(670 The Score) Plagued by injuries this season, the White Sox have overcome adversity thanks in part to receiving huge contributions from their rookies.
The club has used 11 players with rookie status in 2021, and they’ve helped fill the void created by long injury absences for a pair of stars in center fielder Luis Robert and slugger Eloy Jimenez. On Monday night, it was rookie outfielder Gavin Sheets who hit a walk-off three-run homer to lift the White Sox to a 5-3 win against the Twins. He was just the latest youngster to shine in a big moment and help the White Sox carry an American League-best 57-37 record into play Tuesday.
For his part, the 25-year-old Sheets is hitting .245 with five homers, 14 RBIs and a .966 OPS in just 16 games.
“We were trained in the system to work hard and believe in ourselves as White Sox players,” Sheets said Tuesday. “(Triple-A Charlotte) manager Wes Helms and hitting coach Chris Johnson talked to us all the time about being mentally prepared each day. The coaches and players here have made the transition great for us.”
Another big rookie contributor is Andrew Vaughn, who has filled in admirably for Jimenez in left field, a position he learned on the fly after coming up as a first baseman. Vaughn, 23, is hitting .240 with 10 homers and a .733 OPS while playing solid defense.
Lately, infielder Jake Burger has made an impression as well, hitting .313 with a .951 OPS in 12 games. Opportunity opened for him in part because rookie second baseman Nick Madrigal went down with a season-ending hamstring injury after producing at a high level.
"We had good training in the minor leagues,” Burger said while also crediting Helms and Johnson. “They taught us how to handle our emotions like playing in front of bigger crowds in Charlotte. That mental preparation has helped me and the other young guys here.”
Sheets and Burger both also credited a welcoming clubhouse atmosphere.
“When you know the players and coaches have faith in you and your game, it's really helpful,” Sheets said.
Added Burger: "You learn from your mistakes here, and it's not used against you. They have shown me a lot of patience. There have been a lot of tough times for me (two major Achilles injuries) in the last three years. Starting with the front office, Chris Getz and the development people, it's been about the culture and family in this organization.”
In the bullpen, right-hander Michael Kopech has been sensational in his rookie season, with a 1.49 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 19 outings. Left-hander Garrett Crochet (2.93 ERA) has always been a strong contributor. While maturing on and off the field, both have moved up the chain of importance in whom manager Tony La Russa trusts.
“Going out there and competing wherever they need me is a relief for me,” Kopech said. “Pitching is any place they need me is my mindset right now. It’s been cool.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.