Trade Central: White Sox Pick Up Chicagoan Tilson For Zach Duke


The Cardinals, with an MLB-best 16-9 record in July, aren’t standing pat. St. Louis is still chasing a National League wild-card spot as well as the slipping Cubs in the NL Central, despite a bullpen that’s been in flux with Trevor Rosenthal losing the closer role and Kevin Siegrist the lone consistent lefthanded option.

General manager John Mozeliak moved to strengthen that bullpen Sunday, trading outfielder Charlie Tilson to the White Sox for veteran southpaw Zach Duke. Tilson, a spare part for an outfield-heavy Cardinals system, goes home to a Chicago team and could prove an immediate upgrade to a big league White Sox roster that has given nearly 200 plate appearances to J.B. Shuck, a player with a similar profile but less ability.

Charlie Tilson, of
Age: 23

Tilson is a North Sider heading to the South Side. The Winnetka, Ill., native attended New Trier High, the same school where White Sox GM Rick Hahn prepped, and signed for $1.275 million as the Cardinals’ second-round pick (79th overall) in the 2011 draft. He missed the 2012 season with a torn labrum in his right, non-throwing, shoulder but has played at least 100 games every year since then, developing into a potential top-of-the-order hitter who profiles in center field.

With 70-grade speed his best tool, Tilson will sink or swim with his bat. He lacks power, with some scouts grading him a 30 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he has to develop enough pop to keep pitchers honest. His career isolated slugging of .099 puts him closer to Michael Bourn/Denard Span territory rather than true impact hitters.

While Tilson had a career-best 46 stolen bases in 2015, leading the Double-A Texas League, he also led the league with 19 caught stealings, and that’s his only 20-plus steal season. He had 15 steals in 18 attempts with Triple-A Memphis at the time of the trade. He has a below-average arm that is playable in center field, where he has above-average defensive ability.

Club (League) Class AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
 Memphis (PCL) AAA .282 100 351 53 99 16 8 4 34 33 51 15 .345 .407

Zach Duke, lhp
Age: 33

Duke, 33, was leading the American League in appearances with 53 and has evolved into a durable, effective reliever the last three years after spending the better part of his first seven seasons as a starter with the Pirates. A 2009 all-star with the Pirates, Duke now thrives as a lefty specialist who rarely gets squared up by lefthanded hitters.

Duke relies heavily on a two-seam fastball with good sink, and all his pitches (two- and four-seam fastballs, curveball, rarely-used changeup and slider) are geared for getting groundballs. Even though he has allowed a .264 average to same-side hitters in 2016, they have just three walks and a .082 ISO against him, as he’s tough to elevate. Lefthanded hitters posted a .604 OPS against Duke in 2015 and .569 in 2014.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO
Chicago (AL) MLB  2 0 2.63 53 0 37.2 31 11 11 2 16 42

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