White Sox

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.”

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?

Perhaps a better question for White Sox fans: When’s Manny Machado coming to the South Side? (Better question from me, personally, is when Chicago might acquire Maryland's greatest creation: the crab pretzel. Had in College Park last summer. It's amazing.)

Whether that ends up happening or not is a question for next offseason, but that query is one that plenty of South Side baseball fans on social media have asked for years now. Machado, mentioned in trade rumors during the Winter Meetings in December, is most likely entering his final season as an Oriole. His contract is up at season’s end, and he’s expected to land a gargantuan deal next offseason.

The funny thing is that for all the hullabaloo over the 25-year-old infielder, he’s coming off his worst statistical campaign as a big leaguer. In 2017, he slashed .259/.310/.782, all three of those percentages seeing huge dropoffs after a sensational 2016 campaign a year prior. His power numbers stayed relatively consistent, but his run and hit totals plummeted as the O’s weren’t quite as a competitive as in years past.

Now, Machado is likely still cruising for a big contract regardless of what he does in 2018. He’s moving to shortstop, which will be interesting. But he’s young enough that even another season like last year won’t make too big a difference, considering how good he’s been throughout his career.

That’s who White Sox fans will be watching whenever their gaze falls on the Baltimore baseball club. (They won’t be alone, by the way, and some contending teams might even try to add him at the trade deadline.) But the O’s are making news for other reasons, recent reasons, in fact.

The biggest name left on the free-agent market finally signed this week, and now the Orioles have a big-time addition to their starting rotation. Unlike Jake Arrieta, it appears Alex Cobb’s waiting game paid off in the form of dollars, years and a no-trade clause. How nice for him. It’s also nice for the O’s, who get to add a guy to a low-key decent starting staff.

Cobb, who had a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season, might not be ready to rock for the start of the regular season considering he didn’t ink a deal until a week out from Opening Day — bet he’s good at staring contests, too — but the trio of Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner (another new addition) and Kevin Gausman will be ready, and all those guys are coming off a solid-enough 2017. Bundy had a couple good stretches, posting a 3.03 ERA over his first 13 starts and then a 2.00 ERA in the month of August. Gausman had a 3.31 ERA over his final 18 starts. Cashner, another free-agent signing, had a 3.40 ERA with the Texas Rangers.

So while the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and the better-than-Machado-last-year Jonathan Schoop still make the O’s an offensive threat in a hard-to-win AL East, the starting pitching might be where the magic is this time around.

2017 record: 75-87, fifth place in AL East

Offseason additions: Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Colby Rasmus, Alex Presley, Pedro Araujo, Joely Rodriguez, Nestor Cortes Jr.

Offseason departures: Welington Castillo, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Flaherty, Seth Smith, Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley

X-factor: I said it just above, and I'll say it again: Jonathan Schoop was better than Manny Machado last season. Schoop made the All-Star team and finished with 32 homers, 105 RBIs and a .293/.338/.503 slash line. His .841 OPS was one of the best 50 in the game. Should we expect Schoop to be the best middle infielder on the O's in 2018, too? Maybe that's a little extreme, but hey, good to have this guy.

Projected lineup:

1. Tim Beckham, 3B
2. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
3. Manny Machado, SS
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Trey Mancini, DH
7. Colby Rasmus, RF
8. Caleb Joseph, C
9. Alex Presley, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Dylan Bundy
2. Andrew Cashner
3. Kevin Gausman
4. Chris Tillman
5. Mike Wright Jr.

Prediction: Third place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers

Sounds like we know how the White Sox starting rotation will line up to start the season


Sounds like we know how the White Sox starting rotation will line up to start the season

Rick Renteria's starting rotation isn't exactly official for the start of the season, but it's about as close as it can be.

Maybe "unofficially official" is the best way to go?

The South Side skipper agreed with the assessment of reporters Wednesday in Arizona, saying that an order of James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer "sounds right."

Shields was already announced as the White Sox starter for the season opener next Thursday in Kansas City. That wasn't much of a surprise considering Shields' veteran status in this rotation.

Giolito, who made seven starts at the end of last season and looked mighty good doing it, might be the best starting pitcher on the team going into the season. He posted a 2.38 ERA in those games, with many fans hoping he would have been the one to take on the Royals in the opener. It sounds like he'll likely pitch two days later in Game 2 against the Crowns.

Lopez made eight starts at the end of last season, turning in a 4.72 ERA in those starts. He's another former highly touted prospect who will get a full season to continue his development at the major league level.

Gonzalez was brought back this winter after being traded away from the South Side last summer to bring another veteran mentor type to help along these young pitchers. He had a 4.31 ERA before the trade to the Texas Rangers after a 3.73 ERA in a full season with the White Sox in 2016.

Fulmer is another young arm who will be looking to earn a spot in the crowded rotation of the future this season. He's had a rough spring — though turned in his best start of the spring earlier this week — but he'll be given every opportunity to prove he can succeed as a big league starting pitcher after showing some promise at the end of last season.

Those first three guys will face off against the Royals on the season's opening weekend. Gonzalez and Fulmer are expected to make their first starts of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada.