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White Sox Fri Sep 12 2014

Gillaspie Helping Sox, Fans to Remember His Name

Sox_200.pngThere was a great moment during Wednesday night's White Sox game, and it was only seen by the 15,000 people in attendance at Sox Park.

A lady was on the big screen doing the "Guess the Lineup" game. After nailing the first three batters -- Eaton, Ramirez and Abreu -- she got tripped up and completely blanked on camera. She paused, accidentally said Abreu again, and then as time expired she said what sounded like "Gill-ah-sop-pee."

Say what? Of course, she meant third baseman Conor Gillaspie. While he's not household name status, Gillaspie's play this season makes him a little more well-known within this team.

A middling prospect with the Giants, the Sox acquired Gillaspie in March of last year from the Giants for the immortal Jeff Soptic. The then 25-year-old had a strong start to 2013, though, and it seemed like he could be a piece for a then-feisty Sox team. He filled a hole the Sox had at third after Kevin Youkilis departed and Jeff Keppinger got hurt.

Gillaspie had a fantastic first month, posting a .368 OBP in April. He didn't have much power, but he could hit to all fields. Then May happened and everything slowed down. He finished the year with a line of .245/.305/.390. Though he hit 13 home runs and didn't strike out much, Gillaspie was almost useless against lefties (.451 OPS).

After the Sox traded for Diamondbacks prospect Matt Davidson, it seemed like Gillaspie would be a placeholder at third. But Davidson had the season from hell in Triple-A. He hit only .199, had low-to-average slugging and isolated power numbers and struck out a ton.

Gillaspie, meanwhile, has been very good. He gets on base (.346 OBP) and makes contact. While the home run power isn't there (seven home runs), he does have 33 doubles. He pulls home runs to right field, but he sprays singles and doubles all over. He's a streaky hitter in a good way, a consistent presence in the lineup. He's had hit streaks of 11, 10, eight, seven, seven and six, and he's only had 33 hitless games (only Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu have fewer amongst regulars). The Sox shift him around in the batting order, but when he hits third he's been money - a .780 OPS in 181 plate appearances.

While some of his splits are still extreme, like home-vs.-away and lefties-vs.-righties, and though his defense is subpar (like the rest of the Sox, frankly), Gillaspie has been an all-around positive for the club this year. He has a WAR of 2.0, the fifth-best mark on the team amongst position players.

Grantland's Jonah Keri wrote in his most recent MLB roundup that the Sox, with its core of Abreu, Eaton, Chris Sale, Alexei Ramirez and Jose Quintana, could be one of 2015's surprise contenders. Keri mentioned Gillaspie, but he undersold him: Gillaspie has shown that he can hit and the Sox will have him next year at a contract worth just a little more than the minimum. Whether they play him at third, first or somewhere in the outfield, or platoon him, the Sox have an asset for next year.

He's someone the fans can get behind. If they can remember his name, at least.

 
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