There seems to be just one starting job up for grabs in the White Sox lineup. And the race for that job is getting real interesting out in Arizona.
Adam Engel started 91 games in center last season but couldn't do much of anything at the plate, finishing the campaign with an ugly .166 batting average. Oft-injured Charlie Tilson has already been sent down to Triple-A. Leury Garcia fared significantly better than Engel offensively before his season was derailed by injuries, but he might have more value as a utility man off the bench.
Enter Ryan Cordell.
The prospect acquired in last summer's trade that sent Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers, Cordell has been on fire at the plate during spring training. In eight games, he's posted a .421/.560/.684 slash line with four extra-base hits, six RBIs and six walks compared to just two strikeouts. His spring performance was highlighted by Thursday's big day: 3-for-3 with three doubles, four RBIs and a walk.
You might remember that Cordell got some hype from general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when Hahn revealed that three different teams had called to inquire about Cordell since the White Sox acquired him.
Cordell spent his first four seasons of professional baseball in the Texas Rangers' system, and he fared pretty well statistically as he moved through the minor leagues. He was the player to be named later in the swap that sent Jonathan Lucroy from the Brewers to the Rangers in September of 2016. Cordell played 68 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017, slashing .284/.349/.506 with 10 homers, 18 doubles and 45 RBIs before suffering a significant back injury that ended his season.
Well, he's back with a force now and could potentially be moving into the lead in the race for this starting gig in center field. It's worth noting that last season he played all over the outfield and at third base, too, racking up 29 games in right, 15 in left, 12 at third and 10 in center. But if he were to be an everyday outfielder with the White Sox, you'd have to imagine most of the available playing time being in center, with Avisail Garcia entrenched in right and Nicky Delmonico figuring to get the bulk of the action in left.
For what it's worth, Engel's offense has also been improved this spring. He's slashing .263/.391/.632 through nine spring games with a couple homers and four RBIs. Garcia, meanwhile, is slashing .276/.300/.448 in 11 spring games.
Spring training stats are really nothing that anyone should get overly worked up about, and Rick Renteria mentioned early in spring that he doesn't even put too much stock into spring performance.
The White Sox are obviously wild about what Engel can do defensively, and giving him a chance to prove himself capable at the plate during a season in which the team isn't expected to contend for a championship of any kind makes a fine amount of sense.
But Cordell is in that same "see what you've got" category, and after doing so well at the Triple-A level last season, he deserves his shot in the big leagues soon, if not by Opening Day.
There are still almost three weeks until the White Sox open the 2018 season in Kansas City, and a lot can happen during that time. But keep an eye on Cordell, who might just be playing his way into a featured role on the 2018 White Sox.