The White Sox went from having little depth at third base to having three viable options. Jeff Keppinger, Brent Morel, and Conor Gilaspie are all competing for the job. Keppinger hasn't been able to show his glove at third yet, but Morel and Gilaspie have been keeping competition healthy. So who will be the starting third baseman?
Despite Jeff Keppinger suffering from a sore shoulder in early Spring, he will be your starting third baseman on April 1st vs. Kansas City. Keppinger, who signed a 3 year $12 million dollar contract in the offseason, brings a new dynamic to the White Sox. Keppinger is known for his ability to not strikeout and make contact. He hit .325 last season with only 31 strikeouts. Mostly known for his ability to play all over the field, Keppinger should settle in just fine at third base. Keppinger doesn't bring the power that you would like at the hot corner, but his ability to get on base is what the Sox need. The Sox are looking to cut down strikeouts in the lineup and Keppinger does that for you.
Keppinger has felt no ill effects from a broken leg suffered in the offseason. The sore shoulder is due to him not being able to start his offseason throwing program on the usual time frame. With the broken leg, he was unable to throw off his back foot. Ventura has Keppinger getting at bats in the DH role early in Spring. Keppinger will give Ventura a nice option as the number two hitter in the lineup. With De Aza and Keppinger setting the tone at the top of the order, the White Sox should be able to score runs early in the game.
Brent Morel lost his starting job last season to a back injury. Morel wasn't right from day one of the 2012 season. With a bad back, Morel was unable to swing the bat and his numbers suffered. After a offseason of rehab, Morel has returned and is looking good. The problem for Morel is there just doesn't seem to be a spot for him on this team. Morel is a right handed bat and only plays one position. Keppinger is a right handed bat, but brings a versatility with him to the field. The recent acquisition of Conor Gilaspie from the San Francisco Giants addresses a left-handed bat at third. Gilaspie is a former first round pick who is out of options. What that means is to be sent to AAA he would need to clear waivers. The Sox would likely not want to risk losing him on waivers. So what is Gilaspie know for? He isn't known for his power, but rather his ability to make contact. So what happens with a guy like Morel?
If Morel stays healthy in Spring Training there are two scenarios. One he has options left and goes to AAA to see if he can stay healthy and play every day. The second option is he could be trade bait. The Sox are saying all the right things about Morel. The eye test shows that he looks good offensively and defensively. The Sox may use Morel to address another need in their system. It's early in Spring, but barring injury Morel looks like the odd man out.
I think Morel goes down to AAA and the Sox keep him for depth in case of injury. Many teams won't offer the Sox much for Morel at this point. The Sox are better off keeping him through the first two months of the season at least. Morel does have potential and I think the Sox should wait before the move on.
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