Nicky Delmonico

Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

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USA TODAY

Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

The White Sox made a notable outfield cut Saturday, sending Nicky Delmonico to Triple-A Charlotte not long after Eloy Jimenez signed his new six-year deal.

Rick Hahn wouldn't 100-percent confirm during the press conference whether or not Jimenez would be on the team's Opening Day roster, but the new deal eliminates the service-time conversation surrounding Jimenez and allows him to make his major league debut when the regular season starts next week in Kansas City.



If Jimenez is going to end up on the Opening Day roster, the White Sox will need to make room for him. That could mean cutting another outfielder in addition to Delmonico, but not necessarily. More on that in a bit.

Delmonico might have had a tough time making the Opening Day roster even if Jimenez would've started the season in the minor leagues. The White Sox outfield is a crowded one after the offseason addition of veteran Jon Jay. The presence of Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and the versatile Leury Garcia made it difficult to envision a place for Delmonico, who had a disappointing, injury-filled season in 2018 after showing promise at the end of the 2017 campaign.

It seems as if, eventually, the White Sox could have to move another one of those aforementioned outfielders to make room for Jimenez, who figures to be the team's everyday left fielder in 2019. But that decision could be delayed until mid April thanks to a bunch of built-in off days at the start of the regular-season schedule.

Both Hahn and manager Rick Renteria have discussed the possibility of the White Sox using only four starting pitchers at the outset of the season. Thanks to those off days, those four starters can all pitch on regular rest until as late as April 17. So, theoretically, Ervin Santana, who figures to wind up as the team's fifth starter, wouldn't be needed on the major league roster until that finale of a home series against the Kansas City Royals in mid April. That's one less pitcher that needs to be on the roster and one more position player that can be on the roster.

The versatility of Garcia, who has torn the cover off the ball this spring, and infielder Jose Rondon, who has added a little bit of outfield to his repertoire this spring (and is out of options), means they're likely not going anywhere. But instead of having to potentially dispatch of fan favorite Palka before the season even begins, there are potentially two spots available for three players, those two and Engel. Palka brings power, while Engel brings defense. Both have their weaknesses, too, Palka seeming best suited for a DH role that has been given to the combination of Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso, and Engel the owner of a career .207/.260/.314 slash line.

It's important to note in all of this, too, that Renteria has said that Jay might not be an everyday player. Jay's versatility in the outfield also means he might be playing at one set position all season. So for those arguing that the White Sox could have an everyday outfield of Jimenez, Jay and Palka for the next six months, it might not be so simple. And if Jimenez and Palka are in the corners, that makes Engel's glove all the more valuable.

Jimenez returned to the White Sox lineup for Saturday's Cactus League game, perhaps another sign that he could return to the major league roster after being optioned to Charlotte prior to the announcement of the new contract.

Whether his making the roster would force off another outfielder remains to be seen.

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If Eloy Jimenez is on the White Sox roster on Opening Day, who's off it?

If Eloy Jimenez is on the White Sox roster on Opening Day, who's off it?

The reported deal nearing completion between the White Sox and Eloy Jimenez is much more about having him in a White Sox uniform for the better part of the next decade than it is about having him in a White Sox uniform next week.

But the reported six-year contract that could last eight years, thanks to a couple of team options, would throw the whole service-time issue out the window. There would be no need to delay Jimenez's debut in order to guarantee an extra year of club control. That control is built into the contract. So Jimenez can now appear on the Opening Day roster with no ill effects.

Whether that's what will happen or not seems to be unclear at the moment. But if Jimenez is part of the 25 on Opening Day next week in Kansas City, then who won't be?

The outfield has been a tough puzzle to piece together all spring. Even if Jimenez were to start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, there would've been too many guys for the four assumed outfield spots on the roster: Jon Jay, Adam Engel, Daniel Palka, Leury Garcia and Nicky Delmonico. Jay isn't going anywhere, obviously, but if Jimenez is there on Opening Day, that eats up two of those spots, leaving four guys fighting it out for two jobs.

