Charlie Tilson

Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation


Ryan Cordell goes to Triple-A as White Sox seemingly figure out center field situation

The White Sox center field situation seems to have a solution.

Ryan Cordell was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Thursday, bringing his bid to make the Opening Day roster to an end.

Cordell had a nice spring in his first action since joining the White Sox organization in last summer's trade that sent reliever Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers. Cordell was injured after playing 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, but he got some love from general manager Rick Hahn at this winter's SoxFest, with Hahn saying three teams had called the White Sox inquiring about the 25-year-old outfielder.

In 17 Cactus League games, Cordell slashed an impressive .317/.417/.512 with six extra-base hits, eight runs scored, eight RBIs, seven walks and only six strikeouts. That performance brought on the idea that Cordell could not only make the team out of camp but perhaps be the Opening Day center fielder, potentially beating out an improved Adam Engel for the job after Engel hit just .166 last season.

But Engel's spring numbers are even better than Cordell's. He's got a .364/.429/.682 slash line with four homers, 11 runs scored, eight RBIs and four walks. Plus, he's already well known as a strong defender in center after last season's impressive glove work. Spring stats don't mean much, but it's a good sign considering how ineffective Engel was at the plate last season.

With Thursday's news and Engel's impressive spring, it seems the White Sox have things figured out in center to start the season. Engel will likely be the starting center fielder, with utility man Leury Garcia an option there in a reserve role. Cordell and Charlie Tilson, who was sent to Charlotte earlier this spring, are sure get plenty of at-bats in the minors and could be called up should Engel struggle.

Both Engel and Cordell fall into the "see what you've got" category for the rebuilding White Sox. The future of the position figures to belong to highly touted prospect Luis Robert, who was reassigned to minor league camp along with pitchers Rob Scahill and Chris Volstad on Thursday, bringing the White Sox to 32 players in big league camp. But with the team not expected to contend in 2018, Engel has an extended opportunity to figure things out at the big league level. Should he struggle, someone like Cordell or Tilson could have a similar opportunity.

A new leader in the race for the White Sox starting center fielder job?


A new leader in the race for the White Sox starting center fielder job?

There seems to be just one starting job up for grabs in the White Sox lineup. And the race for that job is getting real interesting out in Arizona.

Adam Engel started 91 games in center last season but couldn't do much of anything at the plate, finishing the campaign with an ugly .166 batting average. Oft-injured Charlie Tilson has already been sent down to Triple-A. Leury Garcia fared significantly better than Engel offensively before his season was derailed by injuries, but he might have more value as a utility man off the bench.

Enter Ryan Cordell.

The prospect acquired in last summer's trade that sent Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers, Cordell has been on fire at the plate during spring training. In eight games, he's posted a .421/.560/.684 slash line with four extra-base hits, six RBIs and six walks compared to just two strikeouts. His spring performance was highlighted by Thursday's big day: 3-for-3 with three doubles, four RBIs and a walk.

You might remember that Cordell got some hype from general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when Hahn revealed that three different teams had called to inquire about Cordell since the White Sox acquired him.

Cordell spent his first four seasons of professional baseball in the Texas Rangers' system, and he fared pretty well statistically as he moved through the minor leagues. He was the player to be named later in the swap that sent Jonathan Lucroy from the Brewers to the Rangers in September of 2016. Cordell played 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017, slashing .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers, 18 doubles and 45 RBIs before suffering a significant back injury that ended his season.

Well, he's back with a force now and could potentially be moving into the lead in the race for this starting gig in center field. It's worth noting that last season he played all over the outfield and at third base, too, racking up 29 games in right, 15 in left, 12 at third and 10 in center. But if he were to be an everyday outfielder with the White Sox, you'd have to imagine most of the available playing time being in center, with Avisail Garcia entrenched in right and Nicky Delmonico figuring to get the bulk of the action in left.

For what it's worth, Engel's offense has also been improved this spring. He's slashing .263/.391/.632 through nine spring games with a couple homers and four RBIs. Garcia, meanwhile, is slashing .276/.300/.448 in 11 spring games.

Spring training stats are really nothing that anyone should get overly worked up about, and Rick Renteria mentioned early in spring that he doesn't even put too much stock into spring performance.

The White Sox are obviously wild about what Engel can do defensively, and giving him a chance to prove himself capable at the plate during a season in which the team isn't expected to contend for a championship of any kind makes a fine amount of sense.

But Cordell is in that same "see what you've got" category, and after doing so well at the Triple-A level last season, he deserves his shot in the big leagues soon, if not by Opening Day.

There are still almost three weeks until the White Sox open the 2018 season in Kansas City, and a lot can happen during that time. But keep an eye on Cordell, who might just be playing his way into a featured role on the 2018 White Sox.

Charlie Tilson optioned to Triple-A, adding a bit of clarity to race for White Sox center field job


Charlie Tilson optioned to Triple-A, adding a bit of clarity to race for White Sox center field job

Who's going to be the White Sox everyday center fielder?

That question doesn't have an answer yet, but the situation got a bit clearer Tuesday morning, when the White Sox optioned Charlie Tilson to Triple-A Charlotte.

Tilson figured to be a candidate for center field, getting back to full strength after missing almost the entirety of his White Sox tenure with injuries. But he'll apparently at least start the season in Charlotte after getting three hits in 18 at-bats during the White Sox first couple weeks of Cactus League action.

This bodes well for Adam Engel, who's been on a recent hot streak in Arizona, picking up four of hits and a pair of homers in his last two spring training games.

Engel's glove was never in question last season, when he made 91 starts in center field for the White Sox, but he struggled at the plate, slashing a woeful .166/.235/.282.

Who knows if Engel's recent tear will carry through the remainder of spring training or into the regular season — almost the totality of his spring production has come in just two games. But with Tilson getting sent down, Engel's spot on the roster appears safe, even if in a backup role.

Leury Garcia could potentially still prevent Engel from starting in center. Garcia played there last year before injuries brought an end to his 2017 campaign. He hit much better than Engel, slashing .270/.316/.423 with nine homers in just 87 games.

But Garcia's versatility as an infielder and outfielder means Engel could still see plenty of time as Garcia bounces around the diamond to spell the everyday infielders.

Another option in center field could be Ryan Cordell, who boasts four hits, including a triple, and four walks in six spring games so far.

In addition to Tilson's optioning, relief pitcher Thyago Vieira was also optioned to Triple-A Charlotte. Jake Burger, Dylan Covey, Jordan Guerrero, Michael Ynoa and Alfredo Gonzalez were all reassigned to minor league camp.

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