CHICAGO -- It's no secret that most of the Chicago White Sox future lies in the hands of recently acquired top prospects like Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Other homegrown or internationally signed players, such as Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu, are locked into the long-term future of the franchise.Outfielder
CHICAGO -- It's no secret that most of the Chicago White Sox future lies in the hands of recently acquired top prospects like Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Other homegrown or internationally signed players, such as Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu, are locked into the long-term future of the franchise.
Outfielder Avisail Garcia and reliever Tommy Kahnle have taken massive steps forward in 2017, and seem to be entering that same category -- at least in the eyes of manager Rick Renteria. With further roster shuffling emerging as an inevitability, Renteria expressed his confidence in the two who each have had breakout seasons.
Garcia, in his fifth season with the White Sox since being acquired in a megadeal from the Tigers, was always known as a quality talent. However, it wasn't until this season that the 26-year-old truly tapped into some of his projected stardom. He leads the American League with 10 three-hit games this season, and currently ranks second in the AL with a .339 batting average to go with 10 homers and 48 RBIs.
Garcia's breakout campaign could lead to a big haul on the trade market, if the White Sox should chose to go that route. But Renteria said he sees Garcia as a possible cog in turning the franchise into a contender.
"I would say that as you've seen him perform right now, you would think, yeah, this is a kid that's potentially one of the guys that's a piece of the puzzle," Renteria said. "He's still young enough. The beauty of it right now -- and I guess it's just baseball -- he's been kind of chipping away at who he is. Certainly, based on what he's doing right now, he sure does look like a piece of the future."
Garcia's career .270/.320/.409 slash line doesn't set the expectation that he can sustain this level of play going forward, but Renteria said he sees a hitter who's finally found himself rather than one who is just red-hot.
"Avi kind of built a little bit on the last year, especially in clutch-type situations, in RBI-type situations, two-out situations," Renteria said. "He was driving in a lot of runs, hitting at a high clip. I think this year, it has gone beyond just those situations. It has been throughout a number of different situations and at-bats, whether it's just to get on -- not necessarily just driving guys in, but also putting the ball in the gap or leading off with a single or something -- all those different aspects that surround a pretty good hitter."
Kahnle has had a Garcia-like emergence out of the bullpen, emerging as a critical high-leverage arm out of a surprisingly good Sox bullpen with a 1.42 ERA in 26 appearances. Renteria said Kahnle's added confidence in his fastball, which has an average velocity of 98.5 mph this season, is a key turnaround to what he called an All-Star-caliber season thus far.
The numbers back it up. Kahnle has seen his rate of strikeouts per nine innings jump from 8.2 in 2016 to 15.6 this season.
"For him to start using and trusting that he's got a 99-mile-an-hour fastball with a nice secondary offspeed pitch -- you can use that and be pretty effective," Renteria said. "I think he's starting to learn that and trust it. And he's not really into his own head as much as you might think."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.