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White Sox 2020 roster prediction: Projecting the 30 players for Opening Day

White Sox 2020 roster prediction: Projecting the 30 players for Opening Day

The White Sox announced Monday the 44-player pool that will be reporting to the second round of spring training — the league is branding it as “Summer Camp” — beginning Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

While other small signings could come — the New York Mets have already added former White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham to their player pool — let’s work with the 44 players we know will be under consideration on the South Side and try to predict what the 30-man roster will look like come Opening Day.

Obviously, a ton could change between now and the end of this three-week training. Baseball is trying to get a season off the ground in the middle of a pandemic, and after the NBA and NHL saw roughly five percent of their players test positive for COVID-19 upon returning to camp, the number of positive tests among the as many as 1,800 baseball players reporting could approach triple digits.

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Plus, teams are waiting to see what kind of physical condition players are in after a three-month layoff, which could obviously impact roster decisions.

But here’s an educated guess of which 30 guys could break camp and start a 60-game season on the White Sox major league roster.

Starting pitchers

Lucas Giolito
Dallas Keuchel
Dylan Cease
Reynaldo Lopez
Gio Gonzalez
Michael Kopech
Carlos Rodon

We don’t know what kind of shape any of these guys will be in when they report to camp Friday, let alone what kind of shape they’ll be in when the season begins three weeks later. Will starting pitchers be able to log their typical six or seven innings? Giolito thinks so, but that might be a rosier outlook than reality allows. James McCann made mention that teams could be extra protective with their pitchers and limit them to just a few innings at a time.

So we could get an entirely new way that Rick Renteria is going to handle his pitching staff. The manager said everything is on the table, including strategies such as an expanded rotation, the use of openers and what baseball people call “piggybacking,” which is using two starters back to back in the same game.

Pending injury or illness, the five starting pitchers who were expected to break with the team back in March should still be there: Giolito, Keuchel, Cease, Lopez and Gonzalez. The big difference the three-month layoff has made is that the pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery have, well, recovered. Expected to be midseason additions, guys like Kopech and Rodon — as well as pitching prospects Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert — could be full-season options.

Kopech, you would expect to be there. While the White Sox could still not find his arm up to full strength, considering he hasn't had any minor league games to play in, a limited number of innings could mean that any innings limit that would have existed gets thrown out the window. Rodon, meanwhile, is obviously not as far along in his recovery, having had the surgery months after Kopech did, but could still be healthy enough to make a full-season contribution.

If both those guys are ready to go, that’s huge news for the White Sox, who would benefit greatly from that extra depth. They could shuffle Gonzalez back to the bullpen if they wanted to stick with the traditional five-man rotation formula. Or they could start incorporating Kopech and Rodon into games as “piggybacking” pitchers who would come in after three or four innings of another pitcher and help bridge the gap to the back end of the bullpen.

There are tons of options — Dunning could even factor in at some point, if the White Sox choose; they were complimentary of how he was progressing through the system before he got hurt in 2018 — and nothing says these guys have to pitch every five days and that’s it in this most unusual of seasons.

RELATED: White Sox prep to play during COVID-19: 'We don't know what tomorrow holds'

Relief pitchers

Alex Colome
Aaron Bummer
Steve Cishek
Evan Marshall
Jimmy Cordero
Kelvin Herrera
Jace Fry
Ross Detwiler
Carson Fulmer

With starting pitchers potentially factoring into the mix, the lines between rotation and bullpen could be blurred in 2020. But a strong relief corps figures to be as important as ever with so much mystery surrounding what the starters are going to be able to provide.

The back end of the White Sox bullpen was a strength last season, and the eighth- and ninth-inning men are back, with Bummer and Colome expected to pitch in some of the highest-leverage moments late in games. Cishek will join that group, too, and he brings a strong track record after two seasons on the North Side. Marshall and Cordero were good last year, and the White Sox are hopeful for a bounce-back season from Herrera.

Detwiler can provide some length, which isn’t as great a need as it was back in March, when Kopech, Rodon and the others were expected to be away from the big league club for a while. But again, with starters perhaps maxing out, at least at the start of the season, at three or four innings, someone to soak up some innings is not going to be turned away. Fulmer could fall into that category, as well, though he’s struggled mightily with his command in recent seasons.

Ian Hamilton, Tayron Guerrero or Jose Ruiz could impress in camp, and then there are young guys like Codi Heuer and Tyler Johnson who the team could decide to give a shot to. Also, don't forget the usual roster churn that befalls a bullpen during a season. The Opening Day bullpen is rarely the final bullpen.

