The other interesting name on the list of Sox minor-league non-roster invitees is former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto. The 2008 National League Rookie of the Year has never duplicated the success he had his first season in the big leagues with the Cubs, but if healthy, he has a legitimate shot of making the Sox roster as the second catcher.
Soto, 32, was limited to just 24 games last season due to knee and foot injuries. He also was arrested on a marijuana possession charge. Obviously, these are not good things, but it's also true Soto is the most accomplished player among those competing for the right to back up starting catcher Tyler Flowers.
Here are the numbers on the four guys in that mix. We'll include Soto's 2013 season numbers, since last year was pretty much a lost cause for him.
2013 with Texas:.245/.328/.466, 9 HRs, 22 RBIs in 54 games
2014 with Texas/Oakland: .250/.302/.363, 1 HR, 11 RBIs in 24 games
Career: .248/.334/..436, 92 HRs
2014 with Miami: .211/.263/.265, 1 HR, 18 RBIs in 67 games
2014 with 3 teams: .240/.355/.600, 3 HRs, 4 RBIs in 14 games
2014 rookie season with Sox: .236/.296/.340, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs in 48 games
If all are healthy, who would you pick of this group? I think I'd take Soto. Nieto was in the backup role for all of 2014 because of his Rule 5 status. Most observers would agree a year at Triple-A would be good for his development.
Brantly bats left-handed, which is nice, but he's never shown he can hit major league pitching at all. Kottaras is the most experienced catcher other than Soto in the group, but he's been bouncing around from organization to organization. He was only in the bigs for 14 games last season. Naturally, he had a two-homer game against the White Sox as a member of the Cleveland Indians, but his career numbers are weaker than Soto's, as well.
If Soto can stay healthy and stop smoking marijuana, he has a chance to come north with the White Sox this year.
That brings us back to the 33-year-old Crain, who was excellent in his previous stint on the South Side. From 2011-13, he appeared in 156 games and compiled a 2.10 ERA and 176 strikeouts in 150 innings pitched.
He was enjoying the finest season of his career in 2013 -- an 0.74 ERA and 46 Ks in 37 innings -- when his shoulder started to bother him. Crain went on the disabled list, and with the Sox languishing in the standings, he was traded midseason to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Crain never threw a pitch for Tampa Bay the rest of the year and signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Astros the following offseason. Alas, he never threw a pitcher for the Astros, either, as shoulder issues continued to plague him.
Now, he's back for another kick at the can with the Sox, the last team he pitched for, on a minor-league deal. Certainly, he cannot be counted upon with his injury issues, but he would be a huge veteran help to the Sox bullpen if he could somehow regain his form.
At the very least, we owe Crain a playing of "Welcome Back Kotter":