Friday, February 3, 2017

White Sox position players: There are roster spots available

Todd Frazier -- still here
As we stated Wednesday, for a rebuilding team, the White Sox's pitching staff looks surprisingly set going into spring training. Position players? That's another story.

Looking over the 40-man roster, you can find about eight position players -- maybe nine -- that would be considered roster locks for Opening Day, and most of them are infielders. I'm assuming the Sox are coming north with 13 position players, so that means there are jobs to be won when the team convenes this month to begin workouts in Glendale, Arizona.
Melky Cabrera -- still here

Let's take a look at how things stand right now, while at the same time acknowledging that more trades are possible between now and April:

1. Jose Abreu
2. Todd Frazier
3. Tim Anderson
4. Brett Lawrie
5. Tyler Saladino
6. ?????

The infield might have been considered a weakness for the Sox as recently as two seasons ago, but if this rebuilding club has a strong point, this is probably it. The Sox are set with Abreu at first base, Lawrie at second base, Anderson at shortstop and Frazier at third base. Saladino is a solid utility player. His glove won't hurt you at any of the four positions, and his bat is league-average.

Abreu and Frazier combined for 65 home runs and 198 RBIs last year at the corners. Anderson is an emerging young talent, and Lawrie is a league-average player who should be serviceable if he can stay healthy.

The hope is Lawrie will eventually be replaced by Yoan Moncada, the highly regarded prospect who was the Sox's marquee acquisition in the Chris Sale trade. It's unlikely we'll see Moncada make the team out of camp, but it's possible he'll make his Sox debut sometime in 2017.

Others in the mix for a roster spot include Matt Davidson and Carlos Sanchez. If Davidson hits during spring training, he'll probably make the club and get some starts at third, first and designated hitter. Davidson is entering his age 26 season, so I'm thinking the Sox want to find out once and for all what they have with him, if anything.

If Davidson stinks it up in Arizona, that might open the door for Sanchez to make the club, although he'd be redundant on the roster with Saladino, and he's not as good in the utility role as Saladino is.

Leury Garcia still is hanging around as a rostered player. I'm not a fan, so I'm hoping he'll be enjoying the sights and sounds of Charlotte, North Carolina, once again this season.

One other thing to watch: There's no obvious choice for a backup first baseman here, so look for non-roster invitees Nick Delmonico and Danny Hayes to get some spring playing time. Injuries limited Hayes to 55 games at Charlotte in 2016, but the left-handed hitter did put up 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 184 at-bats. Delmonico tore apart Double-A last year, hitting .338 with 10 home runs in 38 games. But he was so-so after a midseason promotion to Charlotte (.246 with 7 home runs in 72 games).

Other non-roster invitees in camp include former Philadelphia third baseman Cody Asche and former San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera.

1. Melky Cabrera
2. Avisail Garcia
3. ??????
4. ??????
5. ??????

Here's where it gets interesting. Cabrera and Garcia are probably going to play left field and right field, respectively, although both are candidates to get some DH time, as well. The starting center fielder and the backup outfield spots are open questions.

At SoxFest, GM Rick Hahn expressed a preference to see Charlie Tilson get an extended look in center field. Tilson was acquired mid-2016 from the Cardinals in the Zach Duke deal, but he suffered a serious groin injury in his Sox debut and was not seen again for the rest of the season.

If he's healthy, he's going to get the first shot in center, but I'm not going so far as to make him a roster lock. Prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May are both on the 40-man roster. A strong spring could put either man in the mix for a roster spot. They are similar players, however -- speedy, good defensively, and questionable with the bat.

Engel has had an interesting past 18 months. He was the 2015 MVP of the Arizona Fall League, but he struggled at the start of the 2016 season in Birmingham. He got demoted to High-A Winston-Salem, but by the end of the year he was at Triple-A Charlotte and ended up getting added to the 40-man roster. Senior Director of Baseball Operations Dan Fabian told me at SoxFest that he believes the trip to Winston-Salem allowed Engel to iron out some issues with his swing. We shall see.

