Rick Hahn

Michael Kopech won't be on the White Sox Opening Day roster

Michael Kopech won't be on the White Sox Opening Day roster

Michael Kopech is coming for the big leagues. But he won't be there on Opening Day.

General manager Rick Hahn made it clear to reporters Tuesday in Arizona that the team's No. 1 pitching prospect will begin the season in the minor leagues.

That might be disappointing to White Sox fans who wanted to see the flame-throwing 21-year-old right-hander with gargantuan expectations do enough in spring training to crack that 25-man roster out of camp. For what it's worth, Kopech has made a couple of Cactus League outings so far, pitching 4.1 innings, allowing one unearned run, giving up four hits and a walk and striking out six.

But even if Kopech is already the best pitcher at any level in the White Sox organization, the decision to start his 2018 at Triple-A Charlotte, where he finished up his 2017 season, makes complete sense.

The rebuilding White Sox aren't expected to compete in 2018, and they have their sights on building a perennial championship contender on the South Side, with Kopech a big part of those plans. There's absolutely no reason to rush Kopech to the majors after he pitched only 15 innings at the Triple-A level last season.

Yes, Kopech was sensational in Double-A, posting a 2.87 ERA with 155 strikeouts in his 22 starts. But Hahn has reiterated multiple times this offseason that a good developmental season for Kopech, still really young, could include him not seeing the majors at all.

White Sox fans are hoping that's not what ends up happening. But him starting at Triple-A is a mighty sensible strategy for the White Sox.

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White Sox outline scenarios for injured Micker Adolfo: 'A minor setback for a major comeback'

White Sox outline scenarios for injured Micker Adolfo: 'A minor setback for a major comeback'

Micker Adolfo has an injured elbow.

And while the White Sox don't have much in the way of certainties, they do have possibilities.

It sounds as if there are a bunch of different ways this could play out, the options for Adolfo's 2018 season hidden behind a series of doors like in some sort of twisted baseball-specific version of "Let's Make a Deal." Of course, this isn't the game Rick Hahn wanted to play with Monty Hall — or Wayne Brady, for all the daytime-television-watching kids out there — with one of his prized prospects injured, a real-life example of the warning he's given several times this offseason, that baseball has a cruel way of reminding teams that not all prospects pan out.

Adolfo got his second opinion after last week's injury announcement, and that UCL sprain and flexor tendon strain has been determined to be, in Hahn's words, "a tear in the flexor tendon as well as an issue with his UCL." That doesn't sound good, though the White Sox are hoping that the 21-year-old prospect can avoid surgery and rehab his elbow while playing designated hitter and staying out of the outfield.

"It's definitely hopeful, it's a blessing," Adolfo told reporters on Sunday in Arizona. "The team knows what's best. Now we've got a plan, and hopefully that plan works out. I know it will.

"Obviously it sucks that I'm not going to be able to play defense, continuing to work out in right field. But this is a major opportunity for me to get better at the plate. That's what they pay you for at the big league level.

"I feel good. Not 100 percent, but it doesn't affect me hitting. So that's the important thing right now."

Adolfo's defense is part of what makes him such a promising part of the White Sox rebuild. Baseball America ranks his arm as the best among the outfielders in the White Sox farm system.

Last season, Adolfo had a breakout campaign at the plate, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis. Keeping him swinging while waiting for that elbow to figure out what it's going to do will be important in his development as a hitter. Hahn mentioned that even with the possibility of surgery coming later this year, Adolfo could still get "a couple hundred" at-bats in in 2018 and not miss too much time in 2019.

But there are other outcomes that could pop up behind Door No. 2 and Door No. 3. Surgery could still be necessary if Adolfo's elbow doesn't heal the way the White Sox want it to while he's relegated to DH-ing. There are multiple surgical options, too, including Tommy John, which come with their own recovery times that could impact how much Adolfo gets to play in 2019.

While this is a bummer of a reminder that not all of the White Sox highly touted prospects will rocket their way to the big leagues and instant stardom, this is hardly the end for Adolfo, who despite not sharing the high rankings of fellow outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert has a ton of promise as a potential starter on the hoped-for consistently contending White Sox teams of the future. The three were in the same batting practice group during the outset of camp in Arizona and drew crowds while they put on a show in the cage. The trio even talked about one day playing alongside one another in the White Sox outfield of the future.

"I don't get mad because I look at it as a minor setback for a major comeback," Adolfo said. "I'm still young. Obviously it sucks getting injured, but I can't control that. I can only control what I do on the field and prepare myself."

Three questions answered — and three questions unanswered — through a couple weeks of White Sox spring training


Three questions answered — and three questions unanswered — through a couple weeks of White Sox spring training

March is almost here, and the White Sox are in the thick of spring training down in Glendale, with Cactus League games getting going over the weekend.

After watching workouts and hearing from players and manager Rick Renteria for two weeks, some of the offseason's biggest questions seem to have answers, while others still remain.

Here are three questions that have been answered and three that still need solving.


1. Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are something to get excited about

There are no guarantees in player development, but the White Sox top two outfield prospects seem to be legit. The highly touted pair, along with fellow prospect Micker Adolfo, generated a ton of buzz whenever they stepped into the batting cages at Camelback Ranch, and after watching them smoke baseballs over the practice-field fences, it’s easy to see why.

All three guys shared that they’re dreaming of playing together in the team’s championship outfield of the future, and if the White Sox can develop that talent, then watch out.

Of course there’s a long way to go. Jimenez has only played a handful of games above the Class A level. Adolfo has played none. And Robert hasn’t even played a minor league baseball game in the United States. General manager Rick Hahn keeps talking about how baseball has a cruel way of reminding that not all prospects pan out. Look no further than Adolfo, who now has a pair of arm injuries after being rated as the best thrower in the White Sox farm system.

But hearing the cracks of the bats and watching the baseballs fly, it’s easy to get excited about these guys’ futures.

2. Carlos Rodon won’t be ready for Opening Day

This one wasn’t that difficult to predict, but after having shoulder surgery last fall, Carlos Rodon won’t be a member of the White Sox starting rotation on Opening Day.

That was actually made relatively clear when the team brought back Miguel Gonzalez, seemingly locking the starting rotation into place alongside James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer. But now there’s confirmation that Rodon will not pitch during the Cactus League schedule and will stay at extended spring training after the White Sox leave Glendale for Kansas City.

There’s still no knowing, of course, when Rodon will be back. The White Sox are happy with his progress, and he was throwing during the early parts of the spring, cleared to throw right before SoxFest at the end of January.

Who knows if it will be as late as June this time around after he didn't make his 2017 debut until June 28 after suffering a separate injury last spring. But when he returns, he’ll have to prove that he’s healthy and capable of being the same pitcher who was envisioned as an ace of the future.

3. Hector Santiago gives the White Sox a long man — and starting depth

There didn’t seem to be a member of the White Sox bullpen who could serve in the long-relief role. Then the team brought Hector Santiago back on a minor league deal.

Even though it’s a minor league deal, the former and now current White Sox hurler seems likely to make the bullpen as the long relief man. That role was needed regularly last season, and it’s an important one for a bullpen filled with guys looking to prove themselves as either long-term pieces or midseason trade chips.

But Santiago also gives the White Sox starting pitching depth, providing a one-time All-Star starter as a backup in case any of the five guys in the rotation go down with an injury. Rick Hahn already said he wouldn’t rush Michael Kopech or any of the team’s other pitching prospects to the majors just because someone was hurt at the big league level. And now he won’t have to thanks in part to Santiago’s presence.


1. Who will be the closer?

While there might not be as many open spots in the White Sox bullpen as initially believed, there is a huge question mark at closer. Who will throw in the ninth inning for the White Sox this season?

Juan Minaya had closing duties at the end of last season and fared pretty well after much of the bullpen was traded away in summer deals. But do the White Sox see Minaya as a closer of the future?

If not, they might be more likely to go with one of the new acquisitions in order to try and establish a deadline trade chip. Maybe someone like Joakim Soria, who has tons of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. Of course those days are getting longer and longer ago.

But if the White Sox go with Soria and he does well, they could try to fetch the same kind of return they got last season when they shipped David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Anthony Swarzak and other relievers away from the South Side.

2. Who will be the starting center fielder?

The White Sox are not short on options in center field. But there aren’t necessarily any slam-dunk ones, hence why the job is still up for grabs.

Adam Engel started 91 games in center last season and hit just .166. While his glove is terrific, his offensive production is not that of a starting position player in the major leagues. Leury Garcia was far better with the bat but might be more valuable as a versatile infielder who can spell the four guys around the diamond. Charlie Tilson has high hopes but has struggled mightily to just get on the baseball field and stay there, much of his White Sox career wiped out so far due to injuries. Further down the list is Ryan Cordell, the guy acquired in the Anthony Swarzak trade last summer who has a good Triple-A track record and got some love from Rick Hahn at SoxFest.

Garcia seems to be the best option if the White Sox are looking for the most consistent bat. But for a rebuilding team not expected to contend in 2018, maybe giving guys like Engel and Tilson more chances to prove themselves makes more sense.

3. Do the White Sox have another move left in them?

For a rebuilding team like the White Sox, this perplexing offseason might be a really rare opportunity.

In the last week, the White Sox were mentioned as a potential landing spot for a pair of All-Star position players: Mike Moustakas and Carlos Gonzalez. Considering the slowness of the market, guys who were once pegged for multi-year deals could now be bargains one one-year contracts. That could allow a team like the White Sox to swoop in and sign these guys at very low risk. If they produce, they could become long-term options or midseason trade chips. If they don’t, it was a one-year flier and did no harm for a team not expected to contend — and it does not negatively impact the rebuild in any way.

The White Sox already pulled the trigger on a springtime addition with Hector Santiago. There are still tons of free agents out there, and even if it’s not someone the caliber of Moustakas or Gonzalez, the White Sox could still ink someone who could really benefit the short- and long-term success of the team at a bargain.