We’re less than a week from the White Sox breaking camp and there are at least a few decisions to be made regarding the make-up of the roster March 29 against the Royals.
It’s important to remember that these decisions aren’t the end-all. Lest we forget, last year the White Sox broke camp with Cody Asche and Jacob May, and nobody except a really smart analyst and exceptional writer had ever even heard of Nicky Delmonico. Remember Jimmy Rollins two years ago? Me neither.
But these decisions do matter, as they’re the culmination of six weeks of observation of the roster by the White Sox staff. We’ll know the answers to these questions soon enough, but why wait?! I have the answers now, and I’m going to tell you what they are. But I’m going to level with you: There’s not a lot of drama.
I’m going to level with you, there’s not a lot of drama. The White Sox decisions amount to this: Will they keep 13 pitchers, if so, which ones, who is the backup catcher, and who is the fifth starter?
At this point, we know the eight starters on the position side. Welington Castillo, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez, Nicky Delmonico, Adam Engel, and Avisail Garcia all seem like locks. If the White Sox go with 13 pitchers, that leaves three bench spots. Setting aside catcher for a second, that leaves two spots for Leury Garcia, Tyler Saladino, and Ryan Cordell.
The White Sox love Leury’s versatility, and his ability to play both the outfield and multiple infield positions will come in handy if they keep 13 pitchers. He’s in. Cordell has certainly played like someone who deserves a roster spot this spring, hitting .342/.444/.553 with more walks than strikeouts in 45 plate appearances. He also hasn’t played since last June, which was before the White Sox acquired him from Milwaukee in exchange for Anthony Swarzak. At 25, he deserves a shot to prove whether or not he belongs in the majors sooner than later, but my guess is the White Sox keep Saladino and Cordell opens the season in Charlotte.
There isn’t a lot of upside in the backup catcher battle, as both Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith have shown competence but limited upside. We are talking about backup catchers, after all, and the presence of Castillo means whoever stays in Chicago will likely only get about a start or two a week, anyway. I give the edge to Narvaez as he’s proved more competent with the bat in more career plate appearances. It honestly doesn’t seem like a very tough decision.
There’s more room for debate in the pitching staff. Rick Renteria expressed confidence in Carson Fulmer even before he rebounded with a decent start on Monday, and with Hector Santiago’s ability to go long innings out of the bullpen or make a spot start, he seems a lock to go from NRI to the 25-man roster. Other bullpen locks seem to be Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, and Danny Farquhar. That leaves two spots, for incumbents Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, and Jace Fry, or NRIs Robbie Ross Jr., Jeanmar Gomez, Xavier Cedeno, and a few other long shots.
Infante pitched surprisingly well last season, and maybe belongs in the “lock” category, so he’s in. The other pick is a lot tougher, as Bummer and Fry could maybe use more seasoning in the minors, but the White Sox clearly like both. Handedness isn’t a factor here, either, as Santiago and Avilan already give them two lefties. Given that, the pick is Gomez, with Bummer and Fry starting the season in Charlotte, and guys like Ross and Cedeno possibly sticking around as additional depth.
C – Castillo
1B – Abreu
2B – Moncada
SS – Anderson
3B – Sanchez
LF – Delmonico
CF – Engel
RF – A. Garcia
DH – Davidson
Bench – Narvaez, L. Garcia, Saladino
SP – Shields
SP – Giolito
SP – Lopez
SP – Gonzalez
SP – Fulmer
Bullpen: Santiago, Soria, Avilan, Jones, Minaya, Farquhar, Infante, Gomez
Lead Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports