this season.

But thanks to the recent offensive surge and the contract status of all three guys, the White Sox do have, in this scenario, the blessing of time – and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take advantage of it.

With an offense suddenly revved up, they have the ability to keep waiting on the motorcycle-revving Harrison to turn things around. Though he hasn’t played super consistently, Harrison is on his own relative hot streak, hitting .368 with a .907 OPS in his last six games.

García, much maligned by the fan base but the franchise’s longest tenured player, got a three-year contract from the White Sox in the offseason and doesn’t figure to be going anywhere, even if the team showed it’s capable of making tough (and expensive) choices when it DFA’d Dallas Keuchel. Cutting Harrison loose would represent a similar type of decision, given his veteran status. Both Harrison and García are well liked in the clubhouse, showing there’s more to things than solely numbers.

Meanwhile, the White Sox are able to move Mendick back and forth between the minors and majors and not lose any of these guys. That might be a frustrating reality for fans, but it’s a six-month season and there’s a lot of it left. Sending Mendick down when Anderson returns might seem a bit of a head-scratcher, given Mendick’s success of late, but it would allow the White Sox to wait out any possible contributions Harrison could give, while still having the capability to bring Mendick back at any time.

Once Harrison’s gone, he’s gone. Not the case with Mendick.

Now, maybe the White Sox have seen enough. They’re trying to win the World Series, after all, and trying to do so after digging a sizable hole for themselves over the first couple months of the season. If Mendick’s going to get them more wins, then he’ll be the guy. Tony La Russa has pointed out on more than one occasion that the best players will play for a team trying to be baseball’s best. That might end up applying to prospects Yolbert Sánchez and Lenyn Sosa, who Hahn described recently as guys who “merit consideration to help at the big league level at some point this year.”

Additionally, second base could wind up a focus of Hahn’s at the trade deadline.

Once Eloy Jiménez returns from his rehab, the corner-outfield depth chart suddenly becomes crowded, and you’d figure to see a lot more of Vaughn at designated hitter, with Jiménez and AJ Pollock frequently manning left and right field, respectively. Yasmani Grandal, too, will one day come back from the IL, and he has demanded a lot of at-bats at DH so far this season.

It leaves second base as one of the only areas on the roster where Hahn could make a big outside addition, and maybe the baseball calendar could have something to do with the impending decisions on Mendick and Harrison, as well.

A lot can change in a short amount of time in the miles-long baseball season. Mendick is hitting well now. Without a firmly established track record of major league success at the plate, though, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him come down a bit. Harrison, meanwhile, has shown over a long career that he can be a good offensive player, and perhaps a return to form is right around the corner. We’re talking now about a White Sox offense that got fat in Detroit. But a trip to Houston – where the team went 0-6 with some of its worst performances of the season in 2021 – could make times lean again in a hurry.

In other words, this discussion could be significantly different when Anderson actually returns.

Does Mendick seem a viable option for second base right now? Absolutely. But does that mean he’ll be starting there for the rest of the season once Anderson comes back? We’ll see.

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