White Sox

White Sox: Three players with most to prove in 2016

avi-garcia-saladino-sox-0111.png

White Sox: Three players with most to prove in 2016

February 19th (the first Spring Training workout for White Sox pitchers and catchers) can't get here soon enough. 

While everyone at U.S. Cellular Field wants to wash out the bad taste from the 2015 season, there are some players that have a lot to prove. We know about the veterans that are in need of bounce back seasons, but there are younger players who need to make a statement to the front office in 2016 about their role with the franchise going forward.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Here are three players that have the most to gain (or lose) in 2016 for the White Sox:

Tyler Saladino: Barring any other dramatic roster changes, Saladino will be the only position player in the White Sox Opening Day lineup that came through the team's farm system. Saladino will be faced with the task of replacing Alexei Ramirez, who was extremely durable for the South Siders at shortstop since he took over in 2008, and buying top prospect Tim Anderson more time to develop. Anderson (.312/.350/.459 in Double-A) seems to still be making progress in the minors but isn't quite ready to take the starting job at the big leagues just yet. Saladino showed he needs to be on the field because of his defense (something the White Sox lacked last year). He came back down to earth at the plate (just five hits in his final 40 plate appearances) after coming up hot from the minors. The 2016 season will allow Saladino to show whether he's capable of holding down a starting spot and whether his bat is more like his first 18 games (.260/.313/.397) or last 18 games (.135/.200/.297).

[MORE: Ramirez leaves Chicago, signs contract with San Diego]

Erik Johnson: There's a spot to be had at the end of the White Sox rotation, and it has Johnson's name all over it. The Most Valuable Pitcher of the International League in 2015 was "Mr. Solo Home Run" when he came up to the majors, giving up eight home runs with six of them being one-run bombs. But outside of that, Johnson pitched well in six starts (3-1, 3.34 ERA 1.40 WHIP). While it's not the end of the world, the Sox would surely love to have at least one right-hander in their rotation (LHPs Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon, Jose Quintana and John Danks likely taking the other spots). Johnson, like Saladino, could ease some of the pressure off another Sox top prospect, Carson Fulmer. If Johnson is pitching well, there's less of a rush to bring Fulmer up like the Sox did with Rodon. The 2015 first-round pick could either spend more time developing in the minors or be used in a bullpen role if he truly proves to be ready. Regardless, Johnson has the opportunity to make a big impression if he can lock down a spot in 2016 and going forward.

Avisail Garcia: Piece to build around? Or fourth outfielder? That's what 2016 should (hopefully) decide for Garcia. His first full (and reasonably healthy) season in the majors saw average results both in the field (even with a few home-run robbing catches) and at the plate (.257/.309/.365 13 HR 59 RBI). With the White Sox reportedly in pursuit of other free agent outfielders, it seems as if he could be a candidate to be the team's starting designated hitter and the Sox need all the pop in the middle of the lineup they can get to surround Jose Abreu. But it's clear Garcia needs to live up to his potential at the plate sooner rather than later.

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

0225-mike-moustakas-carlos-gonzalez.jpg
USA TODAY

Would potential bargains like Mike Moustakas or Carlos Gonzalez make sense for White Sox?

The 2017-18 baseball offseason continues to be, well, the 2017-18 baseball offseason, even with spring training games being played in Arizona and Florida.

A bunch of names remain on the free-agent market, including All-Star players who thought they would be in for big multi-year contracts. But as teams continue to deny the wishes of guys who expected to get big deals, the suggestion that those players might end up needing to take one-year offers if they want to play during the 2018 season is becoming a more common talking point.

So with potential bargains to be had for some pretty big-name players, do the White Sox jump into the waters and try to lock up a potential future piece on the cheap? Though they aren’t expected to contend this season, the White Sox have been mentioned in a pair of recent reports surrounding a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez.

MLB.com's Jon Morosi wrote last week that the White Sox are a potential fit for Moustakas, who has sat and watched as former Kansas City Royals teammate Eric Hosmer received a huge contract from the San Diego Padres. Moustakas set a new Royals record last season with 38 home runs but has yet to find a team.

The White Sox, connected to Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado earlier this offseason, seem to have a current big leaguer or highly ranked prospect locked into almost every position on the diamond for the foreseeable future, but third base isn't necessarily one of them. Jake Burger was last year’s top draft pick, though there’s speculation he could slide over to first base. The team still envisions him as a big league third baseman, for what it’s worth.

Moustakas is 29 and already has seven big league seasons under his belt, including a pair of All-Star appearances and a pair of trips to the World Series, including the Crowns’ championship back in 2015. His 38 homers and 85 RBIs in 2017 were both career highs. He slashed .272/.314/.521, the final of those three numbers the best mark of his career.

Moustakas has rarely hit for average or reached base at too high a clip, though those recent power numbers would be intriguing at a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field, where he has 10 career dingers, 26 career RBIs and a .249/.308/.456 career slash line as a visitor.

Certainly Moustakas would be a buzz-worthy addition, and if the White Sox could get him for a good value thanks to this slow-moving market, that adds incentive to bring him aboard. A short contract would have even more incentive for the rebuilding White Sox, who would have the option to either sign him to a long-term deal or deal him away in a deadline deal depending on his immediate production levels.

But for fans hoping the White Sox will spend big on a third baseman in one of the next two offseasons — Machado is a free agent next winter, and Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado is set to hit the market the winter after next — slotting in an outside addition at the hot corner now could impact those plans.

Gonzalez is a completely different story, a three-time All Star during his 10-year big league career who is just three seasons removed from a 40-homer campaign in 2015. The 32-year-old Gonzalez also has a trio of Gold Gloves to go along with his 215 career home runs. FanRag’s Jon Heyman listed the White Sox as a possible landing spot for CarGo this weekend.

But his walk year in Colorado was not a very good one by his standards. In 136 games for a Rockies team that ended up in the playoffs, he slashed .262/.339/.423, all those averages way down from his usual level of production. And his power numbers plummeted to 14 homers and 57 RBIs after he combined for 65 homers and 197 RBIs in 2015 and 2016.

The good news for the White Sox is that down year makes Gonzalez far more affordable. Should he command only a one-year contract, the White Sox could take a flier, stick him in the outfield — which still has an unresolved spot with few strong offensive options for center field — and trade him should he bounce back in a big way. Or, at 32, perhaps he’s a guy the White Sox could opt to keep around should he prove valuable and the rebuild continues to move along ahead of schedule.

Gonzalez seems the less risky move at this point, as Moustakas could still be looking for a multi-year contract. But the White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility and flexibility in their decision-making should they add either guy and he proves worthy of a midseason deal or a long-term look.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

mickeradolfo.jpg
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.