It’s possible, too, that guys pegged for the starting rotation back in March or even now could be cycled into relief roles. The number of innings they need to throw are so small now, compared to a normal season, that they might be able to be called on with greater frequency than every fifth day if they’re not going to throw scores of pitches in an outing. Kopech the closer? It's certainly not the team's long-term plan, but would the bizarre circumstances of 2020 convince them to give it a try?

RELATED: Why Lucas Giolito thinks White Sox pitchers are ready for short season

Catchers

Yasmani Grandal
James McCann
Zack Collins
Yermin Mercedes

This was the position group discussed the most when it came to the new 26th-man spot back in March. Why not just put ‘em all on the expanded 30-man roster?

Grandal and McCann are locks, obviously, a pair of All-Star backstops. But the debate was whether Collins or even Mercedes could find their way onto the roster with such little playing time seemingly available behind the plate.

Well, Collins, even in his brief time in the majors last year, was practicing at first base and could provide Jose Abreu with some rest. Both he and Mercedes could find some time as designated-hitter options for Renteria, who with a larger bench might be a little more likely to empty it in pinch-hitting situations and the like. While Abreu and Edwin Encarnacion haven’t shown a great need for a ton of days off, who knows what this 60-games-in-66-days format will hold? Who knows if those veterans will need some more time to get their bodies back into in-season shape?

That’s where Collins and Mercedes could come in handy. One thing working against the four-catcher plan: Roster rules will require teams to bring a three-man taxi squad along on road trips, and one of those players must be a catcher. And with four catchers already on the big league roster, that would require the White Sox dipping further down into their farm system to find a fifth catcher for the taxi squad 30 times during the season. Most likely that would mean Seby Zavala, but he wasn’t included as part of the 44-player pool announced Monday. He could certainly still be part of the group training at an alternate site. But perhaps the White Sox would be more comfortable with having Collins or Mercedes man that taxi-squad spot on road trips.

From an offensive standpoint, though, this seems to give Renteria the best options.

RELATED: Lucas Giolito on MLB's 60-game season: 'Every single game's a must-win'

Infielders

Jose Abreu
Tim Anderson
Yoan Moncada
Edwin Encarnacion
Leury Garcia
Danny Mendick

Abreu, Anderson and Moncada are no-brainers. Encarnacion is the everyday DH. Garcia and Mendick provide some valuable versatility.

But where’s Nick Madrigal?

Madrigal is perhaps the biggest mystery on this team right now because there are so many different ways the White Sox could choose to utilize (or not utilize) him in 2020, and all seemingly have good reasons behind them.

1. He could be put on the Opening Day roster. Madrigal is the best second baseman in the organization, offensively and defensively, and in a season where it’s more critical than ever to get off to a good start, having him there from Day 1 would give the White Sox the best chance to do that.

2. He could not make the Opening Day roster but show up a week later. Yes, service time is still a thing, and holding Madrigal’s big league debut back just a few days could net the White Sox an extra year of team control down the road. The team has never said that is a factor in its decision-making with prospects, but it’s a reality of the game that could benefit them as they look to extend their contention window far into the future.

3. He could be kept away from the major leagues all season. This doesn’t seem terribly likely, considering Madrigal was expected to be the team’s starting second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 season. But thinking from a service-time standpoint — which remember, the White Sox have never said they do — it potentially makes a ton of sense. In both the winter and spring, the White Sox said they needed to see more from Madrigal before deeming him ready for big league promotion. Well, he wasn’t able to show much before spring training was halted, and there’s expected to be no minor league season in which to show those things. Keeping him away from a brief season could mean the White Sox could wait to start his service-time clock until not just next season but a couple weeks into next season — when they could be better positioned to contend for a title than in this weird season full of unknowns — extending their team control and their contention window even more.

That last one — and probably the second one, too, which seems the most likely route — wouldn’t be very popular with White Sox fans, but it could make the team more competitive for years to come, Hahn’s ultimate goal in his rebuilding project.

RELATED: White Sox not adjusting high hopes for 2020: 'I'm still extremely optimistic'

Outfielders

Eloy Jimenez
Luis Robert
Nomar Mazara
Adam Engel

No real controversies here. The only other outfielders in the 44-player pool are Nicky Delmonico and Luis Basabe, who would figure to have steep odds to make the club over any of these four. Some more red-hot play from Delmonico like he had in the spring could inch him into a roster spot over either Collins or Mercedes, but with only intrasquad games and a couple of exhibitions against, most likely, the Cubs to show off, even that’s difficult. Garcia’s versatility gives the White Sox a fifth outfielder, especially if he loses an everyday second-base job if and when Madrigal makes his big league debut.

