Thursday, February 23, 2017

White Sox to retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56

White Sox players celebrate Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009.
The White Sox on Thursday announced that they will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 jersey in a ceremony June 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Buehrle spent 12 seasons with the Sox and collected 161 of his 214 career victories with the South Siders.

The former 38th-round draft pick made four All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, tossed two no-hitters -- including a perfect game -- and was a key member of the Sox's World Series-winning rotation in 2005.

"Mark Buehrle is one of the most accomplished pitchers in franchise history," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Mark carried himself with class and professionalism throughout his career, and his popularity with staff, teammates and Sox fans is very well deserved. Although a very humble person, he certainly showed a flair for the dramatic on the mound, from a no-hitter to an unforgettable perfect game to a World Series title. A standout on the field and a standup teammate in the clubhouse, it is our honor to retire Mark Buehrle’s No. 56 and to welcome him into the legendary class of all-time White Sox greats."

Buehrle is one of my all-time favorite Sox players. His jersey hangs in my closet. There are so many good memories of his career that it's hard to pick a favorite, but I'll do it anyway.

I've been to hundreds of Sox games in my 40 years on the planet, but I've only seen one no-hitter in person. It was Buehrle's, on April 18, 2007, against the Texas Rangers. He faced the minimum 27 batters in the 6-0 win. He walked only one -- Sammy Sosa -- and he promptly picked Sosa off first base.

I saved my ticket stub from that game and all the clippings from the newspaper the following morning. Those materials are now framed and hung on a wall in my living room. It's a game I'll never forget the rest of my life.

Buehrle provided so many other great moments for the Sox and their fans -- getting the save in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series after pitching seven innings as the starter in Game 2; the 12-strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners in a game that lasted only 1 hour, 39 minutes; the one-hitter against Tampa Bay in his first full season as a starter; the famous flip-between-the-legs play on Opening Day 2010 -- I could go on like this for hours.

But instead, let's just celebrate Buehrle's career by watching all the outs from his 27-up, 27-down masterpiece against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009. This is a clinic in how to pitch. Only six of the 27 outs were strikeouts, but just notice the weak contact on most of the other 21 outs. Aside from the spectacular catch by Dewayne Wise in the top of the ninth inning, it's just routine play after routine play for Sox fielders. Enjoy:

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

David Robertson trade rumors begin anew

David Robertson
The rumors about a potential trade in which the White Sox would send closer David Robertson to the Washington Nationals just won't go away.

The Nationals need a closer, having lost Mark Melancon to the San Francisco Giants in free agency over the offseason. Washington has yet to sign or trade for a suitable replacement, so Robertson does make some sense for them. (I personally think Shawn Kelley might be a better option for the Nationals than a post-peak Robertson, but shhhhh, don't tell them that.)

Reports indicate the Nationals have agreed on a two-year, $21 million deal with catcher Matt Wieters. That move has rekindled the Robertson discussions, because Washington now has three catchers, and the Sox have a hole at that position.

Is anyone prepared to argue that the Sox are set with the catching tandem of Omar Narvaez and Geovany Soto? Nope, me neither. They could use another guy there, because Narvaez only has 34 games of big-league experience, and the 34-year-old Soto comes with health concerns.

The Sox need a catcher. The Nationals have one to deal. The Nationals need a closer. The Sox have one to deal. Yes, you can see the potential fit.

But here's my question: Would either of the two catchers Washington has to deal be a fit for the Sox? With the addition of Wieters, one of Derek Norris or Jose Lobaton needs to go.

Let's cross Lobaton off the list immediately. He's a 32-year-old journeyman. He's been a backup for six of the seven seasons he's been in the majors, including the past three. Acquiring him would be like acquiring a somewhat healthier, somewhat younger version of Soto. That's a waste of time.

What about Norris? This Sporting News report suggests the Sox might "demand" the Nationals include him in any deal for Robertson.


