Danny Mendick has filled in admirably during Tim Anderson’s absence due to injury. Has Mendick’s performance earned him the right to stay long-term with the Chicago White Sox?
On Sunday, May 29, many of us White Sox fans had a feeling of dread come over us. An already injury-depleted roster suffered perhaps its most significant injury to date when shortstop Tim Anderson exited with a groin strain. To say that Anderson is the heart and soul of the White Sox would be an understatement.
Moreover, removing the one consistent performer from an everyday lineup that had struggled to build any consistency over the season’s first two months seemed like a death nail to the season. How would the Sox overcome the injury to their igniter and stay afloat long enough to make his eventual return even matter? Many of us didn’t have an answer to that question, but in the end, it has come from an unlikely source.
Filling The Gap
Once TA hit the IL, Danny Mendick immediately slotted into the everyday shortstop role. Since assuming the position in Toronto on May 31, Mendick has slashed an impressive .302/.351/.491, good for a 143 wRC+. This has certainly been a welcomed sight for an offense that was struggling to score runs. Mendick’s ability to step in for Anderson and provide a spark at both ends of the lineup has been invaluable over the past two and a half weeks.
For the season, Mendick is now hitting a solid .288/.337/.475 with three home runs and 14 RBIs, good for a 134 wRC+. This is the type of contribution the Chicago White Sox have sorely needed in the absence of so many vital contributors throughout the course of this season. Similar to what the South Siders saw from Yermin Mercedes a year ago (although the numbers aren’t close to as gaudy), the unheralded Mendick has played a critical role in the Sox offensive resurgence over the last two weeks.
This has been quite the departure from Mendick’s offensive performance since arriving at 35th/Shields during the 2019 season. From 2019 through 2021, Mendick slashed a meager .239/.298/.342 over 340 PAs, amassing a 76 wRC+. Because of the offensive inconsistency, Mendick found himself shuttling between Chicago and downtown Charlotte for much of the last three seasons.
Given the White Sox’s inability to patch the black hole that has been second base for several years now, the recent hot stretch has caused many to call into question whether or not Mendick could hold the position going forward. His defensive metrics are essentially average at the position over the course of his four big-league seasons, so he is not a liability with the leather by any means. His staying power will ultimately come down to his bat.
|Exit Velocity (in MPH)||85.1||86.6|
|Launch Angle (in degrees)||11.3||11.9|
The table above illustrates that there hasn’t really been much change to Danny Mendick’s batted ball profile. He’s barreling the ball up a little more, but still not hitting the ball particularly hard. This is one of the biggest drivers behind the discrepancy when comparing his .353 wOBA and .289 xwOBA. That’s a pretty significant swing right there — one that, unfortunately, looks as though some downward regression may be coming soon.
If the regression does happen, Mendick’s hot streak will still be viewed as vital to a team that desperately needed someone to step up, if even for a short period of time. In the absence of Anderson, the White Sox couldn’t simply rely on the presence of Jose Abreu, Andrew Vaughn, and Jake Burger to carry the offensive load. They needed a player like Mendick to give them a boost, and he has done just that.
Here To Stay?
The $27,000 question most are asking right now is: can Danny Mendick parlay his hot stretch into a long-term roster spot and the everyday second base job once Tim Anderson returns in short order?
Considering that no team in baseball has gotten less offensive production at the keystone than the White Sox thus far in 2022 (.199/.236/.282 48 wRC+), it stands to reason that Mendick may have some leeway to maintain playing time upon Anderson’s return. Veteran Josh Harrison is cooked, as I explored a few weeks back. Furthermore, the team doesn’t appear ready to do any 40-man roster maneuvering by adding the likes of Yolbert Sanchez or Lenyn Sosa, so Mendick may well be here to stay.
How long that stay is, remains to be seen. It would behoove the White Sox to ride the hot streak for as long as they can, but they should be leery of the underlying numbers I highlighted above and be prepared to address the position again, if needed.
Danny Mendick is a tremendous story of baseball perseverance. Drafted in the 22nd round out of small UMass-Lowell, few could’ve predicted that he would ever reach the Major Leagues.
He may be playing himself into a roster spot in some capacity with his recent hot stretch, and that is a remarkable feat in and of itself. Who knows, if the Chicago White Sox are able to right the ship (I’m so tired of saying that already), we may look back on his three-week tear as the thing that helped save the season when their emotional leader went down due to injury.
In a 162-game grind, you need stories and performances like that of Mendick if you are able to overcome injuries and obstacles. Unheralded sources are paramount to teams winning divisions, pennants, and championships — it’s not all about star power. Hopefully Danny Mendick can continue providing a lift to this team, because he’s already done more than several players of higher name recognition to this point.
Follow On Tap Sports Net on social media!