All eyes will be on Robert, who was favored to be one of the leading candidates for AL Rookie of the Year. He’ll definitely still be on that list, though it will be interesting to see if he can set the world on fire, as predicted back in March, without much time to adjust to his first taste of the big leagues. You’ll remember it took Jimenez, Moncada and Giolito — three rebuilding cornerstones — months if not years to make their adjustments. Robert won’t have that kind of time.

Another interesting question is what does the White Sox outfield alignment look like late in games. Engel provides the most value as a sure-handed defender off the bench, and he’s been a Gold Glove finalist in center field. Are his late-game glove skills more valuable than Robert’s in center? Certainly they’d figure to be better than either corner outfielder, but if Engel is a frequent replacement for either Jimenez or Mazara, who mans the vacated corner spot and who plays center between Robert and Engel? That might not be a frequent question that needs answering, but it will be interesting to see what Renteria does when the moment comes.


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White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

The White Sox winning streak is over.

So why was Danny Mendick so chipper after a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night?

His three hits might have had something to do with it. He was just about the only offense the White Sox mustered against Adrian Houser and a pair of relievers.

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But it seemed to stem more from the different feeling surrounding this year's White Sox team.

Mendick got a taste, however small, of the rebuilding years at the tail end of the 2019 season. After Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jiménez broke out the way they did during that campaign, Rick Hahn's front office complemented them with a host of impact veteran additions during the offseason. Throw it all together, and these White Sox have the look of a potential contender, something backed up by the way they played during their six-game win streak.

That's over now, though Wednesday's game had the same kind of playoff feel that the first two games against the Brewers did on Monday and Tuesday nights. The White Sox might not have played any games that felt like these in the last three years. Now there have been three in three nights.

So yeah, something's changed.

"I’ll tell you what, just the energy in the clubhouse," Mendick said Wednesday, asked about the difference between 2019 and 2020. "When we show up to the field, there’s more confidence.

"It’s not like we are going to get pushed around. It’s more like we are going to do the pushing around.

"Everyone is just prepared. Everyone shows up to the field ready. They know the opponent. We know what they are going to bring. I feel there’s just more, how do I say this, more education. We have more veterans. We have guys who are really focused on baseball, and it brings a lot to everybody."

RELATED: White Sox manager Rick Renteria finally has talent — and knows what to do with it

The six-game win streak turned the White Sox slow 1-4 start around in a hurry. In this shortened, 60-game season, every game means so much and even modest winning or losing streaks could tug the entire season in one direction or the other. The White Sox went from getting their brains beat in by the class of the AL Central to the third best record in the American League as of Wednesday morning.

They've showed what they're capable of, too. They blew out the Kansas City Royals, scoring a combined 20 runs and knocking out a total of 35 hits in back-to-back wins last weekend. Then they went to Milwaukee and won a pair of nail-biters, getting clutch hits from José Abreu and Jiménez to back strong efforts by the bullpen Monday and Giolito on Tuesday.

Wednesday, it was one of those newly arrived veterans, Dallas Keuchel, who shone. He logged seven one-run innings, the first White Sox starter to pitch in the seventh inning this season. If it weren't for the unusually cool conditions on the South Side, the outcome might have been different. Luis Robert and Moncada dialed up back-to-back deep fly balls in the eighth inning that both could have easily gone as go-ahead homers on a normal summer night.

The clutch hits could have kept on coming. And the knowledge of being competitive — the "belief," as Giolito keeps putting it — prevented the White Sox from feeling down after another fine effort Wednesday. It will likely do so every night for the remainder of this short season.

"The thing that probably has impressed me the most is the resiliency of the club," Hahn said Wednesday. "Obviously, those of us who have watched this team over the last several years, and certainly in the early phase of the rebuild, knew that feeling that you would get early or midway through games where you would feel the lead was perhaps insurmountable. I think looking at this club through the first 10 or 11 games so far, it feels like we're not out of any ballgame, regardless of what the deficit may be.

"I think that's a great testament to not just the veterans that have been brought in, but the growth of the young guys and the mentality I'm sure you've all picked up on going back to (spring training in) Glendale."

Part of the reason additions like Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación looked so good during the winter was the playoff experience these guys have. While the White Sox core doesn't know what it's like to win at the big league level — not even Abreu does, who played for six losing White Sox teams before signing a new multi-year deal in the offseason — these guys do. They're all veterans of pennant races and playoff runs that go all the way to the end of October. Keuchel's got a World Series ring on his resume.

Experience with the highs and lows of a winning season might not be quite as valuable in this most unusual of seasons. But before the White Sox can be championship contenders, they actually need to do some winning. After a combined 284 losses in the last three seasons, even a six-game winning streak can mean a lot.

But whether they won or lost Wednesday, it didn't seem like the result was going to sway their belief. These White Sox are here to compete and live up to the high expectations they set for themselves dating all the way back to the end of an 89-loss season in 2019.

