White Sox

In pursuit of offense, White Sox haven't overlooked defense

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In pursuit of offense, White Sox haven't overlooked defense

Todd Frazier’s bat is critical to his new team, but the third baseman’s glove also brings significant — and much-needed — value, too.

As they try to mop up the sloppy mess left by three consecutive losing seasons, the White Sox have been hopeful to not only find players who could hit, but ones also capable of good defense.

While the team’s offense excelled in inducing boredom last season, it finished last in the American League in most major offensive categories. And the defense wasn’t much better. The 2015 White Sox finished 28th in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved with minus-39 and were last in Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-39.5), according to Fangraphs.com.

In Frazier, the White Sox finally believe they have a third baseman that can provide them with both aspects. Frazier was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds earlier this month in a three-team deal that sent Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson and Micah Johnson to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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“Certainly the offense is probably the calling card,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “You are talking about a guy who also was a Gold Glove finalist and one of the better defensive third basemen in the game, depending on which metric you trust over the last several years.”

Over the past three seasons, Frazier has averaged six Defensive Runs Saved, which ranks fifth among all qualified major league third baseman. He also has averaged a 7.8 Ultimate Zone Rating, which is also fifth.

Overall, third base wasn’t a huge problem defensively for the White Sox in 2015 because they limited the damage Conor Gillaspie could do when they replaced and traded him by July. With outstanding glovework provided by Gordon Beckham and Tyler Saladino, the White Sox finished 10th in Defensive Runs Saved with four.

But the team’s third baseman also combined to produce a .611 OPS, which ranked 30th, and only hit 16 home runs.

That’s where Frazier comes in. In the past two seasons, Frazier has blasted 64 homers, including 35 in 2015.

The White Sox also hope to receive a similar uptick in offensive production at second base from Brett Lawrie without suffering much of a defensive drop off. A strong defender at third base in his first two seasons, Lawrie is believed to be a very capable second baseman (Hahn called him ‘solid’ and thinks he is an everyday player).

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

If he can do that and hit 15 homers, as Fangraphs projects, the White Sox would feel pretty confident they have improved in both areas on the infield. And Hahn would have done so without robbing Peter to pay Paul, as he likes to say.

“While certainly the offense has been a priority, or upgrading the offense, we didn’t want to lose sight of some of the defensive issues we’ve had in the recent past,” Hahn said. “We didn’t want to give away, we didn’t want to exacerbate that problem while addressing the offense. This (Frazier) move helped us both offensively and defensively at a difficult position to fill.”

Next up, the White Sox reportedly are looking to improve upon an outfield that combined for minus-22 Defensive Runs Saved (though minus-16 came from center field). Several national reports have suggested the White Sox are pursuing corner outfielder Alex Gordon, who has saved 94 runs in six seasons.

Even if Gordon were asked to switch from left field to right, he’d provide an instant upgrade over Avisail Garcia, who has produced minus-21 runs saved over the last two seasons.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”