White Sox

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: What's Yolmer Sanchez's long-term role?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: What's Yolmer Sanchez's long-term role?

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.

The hot corner has been a hot topic of discussion all offseason long.

While the White Sox wealth of highly touted prospects has allowed fans to pencil in names for just about every position on the field stretching deep into the future, the conversation around the future at third base has been far less certain. There were the Manny Machado trade rumors in December. Then the realization that Nolan Arenado is slated to hit the free-agent market after the 2019 season. Then a surge in optimism surrounding Jake Burger before he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during a Cactus League game. Then the suggestion that they make a play for the still-unsigned Mike Moustakas.

One option seems to be continually left out of the discussion: the one the White Sox currently have.

Barring an unexpected move — one report says the White Sox are staying in contact with Moustakas, another says there's nothing to that reported interest — Yolmer Sanchez will be the White Sox third baseman on Opening Day. And like many of his teammates, he'll be using the 2018 season to prove he belongs in the team's future plans.

Sanchez went from reserve infielder to everyday player last season with a strong 2017 campaign. He slashed .267/.319/.413 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs in 534 plate appearances over 141 games. Those aren't "blow you away" numbers by any stretch, but for a team that finished 18 games under .500, Sanchez was most definitely a bright spot on the major league roster. That's certainly the case when you consider his glove. He's one of the best defenders on the team, and he can do it at multiple positions on the infield. But with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson entrenched as the keystone combo for the foreseeable future, third base is where Sanchez will prove whether or not he's a piece of the long-term puzzle.

He's also just 25 years old, which means that with ongoing development he could work his way into the conversation for a spot in the White Sox future.

Sanchez isn't there yet, though, and the prospect of either Burger or a free-agent acquisition like Arenado taking over for the long term should be more attractive to the White Sox. But just as 2018 will be a developmental season for all those players in the minor leagues, it will be the same for many of the players at the big league level, too. Sanchez is joined by guys like Nicky Delmonico, Carson Fulmer and even Avisail Garcia as guys with something to prove as it pertains to their long-term place on this roster. Even someone like Anderson has questions to answer in 2018.

Sanchez must prove that 2017 was no fluke. In his first 201 career games over his first three big league seasons, he slashed just .224/.261/.330 with only nine homers and 57 RBIs.

But Sanchez is beloved in the White Sox clubhouse, a fun-loving guy who's always coming up with extravagant handshakes and crashing his teammates' interviews with the media. The way he acts off the field definitely matters when it comes to determining his long-term place on the team, something evidenced by how the White Sox talk about Jose Abreu, a 31-year-old with just two more seasons of team control who seems like a lock for a contract extension as much because of his value in the clubhouse as his value on the field. The White Sox likely won't have to worry about shelling out big bucks for Sanchez, but he could fit a similar bill with what he means in the clubhouse and in the dugout.

Will Sanchez be the White Sox third baseman come 2020, when the team is supposed to reach the apex of its rebuild and become a perennial contender? We might not have that answer any time soon. But what Sanchez does in 2018 will go a long way in determining his long-term role.

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Can Carson Fulmer carve out a spot in the rotation of the future?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Can Carson Fulmer carve out a spot in the rotation of the future?

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.

Spring stats aren't supposed to mean much. But when they're really bad, do they mean a little more?

Carson Fulmer has had a bad spring. He entered Monday's outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks with an astonishingly high 18.90 ERA. Things got a little better Monday, when he had his best outing of the spring, throwing four scoreless (and hitless) innings.

Fulmer, the No. 8 pick in the 2015 draft, was supposed to be a big piece of the White Sox future coming off an excellent season at Vanderbilt. But with just 15 big league appearances under his belt and now this poor showing in spring training, it's worth wondering how big a piece he'll be when this rebuild reaches its apex and the White Sox are planned to be contending on an annual basis — or if he's going to be a piece at all.

Moved quickly to the majors in 2016, Fulmer was roughed up for an 8.49 ERA in eight relief appearances. Last season, he was crushed in a spot start in August, allowing six runs in 1.1 innings. But he came back at the end of the season and showed some promise, turning in a 1.64 ERA in six appearances. Four of those were starts, and in those he allowed just three runs in 17.1 innings.

That end-of-season performance figured to earn Fulmer a spot on the young-and-getting-younger White Sox starting staff, giving him the opportunity to prove that he could be a part of a rotation of the future. Instead, the spring has been a bumpy ride.

His first outing against the Cubs: four runs in an inning. His second outing against the San Diego Padres: four runs in an inning. His third outing against the Padres: two runs in three innings. His fourth outing against the Milwaukee Brewers: seven runs in 1.2 innings.