Norris is 28, so he's got a few more years left in him than players such as Soto and Lobaton. And he's closer to the top of the list than the bottom when it comes to pitch framing. That said, why would the Sox "demand" a five-year veteran who hit .186 last season be included in a deal for Robertson?

The Sox's stated goal is to stockpile young talent. They are specifically looking to trade veteran assets for younger players. Granted, the declining Robertson is not a good enough trade piece to fetch an elite prospect from another organization, but if he is dealt, I would prefer to see a younger player with some upside coming back to the Sox. If such a trade is not available at the moment, that's fine. Keep Robertson for now. Hopefully he has a good first half, and maybe his value is higher in July.

I would be disappointed in a Robertson-for-Norris deal. If a trade such as that happens, it would suggest the Sox were just trying to get out from underneath the $25 million Robertson is owed over the next two years. Personally, I'd rather keep Robertson than see him traded for nothing more than salary relief and another mediocre veteran.

The modest, short-term upgrade at catcher isn't worth it to me. Bring some young talent back in the trade, or don't bother.

Monday, February 20, 2017

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson is injured -- again

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson will miss the next 10 days because of a stress reaction in his right foot, according to reports.

Tilson is the leading candidate to be the team's starting center fielder, but his hold on that job is tenuous at best. A torn left hamstring on Aug. 2 ended Tilson's 2016 season prematurely, and probably the most important thing for him this spring is proving that he's 100 percent healthy.

Although this injury is being termed "minor," no injury is really minor for a young player who is trying to hold down a roster spot and establish himself at the big-league level.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed [trainer] Herm [Schneider], thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Center field is not a position where the Sox are blessed with great depth. Well, they do have options, but none of them seem as though they are good options.

If Tilson continues to be plagued by injuries, veteran minor-league free agent Peter Bourjos likely becomes the front-runner to be the Opening Day center fielder. Bourjos is the kind of player who would only start on a bad, rebuilding team, which, of course, is what the Sox are expected to be.

Other internal options would include prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May, neither of whom has played in the major leagues.

Ideally, Tilson gets it together health-wise, and the Sox are able to take an extended look at what he can do this spring.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jimmy Rollins says White Sox clubhouse was in 'disarray' last year

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins doesn't collect paychecks from the White Sox anymore, which affords him the opportunity to speak honestly about his time on the South Side of Chicago.

Here's a link. Listen for yourself.

Rollins is asked about the bizarre tale of Adam LaRoche, who retired in spring training last year after Sox management decided his teenage son would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse.

The incident divided the team and led to high-profile players such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton clashing with the front office.

"It was a clubhouse in disarray after that point," Rollins says on the video. "Although we did great (at the start of the season). It’s always a little players versus the front office, but I think just because of the way it was handled -- a lot of the guys that were outspoken are no longer there. They’re in better places if you ask me, but they’re no longer there."

Rollins also used the word "chaos" to describe the situation in Chicago, which gets to the point of why some of us aren't as optimistic about the rebuilding plan that is underway with the Sox. The same front office that was in place during last year's "chaos" and "disarray" is the same front office being entrusted with the future of the organization.

Does that make you comfortable? I'd be more comfortable if the failures of last season had resulted in a change in leadership beyond just the manager's office.

Rollins correctly notes that the outspoken players -- Sale and Eaton -- are no longer with the Sox. Isn't it interesting that they still are the only two key players from last season to be traded? The good soldiers who keep their mouths shut and just play ball -- Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana -- they all are still here.

I'm not going to argue that there is any conspiracy at work here. I think the Sox would deal Quintana tomorrow if the right offer came up.

That said, I don't think it's a coincidence that Sale and Eaton were the first established veterans to be told to pack their bags as part of the rebuilding plan.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Alex Reyes, the best pitching prospect in baseball, is out for the year

Just yesterday, we noted that Baseball Prospectus ranked St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes the top prospect in all of baseball.

Today, one day after the beginning of spring training, Reyes is heading to the operating table with a ruptured ligament in his right elbow. He will have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season.

