The Chicago White Sox will have their third hitting coach in as many seasons after announcing Friday that José Castro would not return in 2024.
It’s 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. He joined the Sox after being the assistant hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves from 2015-22.
The shake-up at hitting coach positions come after the Sox ranked near the bottom in the American League in several offensive categories, including 12th in hits (1,308) and batting average (.238), during a 61-101 season.
Here are three issues offensively for the team to address.
1. The Sox must produce more power.
Luis Robert Jr. hit a liner near Pesky’s Pole in the ninth inning of a Sept. 23 game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Robert knew it would stay fair but wasn’t sure if it would get over the fence. It reached the first-row seats down the right-field line for a go-ahead solo home run.
According to MLB Statcast, it went 311 feet.
“(Teammates) have been telling me, ‘Remember Baltimore, you hit two good balls and they didn’t leave the yard. Now you hit this one and it went over the fence,’ ” Robert said through an interpreter after the 3-2 victory. “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 displayed plenty of pop, finishing third in the AL in home runs, the offense as a whole suffered a power outage.
The Sox finished tied for 11th in the AL with 171 home runs and were 12th with a .384 slugging percentage. They were held to one or zero home runs in 22 of the final 28 games, hitting just 22 during 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 the Sox traded Burger to the Miami Marlins on Aug. 1. Only three other players — Eloy Jiménez (18), Yoán Moncada (11) and Gavin Sheets (10) — reached double figures.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Sox flexed plenty of muscle. They led the AL with 96 homers during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season but finished 11th in 2021 (190 home runs) and 10th in 2022 (149).
They 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 finished last in the big leagues with 377. They also were last in the majors with a .291 on-base percentage.
The Sox were tied for fourth in the majors in walks in 2021 (586), but 29th in the category in 2022 (388).
Left fielder Andrew Benintendi led the team with 52 walks in 2023. Vaughn and Yasmani Grandal were next with 36 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 illustrated the lack of patience. The Sox drew just three walks while losing three of four in the series.
“We have to bear down on our at-bats and find a way to get to first base and create some free passes and get guys in when we have to,” Sox manager Pedro Grifol said after a 4-0 loss in the series finale. “It has to be a big part of our game.”
The Sox also need to cut down on their major-league-leading 32.9 chase percentage.
3. More consistency up and down the lineup.
Moncada was a big contributor during the team’s final win of the season on Sept. 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, then hit a solo homer in the fourth in the 3-1 victory.
“If I’m healthy I’ll be able to do more than I’ve shown,” Moncada said through an interpreter after the game. “Injuries have been something I’ve had to deal with throughout my career, but hopefully all of that is in the past. If I stay healthy I can do what I know I can do.”
Moncada had two back-related IL stints this season. He produced after returning, reaching safely in 30 of his last 33 games with a plate appearance. Moncada slashed .320/.362/.557 with seven homers, 20 RBIs and eight walks during the span.
“Honestly it feels good when you’re healthy,” Moncada said. “It’s been a rough season, but you can notice that. The last two months or so I’ve felt good, and that’s good. It’s something I can build on for next year.”
That’s what the Sox will be looking for — especially considering Moncada’s contract jumps to $24.8 million in 2024 — along with the consistency the likes of Benintendi (.262/.326/.356 slash line, five homers, 45 RBIs) and shortstop Tim Anderson (.245/.286/.296, one home run, 25 RBIs) generally have provided in their careers. The Sox have a contract decision upcoming with Anderson — they have a $14 million team option with a $1 million buyout for 2024.
Sox right fielders had a combined .219/.271/.344 slash line. There were struggles at catcher (.192/.256/.311) and second base (.215/.253/.348), showing there’s plenty throughout the lineup for team to work on.