White Sox

If Avisail Garcia has 2017 repeat, does that increase or decrease chances he's part of White Sox long-term future?

If Avisail Garcia has 2017 repeat, does that increase or decrease chances he's part of White Sox long-term future?

There are two questions surrounding Avisail Garcia.

1. Can he repeat the career year he had in 2017?

2. Is he a part of the White Sox long-term future?

Those questions are linked together, of course, with the answer to the second depending on the answer to the first. But the thing is, even if the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second question is anything but determined.

Garcia was terrific last season, quietly one of the best hitters in the American League. He ranked second in the AL with a .330 batting average, a mark second only to league MVP Jose Altuve. He ranked sixth in the AL with a .380 on-base percentage, trailing only Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Altuve, Eric Hosmer and Joe Mauer. His 18 home runs were a career high, as were his 80 RBIs, 75 runs scored, 171 hits, 27 doubles and his .506 slugging percentage.

The 2017 season — which also included his first All-Star appearance — was a culmination of Garcia's quest for big league success, which had long been forecasted but never attained even though he's been a major leaguer since 2012, when he came up as a 21-year-old with the Detroit Tigers.

But because this was the first real full season of sustained success at the major league level, the question still remains if he can do it again.

Garcia thinks he will no doubt be able to prove anyone who thinks he was a one-year wonder wrong.

"100 percent. Nothing changes," he said before SoxFest festivities got going last weekend at the Hilton Chicago. "No pressure. Confidence. Positive. I work hard, so you've got to get confidence and be positive. If you're negative, no chance. You've got to be positive and do your best to get better every year.

"It's hard. You think a lot. I talked to myself, 'You've got to do something.' Because I know the talent's there. So that was my confidence. I knew the talent was there, and I said to myself, 'You've got to do something different.'

"I lost weight, started eating better. I'm working out at 5 a.m., go to hit and then go back to my house. That's my whole routine for the offseason last year and this year."

Right now, Garcia's bat is fixed squarely in the middle of the White Sox batting order, right alongside Jose Abreu, the other half of the team's dynamic hitting duo. If he can keep his 2017 success going into 2018, it's not going anywhere — unless it does.

Much like Abreu, Garcia's name was ths subject of much speculation this offseason, speculation that the White Sox could capitalize on his career year and send him elsewhere in exchange for more young talent to add to Rick Hahn's rebuilding effort. Garcia's contract, one that has him under team control for only the next two seasons, helped fuel that speculation, as well.

That obviously didn't happen, but a first half of 2018 that mimics what he did in 2017 could bring that speculation back. With the White Sox not expected to contend for a championship in 2018, a Garcia trade — in the middle of the 2018 season or after it — could add some more pieces for the future. And the better he hits, the better a return package becomes.

But the better he hits, the more attractive a potential contract extension becomes. Garcia is just 26 years old and could definitely line up with all the highly touted prospects making their way through the White Sox organization. Even if the team isn't expecting its contention window to open fully until the 2020 season, Garcia could be an anchor of the lineup and in the outfield.

It's what leaves that second question unanswered.

The existence of so many options is a good thing for Hahn and his front office. Garcia, though, is worrying about keeping the good vibes from last season going.

"I don't know what's going to happen because I only have two years," Garcia told NBC Sports Chicago. "I want to stay here for sure, but you know how baseball is so you wonder if you're here or you go to another place. So who knows. I want to be here. I want to be part of this team for a long time, but let's see what happens.

"I don't pay attention to all that (speculation) because if you read the papers or internet, you'll go crazy. So you don't have to read anything, don't worry about anything. Just worry about yourself and worry about your preparation."

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

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

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AP

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.”