The White Sox "taxi squad" is here, and though the 16 players named Tuesday will bring some high quality talent to Schaumburg, it doesn't seem too many of them will be cracking the major league roster in 2020.
While 43 players prepare for the upcoming season at Guaranteed Rate Field, these additional 16 players will work out at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg, beginning Wednesday, and serve as depth from which the White Sox can make in-season roster moves in the absence of a minor league season.
Of course, only 30 players from the group of 43 that's been working out on the South Side for the last week and a half will wind up on the Opening Day roster, and that number will dwindle as the season moves along. The remaining 13 who don't make the team will wind up with these 16 in Schaumburg, and they'll presumably play more intrasquad games than anyone could ever imagine while staying in shape for a potential call-up.
The new dozen-plus-four players added to the mix for 2020 are mostly prospects White Sox fans have heard plenty about during the rebuild. But with winning time arriving at the major league level, it's hard to say how much any one of these guys still factors into the team's long-term planning. That doesn't mean the organization shouldn't keep trying to develop them into something, be that big league starters or reserves on the South Side or trade assets for future win-now augmentation. And without any minor league games to get that done in, some team-monitored activity is better than none.
The most notable name on the list is Garrett Crochet, the team's first-round pick from last month's draft. While discussed as someone who could mirror Chris Sale's path to the major leagues and wind up pitching in the middle of a pennant race in 2020, don't get your hopes up that you'll see something like that. Not with the patience the White Sox have taken in player development over the past several years. Fans were jumping up and down with anger when the White Sox wouldn't promote Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert at the tail ends of dominant minor league seasons. What would lead anyone to believe they'd fast track someone who hasn't pitched in a professional game and, to be honest, didn't pitch in too many collegiate games, either? Crochet, almost surely, is part of the taxi squad to get even the smallest amount of experience as part of the organization, even if that means little more than throwing a few pitches to Blake Rutherford every couple days.
Additionally interesting, though perhaps no more likely to wind up on the South Side this season, is Jonathan Stiever, who the White Sox see as a possible piece in one of their rotations of the future. He hasn't pitched above Class A, and if he's needed at the major league level, things will have gone horribly wrong, as the White Sox have spent most of "Summer Camp" talking up their newfound starting-pitching depth. If folks are suggesting Stiever be summoned from Schaumburg, that means a starting group of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Gio González, Carlos Rodón, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert — that's eight guys! — woefully failed to live up to even the most conservative expectations. And so, like Crochet, Stiever is most likely part of this group to gain even the slightest amount of development in this most unusual of seasons.
The full list looks like this: right-handed pitchers Zack Burdi, Ryan Burr, Matt Foster, Brady Lail, Alex McRae, Bryan Mitchell and Stiever; left-handed pitchers Crochet, Bernardo Flores Jr., Jacob Lindgren, Adalberto Mejía and Bennett Sousa; catcher Seby Zavala; and outfielders Micker Adolfo, Luis González and Rutherford.
The four position players don't figure to hold too much of a chance of reaching the majors this season. After all, there are more than enough of them in big league camp already, and some of those guys will eventually wind up in Schaumburg once the season begins. You'd figure the White Sox would draw from guys who don't make the team like Luis Basabe and Nicky Delmonico before reaching for Adolfo or González. Zavala is the organization's No. 5 catcher, burying him on the depth chart behind even Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes.
But teams always seem to burn through pitching, relief pitching, especially, and that could be even more the case in this shortened season. White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal spoke Tuesday about his predictions for how pitchers will be used in 2020, and he expects a playoff-style management that sees the huge emphasis on bullpens that we've seen in the postseason in recent years. That could open the door for someone like Burdi, a first-round pick in his own right who's struggled with injury issues for years now. A local product, he's quick to grab people's attention, and he was on track to be a closer prospect of some note before health issues put that on hold.
The White Sox, particularly after adding Steve Cishek to a back-end mix that was already a strength in 2019, probably aren't hoping for a situation in which they'd need to find alternatives. But of course, they'd always welcome them if it made them more competitive. Neither Evan Marshall nor Jimmy Cordero were on the Opening Day roster a year ago, and yet they remain important pieces of the bullpen. And so while it will be hard to get a read on how Burdi or any of the other pitchers would fare in a big league game when they'll be pitching to their teammates out in the burbs, at least the White Sox won't be calling them to get up off their couch and join the big league bullpen.
Moving into contention mode means less focus on prospects and more focus on the big league club. And now that Robert is there and Nick Madrigal shouldn't be too far behind, the only interest coming out of Schaumburg could be how major league ready Andrew Vaughn's bat looks and how tantalizing Crochet's stuff is. The rest are there because the White Sox can have them there, and because you never know what happens in a major league season. Maybe a perfect storm of injury luck forces the White Sox to dip down and draw from this group. Or maybe they'll live up to their "taxi squad" name and just shuttle up and down the Eisenhower a whole bunch of times as emergency depth.