The 2021 season has been a sobering experience for the Chicago White Sox so far. With expectations as high as they've been in years, the team has continued to be ravished by injuries. Frequent and significant absences have tested the depth of the organization in every facet, and the most recent injury is no different.
On Monday, the White Sox lost yet another one of their key contributors for an extended period of time: catcher Yasmani Grandal.
The difference with this injury, however, is the team has a clear replacement in mind. Grandal is under contract with the team through 2023, but it is never too early to look ahead. The temporary placeholder behind the plate has become 'off the table' in trade talks, endured an interesting development cycle, and may be viewed as the long-term answer at catcher.
That player, of course, is Zack Collins.
Now Or Never
At this point in their respective careers, Zack Collins will never be able replicate the production of Yasmani Grandal. Collins can, however, give us a better look at the player he can be while Grandal is on the shelf. He has shown some growth defensively this season, but his offense has yet to really take off on a consistent basis. Collins garnered attention for his hitting potential as a prospect in the White Sox farm system, and now is the time for that talent to turn into steady results.
All things considered, Collins has shown flashes of promise this season. In a backup role, he is currently batting .236 with three home runs, 21 RBIs, and an OPS of .719. Those numbers have come in limited at-bats (123), but he will now have an opportunity to showcase his ability on an everyday basis. It's easy to forget that this is the first full season with the major league club for Collins.
Small Window, Large Implications
The next few weeks will go a long way in evaluating the South Siders' long-term outlook at the catcher position. Grandal will be the starter for the foreseeable future when he returns from the injured list, but having a player ready to take the reins when the time comes is an ideal scenario for the organization.
It's time that Zack Collins proves worthy of the protection White Sox GM Rick Hahn has reportedly given him.