Sanchez, producing at Triple-A, set to inherit starting role in opener with A's
By Scott Merkin
CHICAGO -- The White Sox optioned second baseman Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday, allowing switch-hitter Carlos Sanchez to join the team and assume the starting role starting with Friday's series opener in Oakland.
The 24-year-old Johnson -- the organization's No. 5 prospect, according to MLB.com -- won the job out of Spring Training and hit .270 with two doubles, three RBIs, eight runs scored, five walks and three stolen bases over 27 games. The left-handed-hitting rookie has worked hard since before Spring Training to improve defensively, but he has struggled with the glove to the tune of minus-8 Defensive Runs Saved, per Fangraphs.
Built to contend but struggling through 31 games, the White Sox have opted for a steadier defensive force in Sanchez, allowing Johnson to work through the kinks every day with the Knights.
"Obviously, from an offensive standpoint, he was contributing, but from a defensive standpoint, he wasn't quite as consistent, play to play, as we needed him to be at the big league level and as we expect him to be in the future," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of Johnson. "He also had a couple of questionable baserunning decisions, which I think is a part of being young and, much like the defensive side of things, will get ironed out with repetition.
"Carlos is going to bring a little bit more defensive consistency, solid baserunning. He'll be a tough out for us. He's going to help stabilize that position."
Hahn referenced Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand as players who returned to the Minors after spending an extended period in the Majors.
"Both Crede and Rowand went on to become, for lack of a better description, White Sox icons of the modern era," Hahn said. "There is no reason Micah can't follow suit. This is, we believe, a minor setback on the path to what we believe will be a successful big league career."
Sanchez broke camp with the team but has hit a robust .344 with two homers, 10 doubles and 17 RBIs over 29 games since returning to Charlotte. Hahn referred to the 22-year-old Sanchez as a relatively young player coming into his own, something the club expects to happen for Johnson.
Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio, who will continue to fill super-utility roles, can provide a respite for Sanchez if he needs a break or they offer a better matchup.
It was just two days ago when Hahn gave Johnson a vote of confidence, saying it's important to infuse homegrown talent to keep a team competitive on a yearly basis. Hahn said on Thursday that the move with Johnson "had been talked about for a while."
"I think you guys would understand that when asked about anybody on our active roster, we're not going to show all of our cards or reveal that we're going to make a change in the coming days," Hahn said. "While I'm sure Micah was disappointed with the ultimate decision, I don't think he didn't foresee it as a possibility, given some of the elements of the game that he knows he needs to get better at to have consistent success at the big league level."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.