The Sox also will have three busted outfield prospects in camp. Rymer Liriano, who was a waiver claim from the Milwaukee Brewers, and Willy Garcia, who was a waiver claim from the Pittsburgh Pirates, are both on the 40-man roster. Neither man seems like a good bet to do anything, but sometimes rebuilding teams need roster filler.

And, yes, Courtney Hawkins still is hanging around the organization. He's only 23, blah, blah, blah, but the reality is he hit .206/.255/.349 in his second season at Birmingham last year. Injuries have hindered his development, and there's nothing going on with him that suggests progress. Oh well.

1. Omar Narvaez
2. ???????

Narvaez essentially made the 2017 club last year with a respectable performance in 34 games at the big league level. He hit .267/.350/.337 and seemed to be a calming influence for left-hander Carlos Rodon, who enjoyed his best two months of the season with Narvaez behind the plate in August and September.

The Sox invited Geovany Soto to camp, and if the veteran is healthy, he's going to be the second catcher on the roster. That's a big if, however, as knee injuries limited the 34-year-old to 26 games with the Los Angeles Angels last year.

Other rostered catchers include Alfredo Gonzalez and Kevan Smith. Hahn was asked about the catching situation at SoxFest, and perhaps tellingly, he did not mention Smith's name. He talked about Narvaez and Soto, and he praised Gonzalez as a good defensive catcher. So, perhaps those three men are in the mix for the two roster spots, and Smith is headed back to Charlotte.

Position players report to camp Feb. 18. There won't be any shortage of intrigue as they guys work to make the team.


  1. Neglected to mention, veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos will be in Sox camp on a minor league deal. Might make the team.

  2. For the position players they have, the goal should be doing everything they can to put them in a position to increase their trade values (not including Anderson). They need to make the players they have as versatile as possible. For example, the Cubs increased Chris Coghlan's trade value by having him play second base once in a while in 2015.

    I would love to see Lawrie moved to LF. He's proven to be a below average infielder - Saladino is clearly the better defensive player and you need middle infield defense to help a young pitching staff. This is especially important as Abreu is absolutely terrible defensively. Lawrie can out-run Melky and that may be a big help with CF being a question mark; it might even keep Lawrie healthy for a change. Let Melky DH and give him a spot start in LF every week to keep his trade value up; Abreu can DH on those days so that Frazier or Davidson get some action at 1B.

  3. Did the Cubs really increase Coghlan's trade value though? They dealt him to Oakland for Aaron Brooks, a 26-year-old who has never stuck in the majors and missed most of 2016 with an injury. That was an inconsequential move for both sides. And Coghlan was a poor defender at 2B, so I don't know that having him play another position badly made him any more attractive to other clubs.

    I would disagree with moving Lawrie to LF. The bat doesn't translate there. He is frequently injured and doesn't have much value in a trade anyway. He's a cheap, veteran stopgap who can play 2B until he either gets hurt or the Sox develop somebody better. Lawrie could also be moved to 3B in the event Frazier is dealt. I don't think a position change for Lawrie benefits him, the club, or his trade value.

  4. Inconsequential perhaps, but then why did either team feel the need to trade instead of just release the players they didn't want? If Coghlan makes the Phillies, he'll earn as much as Chris Carter. Versatility and willingness has sustained some of his value.

    The idea Lawrie's bat doesn't translate to LF makes no sense whatsoever because you are purposely limiting your thinking and possibilities. Lawrie's proven for years that he is one of the worst defensive infielders in baseball, why leave him there? We already KNOW he costs us games in the infield, what does it hurt to try him in the outfield? We already know Melky is a below average fielder, let him DH and be happy he's not costing you games defensively. Addition by subtraction.

    By your logic Adam Eaton should never have been moved to RF because his bat didn't translate to RF.

    Most of the time small moves don't matter, but sometimes they do. A rebuilding club needs to make small moves, and the Sox have lost the right to stick to conventional thinking. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  5. The bottom line is you're not going to gain much talent trading the likes of Chris Coghlan or Brett Lawrie, no matter what you do. Coghlan is lucky he still plays baseball for a living.

    What makes you think Adam Eaton's bat doesn't translate to RF? He's a significantly better hitter than Brett Lawrie.