The 22-year-old was 4-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 games (5 starts) with the Cardinals last season. He struck out 52 batters in 46 big-league innings.

Reyes was expected to compete for the fifth spot in the St. Louis rotation, and some were thinking he would be a candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.

The Cardinals had high hopes for Reyes, and obviously, this is not the sort of news any team wants early in camp. However, St. Louis has a rotation that is mostly set -- Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake and Lance Lynn are penciled in for the first four spots.

The Reyes injury leaves Michael Wacha as the leading candidate for the fifth spot. Wacha dealt with shoulder issues in 2016 and went 7-7 with a 5.09 ERA. The Cardinals need him to bounce back, because their other fifth-spot options are not great -- 23-year-old Luke Weaver, who struggled in eight starts last year, and former closer Trevor Rosenthal.

Tying this news back to the White Sox, every time some team has a pitching injury this spring, my reaction is going to be the same: "Hmmmm ... might this team be interested in Jose Quintana?"

So, would the Cardinals be interested in Quintana? Yeah, of course, who wouldn't? However, the Cardinals are not the type of organization that makes knee-jerk moves. They like to fill spots from within, and it seems unlikely they would want to send all their high-level prospects to the Sox for Quintana, even though the fit might be good on paper.

Unless, of course, one of their veterans at the top of the rotation gets hurt. Then they might start to feel desperate.

This situation illustrates the fact that Sox general manager Rick Hahn isn't necessarily wrong for holding on to Quintana going into the season. The market might heat up for him as we go along, because injuries and underperformance might cause certain clubs who think they have enough pitching right now to realize they don't.

Wait long enough, and you might have 10 suitors for Quintana instead of three or four. The gamble in that is the possibility that Quintana himself could get injured. But if Quintana stays healthy, and pitches like he usually does in the first half, there's an opportunity to create a bidding war among clubs at the July trade deadline.

There are potential risks and potential rewards in any strategy. The injury to Reyes is just the latest reminder of how important it is for teams to stockpile pitching.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Baseball Prospectus releases Top 101 prospects list; six White Sox included

As White Sox pitchers and catchers report to Glendale, Arizona, today, any optimism surrounding the team has to do with the future and the Sox's much-improved farm system.

Baseball Prospectus on Monday released its list of Top 101 prospects, and the Sox have six players listed. That's significant, because I can't remember the Sox ever having more than two or three players named.

Here's how BP lines 'em up:

5. Yoan Moncada, INF
10. Lucas Giolito, RHP
30. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
36. Michael Kopech, RHP
89. Zack Collins, C
97. Alec Hansen, RHP

In case you're interested but too lazy to click the link, the four guys ranked ahead of Moncada are St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alex Reyes, Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford.

Moncada ranked second (behind Benintendi) in Baseball America's Top 100, which was released Friday. BA was not as high on Giolito, however, ranking him 25th. The publication liked Collins better, ranking him 56th. Lopez (31st) and Kopech (32nd) were in similar territory on BA's list, which did not include Hansen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

MLB proposes changes to strike zone, intentional walks

Major League Baseball has made a formal proposal to the players union seeking changes to intentional walks and the strike zone, according to an ESPN report.

The changes are designed to increase the amount of offense in the game and (get ready to groan) "improve the pace of play."

Am I the only one annoyed that people still are bitching about pace of play in baseball? The Super Bowl took three hours, 47 minutes to play this past Sunday night, yet nobody seemed to care. Why does it matter if baseball games take three hours to play?

I'm a baseball fan. I want more baseball, not less baseball, so sue me.

