Welington Castillo

What should the White Sox Opening Day lineup look like?


What should the White Sox Opening Day lineup look like?

The White Sox starting lineup isn't terribly hard to predict. But how would it look if you had Rick Renteria's job?

Where should Jose Abreu bat in the order? Where does Tim Anderson hit? Who plays center field?

We took a crack at crafting our ideal White Sox Opening Day lineups on the latest edition of #WhiteSoxWhiteboard.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know.

Here's the discussion:

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Why is Welington Castillo the right man for the job?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Why is Welington Castillo the right man for the job?

White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.

Signing a veteran catcher might not have seemed like the most typical offseason move for a rebuilding team not expected to contend this season.

But the White Sox did an awful lot of good for their present and future in inking Welington Castillo to a deal that could keep him on the South Side for the next three seasons — the endpoint there being the time the White Sox hope their rebuilding efforts reach their apex and the team becomes a perennial contender.

Castillo is coming off a career year both offensively and defensively, which obviously gives the White Sox an upgrade at the position. That's not to say the combo of Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith were bad in 2017. In fact, they were surprisingly good, with White Sox catchers leading the American League with a .279 batting average and a .346 on-base percentage. But Castillo outdid both, individually, slashing .282/.323/.490 with a career-best 20 homers. Plus, he threw out 49 percent of attempted base stealers last season, the best percentage in baseball, showing a big leap in his defense.

It all adds up to the White Sox having a strong catcher in 2018, which of course can't hurt, regardless of expectations. But a veteran backstop has plenty of value for the team's still-developing pitchers, too, and there could be an awful lot of those on the South Side by season's end. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already in the rotation, with Carson Fulmer expected to join them at the season's beginning. Michael Kopech figures to be up to the big leagues before the end of September, too. Having an experienced game-caller to help shepherd along the staff of the future — while also producing — is a big deal.

And there's the flexibility, which is becoming a hallmark of all Rick Hahn's moves of late. Castillo's deal could keep him in a White Sox uniform through the 2020 season. That would figure to be around the time when the White Sox are starting to compete on a regular basis. If Castillo is still doing good work behind the plate and with the bat, great. He can stick around and be the starting catcher for a contending club. If Zack Collins, who has played just 12 games above the Class A level to this point, is ready to be a big league backstop by then, great. Castillo will have served as an effective bridge and could be a high-quality backup. Or the White Sox could deal him away for another future piece. Flexibility.

So in the end, what matters is that Castillo checks all the boxes for the present and future. Offensive upgrade, defensive upgrade, veteran catcher for a young pitching staff, a bridge to Collins or the veteran catcher of the future. Whatever the end result, 2018 will be the first year of the Castillo experiment. And it could mean the White Sox are entering their first stretch of having a stable, reliable catcher since A.J. Pierzynski left.

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As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?


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.”