Spring Training - Final Stock Report

White Sox outfielder J.B. Shuck beats a tag at second against the Brewers on Sunday, March 22, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. Shuck is currently fighting for a backup outfield spot. (Daniel Shapiro / FutureSox)

White Sox outfielder J.B. Shuck beats a tag at second against the Brewers on Sunday, March 22, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. Shuck is currently fighting for a backup outfield spot. (Daniel Shapiro / FutureSox)

We’ve been taking a weekly look at the Spring Training performances of players who are NOT guaranteed a 25-man roster spot. This should provide a succinct view into who appears to be winning or losing the battles for open roster slots, and also a look at how some minor leaguers that aren’t in real contention (i.e. Chris Beck) are looking and performing in camp.

What roster slots appear to be “open” at this point? Starting 2B, backup catcher, probably one more bench spot (Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio being a given), at least a few bullpen slots (given are David Robertson, Zach Duke, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka) and a temporary starting pitcher (as Chris Sale won’t be ready for Opening Day). But as you will see, some of those jobs may be theoretically open, but are nearly settled.

STOCK UP

  • J.B. Shuck: He appears to have sewed up the 4th OF role, though there is still some chance the team elects just a 3-man bench at least for the short term. Shuck has been hitting (.368 AVG, .876 OPS, just 5 K in 43 PA), he’s stolen a team-leading four bases without being caught, and has showed pretty good defense in the outfield while playing more games than anyone else (at any position) in camp.
  • Javy Guerra: With Putnam appearing to be nearly guaranteed a bullpen job, that leaves two open spots for Guerra, Cleto, Albers, Webb, and/or potentially a long man in Scott Carroll or Brad Penny. Much like his results from 2014, Guerra has been keeping runners off base and getting the job done despite not missing a ton of bats. He’s probably above all those other pitchers on the food chain other than maybe Albers, and he’s out of options, so his chances of making the team are probably pretty high at this point.
  • Carlos Sanchez: While he’s still behind Micah Johnson in the race for second base, the gap may have decreased a bit. Johnson made a couple defensive miscues and has regressed to the mean a bit from his torrid start at the plate. Meanwhile, Sanchez has been solid defensively and has been quietly have a pretty nice spring offensively (.357 AVG, though no extra base hits). Sanchez is still likely going to be starting in Charlotte, but the race isn’t over quite yet.
  • Carlos Rodon: In case you missed it, Rodon pitched a gem on Wednesday night against the Royals, striking out a whopping 9 batters in 4 scoreless innings while walking none. South Side Sox has a very good article up analyzing his performance, which was as impressive for its look as it was in the stat line. The situation is still the same – the Sox are very likely to start him at AAA Charlotte for at least a month or so in order to get another full year of pre-free agency control. But he’s making that a tough call.
  • Arcenio Leon: This 28-year old right-hander was signed to a minor league deal and not much was made of the news. But he’s given up just one hit in 4 innings while striking out 3, and according to Daren Willman’s Baseball Savant site he’s got the highest average FB velocity in the Cactus League this spring at 97.4 mph. Leon won’t be on the Opening Day roster barring a series of injuries, but he could be an interesting guy to watch in Charlotte for a potential call-up later.
  • Chris Beck: The Sox aren’t likely to break Beck into the majors by way of the short term spot start in April, but he’s looked quite good in camp and drew some raves in that Wednesday game. The key for Beck is his breaking pitch(es), and the combo slider-cutter he’s been employing (with help from Rodon) showed very well. If he can throw that pitch reliably, along side his low-to-mid 90’s sinker and very good change up, his prospect stock will shoot up pretty quickly.

STOCK DOWN

  • George Kottaras: While Kottaras is one of three catchers remaining in big league camp, the reality is that Geovany Soto has a pretty solid grip on the backup job. The fact that this veteran pickup is hitting .167 in Cactus League play so far doesn’t help, especially since he’s considered a more offense-first backstop. The popular guess is that Kottaras has an end-of-camp out clause if he doesn’t make the team, though that hasn’t been confirmed.
  • Daniel Webb: While this flame-throwing righty spent all of 2014 with the big club, his command and control were questions, and his spring performance has only added to the concern. In 8.1 innings he’s allowed 11 hits and 7 walks, while striking out just 5. Spring training stats shouldn’t be a basis for much, but the walks are certainly a clear sign of some issues. Webb is almost assuredly ticketed for Charlotte, especially since he has options remaining.
  • Maikel Cleto: Keeps doing Maikel Cleto things. On March 22nd, he faced two batters, threw 8 balls and no strikes. On March 24th, he pitched two innings, throwing literally nothing but strikes. He’s out of options, has an electric arm, but his mechanics are still very inconsistent. That has to make the club wary, and he may end up the odd man out.
  • Matt Albers: Another offseason minor league signing, Albers still has a better than even chance of grabbing the last slot in the bullpen. But he has given up six hits and a pair of runs in his last two outings (1.1 IP). He’s healthy and still throwing strikes, and these bumps in the road could be nothing, but it is worth noting.

DE-LISTED

We have another ten camp cuts to report…

  • Optioned to AAA Charlotte: Rob Brantly is out of the running for the MLB backup catching gig, and is now in the pool with Kevan Smith and Adrian Nieto for AAA potential playing time. Leury Garcia is also headed for Charlotte, and is also in a position where it isn’t clear how he’ll get playing time (in his case contesting with Tyler Saladino and probably Sanchez). 1B Andy Wilkins wasn’t a surprise to head down, and is currently in a battle with Dan Black and recently-acquired Neftali Soto for 1B/DH playing time. LHP Onelki Garcia rounds out the option crew.
  • Optioned to AA Birmingham: RHP Frankie Montas is still among the top pitching prospects in the organization, but he’s not MLB-ready quite yet and the club wants to keep him starting.
  • Assigned to Minor League Camp: Courtney Hawkins had a very strong camp, making use of the playing time he got by looking good on both sides of the ball. But he’s been destined for AA Birmingham all along. RHP Nolan Sanburn, LHP Joe Savery, RHP Logan Kensing and infielder Juan Diaz were all sent to the minor league side as well.

This leaves 41 players remaining in major league camp.

By the end of next week the MLB roster should be set or virtually so, and we’ll turn our focus to the minor league rosters.

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