|Jose Quintana -- still here|
We'll assume there are no trades between now and Opening Day -- a big assumption, because general manager Rick Hahn made it clear at SoxFest that he's still open to making moves before the season starts.
For a rebuilding club, the Sox look surprisingly set on the pitching side of things. The five projected starting pitchers right now are pretty obvious:
1. Jose Quintana
2. Carlos Rodon
3. Miguel Gonzalez
4. James Shields
5. Derek Holland
In anyone gets injured or traded, Rule 5 draft pick Dylan Covey might get the first shot at taking a spot. The other roster contenders would be two of the three players acquired in the Adam Eaton trade -- Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. However, Hahn indicated a preference to have all the recently acquired prospects start the season in the minor leagues, so we probably will not see Giolito or Lopez in Chicago until later in the 2017 season.
I look for prospects Carson Fulmer and Tyler Danish to potentially get some starts during spring training, but both players are ticketed for the Triple-A rotation in Charlotte when the season starts.
Let's assume the Sox will carry 12 pitchers -- most teams do -- so that means there are seven spots in the bullpen. There isn't a lot of mystery with five out of the seven:
|David Robertson -- also still here|
1. David Robertson
2. Nate Jones
3. Dan Jennings
4. Jake Petricka
5. Zach Putnam
Contenders for the last two spots include a quartet of right-handers we saw in Chicago in 2016: Tommy Kahnle, Michael Ynoa, Juan Minaya and Chris Beck.
I'm guessing one of the four makes the club, with Kahnle having the inside track. Unlike the rest of that crew, he had a strong finish to 2016 -- a 0.87 ERA over his final 11 appearances with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 IP.
Why would only one of the four make the team? Well, I'm thinking the Sox want a second left-hander in the bullpen. Jennings is the only left-handed roster lock as a relief pitcher. The door is open for waiver claim Giovanni Soto, who last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 2015. The 25-year-old's left-handedness is an advantage for him as he battles Ynoa, Minaya and Beck for a roster spot.
But what of the non-roster invitees, you ask? Are there any pitchers that could surprise and make the roster out of spring training?
I'd say keep an eye on the non-rostered lefties, a list that includes Matt Purke, Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Jace Fry, David Holmberg and Cory Luebke.
Purke is a familiar name to Sox fans, although his 12 big league outings last season were pretty bad. I'll be interested to see what Bummer has after amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler spoke highly of him at SoxFest. Bummer is hard thrower who missed the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery, and he has fewer than 40 professional innings under his belt. It seems unlikely he'll compete for a roster spot given his inexperience, but he might be the most intriguing name in this group.
Clark is more advanced, having thrown 56 innings across 37 games between Birmingham and Charlotte last year. Fry missed the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery, and has thrown only 61 professional innings. Holmberg has worked mostly as a starter in his career. He made 28 starts between Birmingham and Charlotte last year, and has 167 career starts in the minors. Luebke is a 31-year-old former San Diego Padres prospect who underwent two Tommy John surgeries and missed three seasons from 2013-15.
From that list of six, we'll see if any emerge as a worthy challenger. Personally, I wouldn't count on it. Of course, when do you ever count on non-roster invitees?
Non-rostered right-handed pitchers in camp include Blake Smith, who made five September appearances with the Sox last year; 31-year-old veteran Anthony Swarzak, who had 26 relief appearances with the New York Yankees last year; and 20-year-old prospect Spencer Adams, who split time between Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2016.
And, oh yeah, Michael Kopech and Zack Burdi are going to be in camp as non-roster players. Heard anything about them lately? How's that for burying the lead?
In all seriousness, Kopech is probably ticketed for High-A Winston-Salem when the season starts, while Burdi will be headed to the Charlotte bullpen, in hopes of one day becoming the White Sox closer.
Neither of these two hyped prospects are going to make the club, but they will generate headlines each and every time they take the mound this spring.