White Sox

White Sox confident in less-hyped position player prospects

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White Sox confident in less-hyped position player prospects

All eyes will be on Tim Anderson this summer, with the White Sox top prospect in position to make a move toward locking down the team’s starting shortstop job at some point.

The White Sox haven’t drafted/signed and developed a consistently productive position player since the early 2000s, when Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede both emerged as everyday guys and key cogs in 2005’s World Series title run. But beyond Anderson, there are some players in the farm system that those in the White Sox front office believe have the right traits to become solid major league players down the road.

Baseball America’s recently-released list of the White Sox top 10 prospects features six position players: Anderson (No. 1), 3B Trey Michalczewski (No. 4), OF Jacob May (No. 5), OF Adam Engel (No. 7), OF Courtney Hawkins (No. 9) and 1B Corey Zangari (No. 10).

Engel, while he’s a 24-year-old who hasn’t played above advanced Class-A Winston-Salem, put himself on the team’s radar with an impressive 2015 in which he hit .251/.335/.369 with 65 stolen bases. He followed the regular season by winning the Arizona Fall League’s MVP honors, hitting .403 with a 1.165 OPS.

What those in the White Sox organization have seen from Engel recently is an improved offensive approach, which he’s married with his excellent athleticism to become a player to keep an eye on in 2016.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Top prospect Tim Anderson wants to prove he can stay at SS]

"I don’t know if we’ve got a better athlete in our system than Adam Engel,” White Sox amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. “He’s as athletic a runner as anybody we have. He’s a plus, plus defender, he can go get the ball from gap to gap, he’s a pitcher’s dream.

“He’s been a guy that all of his career, even back to college, he struggled with consistency at the plate. It’s more for him as far as consistency where he’s not taking the same approach up each time. And that’s something that he’s worked extremely hard on with our (player development) guys and he has looked terrific in the fall league, he looked good the last couple days out here, he’s really buying into a repetitive approach at the plate and I think we’re going to see next year, Double-A, the guy that can blossom and just become the real deal.”

Engel was a 19th-round pick out of the University of Louisville in 2013 -- hardly a position in which many players are able to push into the major leagues. The last White Sox 19th-round pick to reach the majors was third baseman Chris Heintz, who was drafted in 1996 and played in 34 games for the Minnesota Twins from 2005-2007. But Engel’s dedication has put him on the map as a guy who could have a chance to break through someday.

“Great mentality,” White Sox director of player development Nick Capra said. “The kid’s a dirt dog, he works his tail off. He’s one of our best workers. … He really listens, he applies what he learns, just an outstanding kid. I can’t say enough about his work ethic.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: Tim Anderson headlines Baseball America's White Sox prospect rankings]

Michalczewski, on the other hand, just completed a full season at Winston-Salem as a 20-year-old -- about two and a half years younger than the league average player. While he only hit seven home runs with a .395 slugging percentage, he did hit 35 doubles, and the organization is optimistic those doubles will begin turning into home runs once his 6-foot-3 frame fills out.

“He’s still growing into his man body,” Hostetler said. “He’s still a young kid. … He’s getting stronger, getting bigger. Once that man strength comes in the next year or so there’s going to be an uptick in home runs.”

Zangari was an intriguing inclusion on Baseball America’s list, given the 18-year-old 2015 sixth-round pick only played in 54 rookie ball games last summer. But the 6-foot-4, 240-pound first baseman hit six home runs with a .316/.358/.481 slash line and has as much raw power as anyone in the White Sox farm system.

But beyond his hitting ability, both Hostetler and Capra pointed to Zangari’s intangibles as a reason to be intrigued by the Oklahoma City native.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“Really good kid,” Capra said. “He’s a goofy kid in a good way. Very personable, smart kid.”

“He’s an absolutely terrific makeup kid,” Hostetler said. “Infectious personality, teammates love being around him, he controls locker rooms. He’s just one of those guys that he just has that natural-born leadership about him.”

Zangari’s offensive approach is advanced for a teenager, too, in the way he understands the strike zone.

“He’s got a pretty good idea of the strike zone for being an 18-year-old kid,” Capra said. “He’s got some strikeouts in there, but he doesn’t offer at a lot of bad pitches, pitcher’s pitches. That’s where he’ll continue to get better at that. He hasn’t seen a lot of really good breaking balls maybe in high school, maybe he’s seeing a tick better now when he lays off some of those tough pitches. He’s got some discipline at the plate.” 

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.”