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Friday, June 21

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White Sox Fri Jul 12 2013

White Sox Get Boost at Catcher with Phegley

Sox_200.pngNeeding to make a change at catcher, the White Sox gave a young righthanded hitter a shot to start regularly behind the dish. The new catcher responded, crushing two home runs in his first three games. His hot start excited the fans, who began to envision a glowing future cog in the White Sox offense.

But enough about Tyler Flowers.

Okay, I'm sorry! I don't mean to be a Negative Nancy here. But you have to admit that there was an interesting parallel between Josh Phegley's hot start and the first few games of 2013 for Flowers.

Phegley got the call to the bigs last week, and so far he's been good: three homers and eight RBIs in five games. It's an extremely small sample size. But in such a dismal season, the Sox and Sox fans will take all the positives they can get, and Phegley has been a huge plus. His grand slam Thursday afternoon against Detroit gave the Sox a lead they wouldn't give up.

The 25-year-old catcher has gotten his opportunity because of a long-since cooled off Flowers. Flowers, getting his first chance in his career to start regularly after appearances in the last four seasons, quickly saw his batting average dip to just above .200 after the opening series against Kansas City. This was not a surprise in any sense: Flowers is known to be a high strikeout, low batting average guy. His power numbers (eight HRs and 22 RBIs) hasn't made up for that flaw.

Neither did his defense. Though Flowers has a 26 percent caught stealing rate, he's allowed 42 steals in 2013, tied for the fourth-most in MLB. One game stands out to me: June 25 against the Mets, when New York stole four bases, including two in the ninth inning of a close game. If teams needed to steal, they took their chances on Flowers.

In comes Phegley. Though he wasn't highly rated before the season - he didn't make the cut on Keith Law's top-100 prospect list and he was rated pretty low even just within the Sox farm system - his call up was immediately hit with fanfare. His start is being hyped to a kinda-sorta-tongue-in-cheek degree, and understandably so. The Sox needed a jolt, and he makes watching them tolerable again. Phegley is new. It's fun to root for him.

Now he just has to keep it up. Again, small sample size, but Phegley only has one hit other than a home run, and he has a 6:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In five years of minor league ball he had a 265:88 K/BB ratio, and a .417 slugging percentage. This year was Phegley's strongest year in Triple-A, with 15 homers and a .966 OPS in 61 games, so maybe something is clicking with him, or he might just finally be healthy.

It's safe to say that Flowers is who he is - a decent backup catcher who has some power - and Phegley still has unrealized upside. While they each started their 2013 seasons in similar fashions, Phegley's will have more of an impact for the Sox.

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