Prepare for the White Sox offense to be a mess again.
New manager Robin Ventura said Saturday that he wants A.J. Pierzynski hitting second after Alejandro De Aza this season.
“He handles the bat great,” Ventura said. “He’s always a tough out. Not that he steals a lot of bases, but he handles the bat and does the appropriate things. He’s one of those guys who will hook it if you have to or put it the other way if they shift on him.”
Despite the fact that he practically never walks, Pierzynski has usually been a pretty good hitter. Even as a 34-year-old last season, he hit .287/.323/.405 in 464 at-bats. It’s also sort of admirable to see Ventura completely dismiss the speed component as a qualification for batting second.
What Ventura is completely overlooking here, though, is Pierzynski’s tendency to ground into double plays. Only eight major leaguers with 3,000 career plate appearances have grounded into double plays at a higher frequency than Pierzynski and most of them have gotten to hit with more men on base. For all of his great “bat handling,” Pierzynski has killed a whole bunch of rallies in his career.
And as it turns out, Ventura thinks Pierzynski hitting second is so important to the White Sox that he’s going to let it dictate who bats third.
“Once you put A.J. second, you don’t want to follow with Paulie (Konerko) and Adam (Dunn),” Ventura said. “Get somebody in there who can outrun them.”
Alex Rios, come on down!
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.