The Chicago White Sox will have their third hitting coach in as many seasons after announcing Friday that Jose Castro will not return in 2024.
It is one of several changes to the coaching staff.
Longtime first base coach Daryl Boston will not be back, while assistant hitting coach Chris Johnson and bullpen coach Curt Hasler have been offered positions in the Sox player development system.
Castro replaced Frank Menechino as hitting coach in 2023. After his tenure, he moved to the Sox the Atlanta Braves assistant hitting coach from 2015-22.
The shakeup in hitting coach positions comes after a 61-101 season saw the Sox ranked near the bottom of the American League in several offensive categories, including 12th in hits (1,308) and batting average (.238).
Here are three issues the team needs to address offensively.
1. The Sox need to produce more power.
Luis Robert Jr. hit a liner near Pesky’s pole in the ninth inning of a September 23 game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Robert knew it would be fair, but wasn’t sure if it would get over the fence. It reached the front row seats along the right field line and kicked off a solo home run.
According to MLB Statcast, it was 311 feet.
“(Teammates) told me, ‘Remember, Baltimore, you hit two good balls and they didn’t leave the court. Now you hit that one and it went over the fence,” Robert said through an interpreter after the 3-2 win. “Thank God for that.”
It was the center fielder’s 38th and final home run of the season. He suffered an MCL sprain in his left knee the next day and missed the final six games of the season.
While Robert showed plenty of power and finished third in the AL in home runs, the entire offense experienced a blackout.
The Sox were tied for 11th in the AL with 171 home runs and were 12th with a .384 slugging percentage. They have suffered one or no home runs in 22 of the last 28 games and have yielded just 22 hits in that span.
Robert, Jake Burger (25) and first baseman Andrew Vaughn (21) were the only players on the team with at least 20 home runs. And that The Sox traded Burger to the Miami Marlins on August 1st. Only three other players – Eloy Jiménez (18), Yoán Moncada (11) and Gavin Sheets (10) – reached double figures.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Sox were flexing their muscles. They led the AL with 96 homers during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but finished 11th in 2021 (190 homers) and 10th in 2022 (149).
You have to find a way to turn the power back on.
2. The Sox need to show more patience.
Every team in the majors had at least 400 walks in 2023 except the White Sox, who ranked last in the major leagues with 377. They were also last in the majors with a .291 on-base percentage.
The Sox ranked fourth in the majors in walks in 2021 (586), but ranked 29th in that category in 2022 (388).
Left fielder Andrew Benintendi led the team with 52 walks in 2023. Vaughn and Yasmani Grandal followed with 36 walks each. Robert and Jiménez were the only other players on the team with at least 30 walks. Both had 30.
A four-game series against the Minnesota Twins in September at Guaranteed Rate Field highlighted the lack of patience. The Sox drew just three walks while losing three of four in the series.
“We have to control our offense and find a way to get to first base, create some free passes and get guys in when we need to,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said after a 4-0 defeat in the series finale. “It has to be a big part of our game.”
The Sox also need to reduce their major league-leading chase percentage of 32.9.
3. More consistency in the lineup.
Moncada was a major contributor to the team’s final win of the season on September 28 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The third baseman walked and scored on a two-run home run by Vaughn in the second inning and then hit a solo home run in the fourth inning for a 3-1 win.
“If I’m healthy, I can do more than I showed,” Moncada said through an interpreter after the game. “I’ve had to battle injuries throughout my career, but hopefully this will all be a thing of the past. If I stay healthy, I can do what I can do.”
Moncada had two back-related IL stays this season. Upon his return, he performed well, hitting safely with a plate appearance in 30 of his last 33 games. Moncada slashed .320/.362/.557 with seven home runs, 20 RBIs and eight walks during that time.
“Honestly, it feels good when you’re healthy,” Moncada said. “It was a tough season, but it shows. I’ve felt good for the last two months, and that’s a good thing. I can build on that next year.”
That’s what the Sox will be looking for — especially considering Moncada’s contract increases to $24.8 million in 2024 — along with the consistency of guys like Benintendi (.262/.326/.356 slash line, five home runs, 45 RBIs) and shortstop Tim Anderson (.245/.286/.296, one home run, 25 RBIs) have generally performed well in their careers. The Sox are facing a contract decision with Anderson – they have a $14 million team option with a $1 million buyout for 2024.
The Sox right fielders had a combined slash line of .219/.271/.344. There were issues at catcher (.192/.256/.311) and second base (.215/.253/.348), showing that there is a lot of room for the team to work on throughout the lineup .