End rant, now back to the topic. Here are the details on the proposed rule changes, as reported by ESPN's Jayson Stark:
  • MLB's proposal would raise the lower part of the strike zone to the top of the hitter's knees. Since 1996, the bottom of the zone has been defined as "the hollow beneath the kneecap." But data shows that umpires have been increasingly calling strikes on so many pitches below the knees that, if umpires enforce the redefined strike zone, it would effectively raise the zone by an estimated 2 inches.
  • The change in the intentional-walk rule would end the long-standing practice of requiring the pitcher to toss four soft pitches outside the strike zone. Instead, a team could just signify it wants to issue an intentional walk, and the hitter would be sent directly to first base.
I don't understand how or why the intentional-walk rule is under scrutiny from these "pace of play" people. There were 932 intentional walks issued in 2016, which will pencil out to one every 47 innings or so. That means there was an intentional walk issued in about one out of every five games.

Intentional walks are a small part of the game. They aren't causing games to run longer. Most baseball games don't have any intentional walks issued at all. Why are we even talking about this? Who cares? I'm for the status quo unless someone can convince me there's a reason for a change. I see no reason for a change. Make the pitcher and the catcher execute the intentional walk. That's part of baseball.

Raising the strike zone? I'm a little more open to that discussion. I don't care about pace of play -- at all -- but I would be in favor of more balls being put in play. I don't necessarily need to see more run-scoring, but it would be more exciting if fewer at-bats resulted in strikeouts.

My question is, would raising the zone achieve that aim? Stark's report indicates that perhaps there would be more hitters' counts if pitchers weren't getting so many strike calls at the bottom of the zone. Theoretically, more hitters' counts means more pitches to hit, more well-struck balls and more offense.

OK, fine, experiment with it in the minor leagues, then report the results back to me and I'll consider it. But I'm only going to be in favor if it makes the game more exciting. I'm not amenable to making rule changes just to make the games go by faster.

I still haven't figured out why baseball is the only sport routinely criticized for "taking too long." Football games can last four hours and nobody says a thing about it. It's ridiculous to me.

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.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Remaining free agents: Anyone want a slugger?

Chris Carter
Has anyone else noticed what a bad offseason this has been for free-agent sluggers?

The calendar says February, but there still are plenty of guys out there with home run power that are looking for a contract. Just look up and down this free-agent tracker.

Need a right-handed power bat? Chris Carter, Mike Napoli and Mark Reynolds can be yours, and probably for cheap. In need of some lefty pop? How about Pedro Alvarez, Justin Morneau or Adam Lind? They're available.

Mark Trumbo led the American League in home runs last year with 47 -- 47 home runs! -- but it didn't lead to him breaking the bank in free agency this offseason. He took a three-year deal worth $38.5 million to remain with the Baltimore Orioles.

By way of comparison, the third-best closer on the market this offseason, Mark Melancon, got $62 million over four years from the San Francisco Giants.

It's interesting that guys who pitch one inning are now substantially more valuable in the marketplace than guys who are a threat to hit the ball in the seats every time they step into the batter's box.

Carter had 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. He can't find a job.

I'm wondering if the front office guys are looking at the WAR for these sluggers and feeling as if they just aren't worth an investment. Here is the 2016 WAR for each of the six guys I listed above:

Reynolds: 1.5
Napoli: 1.0
Carter: 0.9
Alvarez: 0.7
Morneau: 0.3
Lind: -0.3

This shows us that these guys provide little or no defensive utility. They are one-dimensional sluggers, and the game is starting to move away from that. There are no big bucks out there for "one-win" players.

I've had some people ask me why Todd Frazier remains on the roster for the rebuilding White Sox. Well, it's probably because front offices don't value sluggers that much anymore. Granted, Frazier had a 3.4 WAR last season, so he's better than the guys listed above, and he has some defensive utility at third base. However, there is no rush to acquire .220 hitters who give you 40 home runs, but also strike out a lot.

If that type of player were desired in the marketplace, Carter would have signed a free-agent contract by the first of the year.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How might the White Sox pitching staff look when the season starts?

Jose Quintana -- still here
White Sox pitchers and catchers will have their first full workouts Feb. 14 in Glendale, Arizona. It's closer than we think, so let's take a look at how the pitching staff might shake out given the current roster construction.

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
6. ????
7. ????

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.