"We've been hot, and eventually it's going to come to an end. But man, we were right in the ballgame. That's all we can ask for," Keuchel said. "Game in, game out, we know that we're going to be in those contests.

"If we can win series, that's a playoff recipe."


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Dane Dunning won't fill Carlos Rodón's spot in White Sox rotation vs. Indians

Dane Dunning won't fill Carlos Rodón's spot in White Sox rotation vs. Indians

We're running out of guys who could potentially start in Carlos Rodón's place Saturday against the Cleveland Indians.

A day after White Sox manager Rick Renteria said it likely wouldn't be red-hot reliever Ross Detwiler who slides into the rotation as a fill-in for Rodón, who's currently on the injured list with shoulder inflammation, general manager Rick Hahn said the task won't fall to Dane Dunning, either.

Dunning, the highly touted pitching prospect acquired in the same 2016 trade that brought Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López to the White Sox, has shown some great promise during his minor league career, and that includes during "Summer Camp" last month at Guaranteed Rate Field. But still coming back from the Tommy John surgery he had last year, the White Sox aren't ready to put him on the big league starting staff quite yet.

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"I can say right now, Dane Dunning's not going to be the guy we go to on Saturday when Carlos' first vacated spot comes up," Hahn said Wednesday. "He's continuing to build up his endurance and essentially is a guy who is coming back as a starter post-TJ without the ability to go on rehab assignments.

"We have a very strict program he's following, and it doesn't quite include making his major league debut come this Saturday. But at some point we're going to let him in."

Certain White Sox fans have been calling on the team to include Dunning as part of the major league starting-pitching mix since before the season started, and injuries that sent not only Rodón but also López to the injured list have only produced more of those calls. And it's not like the White Sox haven't been close to doing it in the past. Hahn said before the start of the 2019 season that if it hadn't been for Dunning's arm injury, he might have been part of the rotation as early as last year's Opening Day.

But unlike Rodón, who made the Opening Day rotation after his own recovery from Tommy John surgery, Dunning is not yet far enough along in his recovery to be deemed ready for big league action as a starter. And with the news Hahn provided on the status of both Rodón and López on Wednesday relatively good — Hahn said both injured pitchers could be back with the team in just a few weeks — there might not be that many starts to make in their place.

And so the White Sox might not go the traditional route in plugging the hole in the rotation behind Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease and Gio González.

"It's not going to be, knock on wood, long-term issues for either of them," Hahn said. "You've heard me say time and again about the timing of promotions of prospects. We want to make it about the individual player, not about the need in Chicago or a hole somewhere on the roster in Chicago. Certainly when it comes to Dane, he's no exception. It would be conceivably easy for us to say, 'All right, we're going to bring him Saturday because there's a need. We'll just keep (him) at three (innings) and 45 (pitches) or something like that in terms of that outing.' But we don't feel like that's in his best interest long term.

"If we need to go and get creative or deal with some spot-start-like situations a couple of times through, we'll make the most of it.

"Let's get through today. We know who's available today, we have a general idea of what we want to do tomorrow. Once we get to Saturday, we'll probably start piecing that thing together once we get through tomorrow night's game and head into Friday to figure out what's our best alternative."

RELATED: White Sox sending Nick Madrigal to IL, but team's injuries might not last long

What that could lead to is simply a bullpen day or the use of an opener. The White Sox bullpen was among the most frequently called upon relief corps in baseball coming into Wednesday night's game, but it's been darn good, too. Detwiler might not be jumping into the rotation, but there's nothing to say he couldn't throw a couple innings at the start of Saturday's game. Major league rosters shrink from 30 players to 28 on Thursday, but that means the White Sox will still have some extra room to work with. A bigger bullpen could mean a parade of relievers against the Indians on Saturday.

And if that works, maybe every fifth day just becomes the bullpen's day to soak up a few more innings until Rodón or López come back.

Hahn said it was unlikely the White Sox were to look outside the organization for rotation help at the moment. If you think it's difficult to try to figure out whether to give up long-term pieces for short-term help in a normal season, imagine how hard it is when the trade deadline comes a month after Opening Day and there are no minor league games going on. But the team did just add a free agent on a minor league deal, bringing the 36-year-old Clayton Richard back to the organization that drafted him.

There's no doubt that the pitching depth that seemed like such a plus for the White Sox before the season started has been used up in a hurry. Forty percent of the starting rotation is on the injured list, as is Jimmy Lambert, and Michael Kopech elected not to play due to personal reasons. Things have changed rapidly.

Given how day to day just about everything involving the 2020 season is at the moment, don't expect the White Sox to settle on a plan for Saturday for a bit still.


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