That's a hideous list of results for a guy trying to work his way into a rotation spot. Monday, his fifth outing, got him back on track a bit, and it still looks like he'll stave off Hector Santiago — signed to a minor league deal at the outset of spring training and looking like a shoo-in for the long-relief role in the bullpen — for the fifth spot in the rotation. The obvious thing going for Fulmer in that battle is his age and his one-time expectations, good enough reasons to give him every opportunity to earn a spot in a rotation of the future.

Thing is, that future's coming fast. The rotation of the future is a crowded one, with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning and Carlos Rodon all fighting for jobs, along with Fulmer. So this year offers a unique opportunity for Fulmer to show the White Sox at the big league level that he can be one of those guys.

But he's got to get there first. It makes sense that he would, because even if his spring struggles move over to the regular season, the White Sox aren't expected to be contending for a championship in 2018.

The window to impress might not be huge, but it does exist. In 2018, we'll see what Fulmer can do.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Tampa Bay Rays?

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 Tampa Bay Rays?

Well, remember all the players on the Rays that you know? Bad news. They aren’t on the Rays anymore.

That’s not entirely true, I suppose, as Chris Archer is still on the Rays. But he’s got to be looking around the home clubhouse at the Trop these days and wondering, “Where’d everybody go?”

Perhaps trying to emulate the other fish-based Florida franchise, the Rays traded away a bunch of players this offseason, making this roster — one that somehow managed to finish third in the American League East last season — unrecognizable.

Evan Longoria, perhaps the best player in this young franchise’s history, was traded to the San Francisco Giants. Jake Odorizzi was traded to the Minnesota Twins. Corey Dickerson was DFA’d, then traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Steve Souza was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. And look at this lengthy list of guys who were lost to free agency: Alex Cobb, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Tommy Hunter and Steve Cishek.

Can someone go check and make sure the rays in that tank in center field didn’t get traded, too?

So who’s left from this offseason purge? Well, there’s Archer, who despite being an awesome face for the game has finished with an ERA north of 4.00 in each of the last two seasons. He’s still really good, at this point almost a lock for 200 innings and way more than 200 strikeouts. But who’s going to help him out?

The additions of 34-year-old Denard Span and 32-year-old Carlos Gomez were … odd. There are two former White Sox in the mix in Micah Johnson, who’s been on like 17 teams since November, and Daniel Hudson, who the Rays got back for Dickerson. Matt Duffy didn’t play at all last season. Kevin Kiermaier only played in 98 games last year but was quite good, having the best offensive season of his career. After an All-Star season for the Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos missed most of last season, his first with the Rays.

The best player on the team, or at least the one with the best 2017 campaign, is closer Alex Colome, the pitcher whose name begins “Alex Co” that the Rays still employ. He led baseball with 47 saves last year, and that’s on a team that won only 80 games. Mighty impressive. He’s got 84 saves in the last two seasons combined.

That doesn't mean there's not help on the way. Much like White Sox fans, Rays fans can salivate over a potentially promising future. The organization boasts three of the top 25 prospects in baseball: pitcher Brent Honeywell (No. 18), infielder Willy Adames (No. 22) and "first baseman/pitcher" — that sounds fun — Brendan McKay (No. 25). And they have two more guys in the top 100, including shortstop Christian Arroyo, the big piece coming back in that Longoria deal with the Giants. So the future is perhaps as bright as that sunburst in the Rays' logo.

In the end, though, it ain’t shaping up to be a good year in St. Pete, and the catwalk-filled baseball warehouse has only a little to do with that. The post Joe Maddon/Andrew Friedman Era hasn’t gone too well. Meanwhile, Maddon's won a World Series with the Cubs, and Friedman's been to one with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Any other wacky managers and baseball geniuses out there?

2017 record: 80-82, third place in AL East

Offseason additions: Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, C.J. Cron, Micah Johnson, Joey Wendle, Daniel Hudson

Offseason departures: Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson, Steve Souza, Alex Cobb, Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Tommy Hunter, Steve Cishek

X-factor: He's not the X-factor, but it's worth pointing out that the Rays do have a player named "Mallex," which sounds like the name of a bad guy in a superhero movie. While Archer looks real lonely on that starting staff, there's some interesting guys around him. Somewhat strangely, the Rays are going to employ a four-man rotation. The X-factor of the bunch is Jake Faria, who in his first big league season last year turned in a 3.43 ERA in 16 games, 14 of which were starts. He struck out 84 batters in 86.2 innings. Past Archer and Faria, you've got Blake Snell, who struck out 119 guys in 129.1 innings, and Nathan Eovaldi, the one-time New York Yankee who missed all of last season.

Projected lineup:

1. Denard Span, DH
2. Matt Duffy, 3B
3. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
4. Carlos Gomez, RF
5. Brad Miller, 2B
6. Wilson Ramos, C
7. C.J. Cron, 1B
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
9. Mallex Smith, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Chris Archer
2. Blake Snell
3. Nathan Eovaldi
4. Jake Faria

Prediction: Fifth 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

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants