White Sox

White Sox coaching staff will rely more heavily on statistics

White Sox coaching staff will rely more heavily on statistics

Statistical analysis will weigh more heavily on the White Sox coaching staff’s daily decisions after Joe McEwing was elevated to Rick Renteria’s bench coach on Friday.

McEwing -- whose influence led to a 957 percent increase in defensive shifts utilized from 2013-16 -- replaces Renteria, who was named the team’s new manager on Oct. 3 after Robin Ventura announced he wouldn’t return.

Former player development director Nick Capra replaces McEwing as third-base coach while Curt Hasler was promoted from minor-league pitching coordinator to replace bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen.

McEwing’s promotion is another sign the franchise will stress the use of statistical analysis when constructing its lineup, etc., a move Ventura suggested was in progress when he said the White Sox needed a new voice. Renteria likes how he worked with McEwing last season and suggested analysis would have a big impact on their day-to-day operations.

“All the information that is provided to us plays an important part in how we move forward,” Renteria said. “We look at outcomes, which are the statistical analysis aspects. But then we are also trying to stay ahead of the curve. We do a lot of video work, trying to see if guys are changing their approaches. In terms of the shifts, we did incorporate shifts, but we also did some modifications as was to be expected when you see guys changing approaches with two strikes and things of that nature or runners in scoring position -- all those different aspects that come into play.”

Similar to many organizations, the White Sox have drastically modified how they align themselves defensively over the past four seasons under McEwing and general manager Rick Hahn. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox went from being ranked 27th in shifts implemented in 2013 to ninth by 2014 with an increase from 102 to 588. The White Sox shifted 1,079 times last season and McEwing has been instrumental in that transformation, several team sources said. It’s reasonable to expect analysis will be used more often in lineup construction and game strategy under Renteria, too. He didn’t shy away from the use of statistical analysis when he managed on the other side of town in 2014, Cubs third-base coach Gary Jones said last week.

“It’s part of our daily preparation,” Jones said. “Rick is good with it as we are right now. It was definitely a part of the equation, no doubt.”

[RELATED: White Sox announce coaching staff changes] 

Renteria cited familiarity when asked why he didn’t go outside of the organization for coaching staff hires. McEwing has long been held in high regard within the franchise and interviewed for managerial openings in Houston and Texas in 2014. Renteria suggested McEwing’s work ethic -- and how he works -- had a big impact on his promotion.

“Having sat side by side (with McEwing) going over a lot of game reviews and studying the opposition and setting up defense, I got to know him quite well,” Renteria said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s in there early looking for anything that will give us an edge. His managing experience and coaching experience also allows him an opportunity to be able to serve me well.

“It’s a good fit. We both are kind of high energy. Joey might be a little higher energy than me and I didn’t think that was possible. He brings a lot to the table.”

The White Sox announced the rest of its staff -- first-base coach Daryl Boston, pitching coach Don Cooper, hitting coach Todd Steverson, assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks and bullpen catcher Mark Salas -- would return in 2017.

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.”