Entering the season, one of the questions facing the Chicago White Sox was how they would replace Eloy Jimenez's production. Jimenez, who suffered a shoulder injury during spring training that will sideline him for most of the year, has accumulated a career .276/.321/.527 slash line (122 OPS+) and 45 home runs in 177 big-league games.
The smart money was, undoubtedly, on a White Sox rookie hitter stepping up to fill the void. So far, that has proven to the case -- it just hasn't been the rook people may have expected. Instead of former No. 3 pick Andrew Vaughn emerging as a readymade middle-of-the-order hitter, the White Sox have benefitted in their opening series from a brow-raising weekend from Yermin Mercedes, a 28-year-old rookie originally acquired from the Baltimore Orioles during the minor-league phase of the 2017 Rule 5 draft.
Mercedes received his first playing time of the season Friday night, as well as his first career start, and he responded with a 5-for-5 effort including with a double and four runs batted in against the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Tony La Russa tabbed Mercedes for another start Saturday, and he delivered his first career home run. In his second at-bat, he added a single, before then doubling in his third and, at last, flying out to center in his fourth.
Nevertheless, Mercedes became the first player in modern history to begin the season with eight consecutive hits, according to the kind folks at the Elias Sports Bureau.
Mercedes was just the second player since 1974 to start 7 for 7, joining Chris Stynes, who did it in 1997. One difference between what Mercedes did and what Stynes did is that Stynes' run didn't come at the start of the season. He didn't take his first MLB swing until August, but he would subsequently hit a career-best .348/.394/.485 (128 OPS+) in 49 games. Stynes followed up his first out, made in his eighth at-bat, with a home run.
Tune in Sunday to find out if Mercedes can do the same.