Jimenez likely becomes the everyday left fielder, but while Jay is a lock to make the team, he's not a lock to play just one outfield position (his versatility and ability to play in all three spots was part of the allure of his signing) and he's not a lock to play every day. So constructing an outfield with the idea that Jay would be either the everyday center fielder or everyday right fielder is perhaps misguided. He might end up playing both positions a decent amount.

Each of the other four players brings entirely different strong suits.

Palka has the left-handed power that led to 27 home runs in 2018, but his defensive ability is a pretty big question mark — not to mention a bigger piece of this puzzle now that Yonder Alonso and Jose Abreu figure to take up the majority of the at-bats at designated hitter, the position Palka looked best suited for.

Engel has the defensive mastery in center field that made him a Gold Glove finalist last season, but his offensive struggles are well documented: He has a career .207/.260/.314 slash line.

Garcia has the versatility that Rick Renteria loves, the ability to play three infield positions and three outfield positions, but with Jose Rondon adding outfield to his repertoire this spring and boasting significantly more power than Garcia, does Garcia's versatility become superfluous?

Delmonico has the offensive potential he flashed at the end of the 2017 season, when he hit nine homers and had an .856 OPS in just 43 games, but injuries and poor results cratered his numbers in 2018, when he slashed .215/.296/.373 with just eight homers and 80 strikeouts in 88 games.

It comes down to which attribute Renteria and Rick Hahn value most. Engel's bat receives plenty of scorn from the fan base, but his glove could be even more valuable in an outfield featuring Jimenez and Palka, two players not known for their work with the glove. But Palka provides more pop, while Garcia gives Renteria more options when it comes to resting guys throughout the course of the 162-game season.

It's important to note that whenever this rebuild transitions into contention mode, it's possible none of these players — aside from Jimenez, of course — is a part of the White Sox outfield equation. Prospects like Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Luis Basabe and Blake Rutherford might eventually have better claims to these spots than anyone in the current mix. But there's a team to field in 2019.

Truthfully, it's near impossible to pick which of these guys is going to get the short end of the stick. It seemed Delmonico was going to have a challenging time making the team even if Jimenez had started the season at Triple-A, so perhaps it's slightly easier to box him out. But as for the other three, they each boast an attribute the others don't, and the limits of modern technology mean we can't peer inside the minds of White Sox brass and find out which attribute they value more.

After Thursday cuts that sent Ryan Cordell and Thyago Vieira, among others, out of big league camp, the roster is down to 37 (not including Jimenez, who was optioned to Charlotte earlier this month and whose reported contract is not yet official). So there are 12 more cuts to come. But the outfield is where the most intrigue lies.

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Nicky Delmonico diagnosed with mild concussion after crashing into outfield wall

Nicky Delmonico diagnosed with mild concussion after crashing into outfield wall

Nicky Delmonico has been diagnosed with a mild concussion, the White Sox told reporters Friday in Arizona.

Delmonico crashed into the left-field wall at Camelback ranch during Thursday's game against the Milwaukee Brewers and received assistance to get and stay on his feet before leaving the field on a cart. He remains in the Major League Baseball concussion protocol.

Delmonico had just entered the game as a defensive replacement for Eloy Jimenez before getting injured while chasing down that fly ball in left.

The 26-year-old Delmonico has swung a hot bat this spring, coming into Thursday's contest with a .400/.471/.533 slash line with six hits, including two doubles, and a pair of walks in seven games.

But it might still be difficult for Delmonico to crack a crowded outfield as part of the White Sox roster on Opening Day and even more difficult to stick around once Jimenez, the top-ranked prospect in the organization, makes his expected major league debut in April.

We'll see how long this concussion sidelines Delmonico and what kind of effect it could have on the competition for those outfield spots.

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