Like we do every Spring Training, we are going to take 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. Courtney Hawkins, Tyler Danish, etc.) are looking and performing in camp.
What spots appear to be “open” at this point? Starting SS (though it’s pretty close to a done deal), Possible DH or OF platoon, the final slot of the starting rotation, and one or two bench spots. But those slots have narrowing possibilities now. These stock reports shouldn’t be taken as overall prospect status reports – just signs of their work in Spring Training thus far.
- Travis Ishikawa: After a slow start, Ishikawa has put together a strong Spring, posting a .289/.333/.556 with two home runs in 45 at-bats. He had quite the week in two separate games against his former club in the San Francisco Giants, going 4 for 6 at the plate with two home runs, a triple, and six RBI’s. Competing for the final roster spot with Carlos Sanchez, Matt Davidson, and Jerry Sands, Ishikawa may be the favorite of the bunch. With major league experience at first base as well as hitting from the left side, Ishikawa is what the White Sox are looking for in a back-up first baseman for Jose Abreu. In addition, he has some outfield experience as well, thus making him a versatile asset on the bench. Ishikawa certainly fits a lot of preferences that the White Sox are looking for in their final roster spot, but he has still has some stiff competition and will need to keep performing in the coming days to earn that final roster spot.
- Matt Davidson: No one is having a better and more surprising spring than Matt Davidson, who was considered a failed prospect after two lackluster seasons in Triple-A Charlotte. On the Spring, Davidson is hitting .413/.438/.783 in 46 at-bats, and is leading the team with five home runs. In yesterday’s campaign against The Colorado Rockies, Davidson went 3 for 4 with a pair of singles along with a solo opposite field home run. CSN Chicago’s Chuck Garfien says Davidson has spent a lot of time working with former Major League slugger Jim Thome on both his swing and frame of mind, which certainly seems to be paying dividends. He has also cut down on the strikeouts, with just nine so far in over 50 PA. Contact issues have been Davidson’s Achilles heel as a professional, so it is great to see him putting the ball in play at a higher clip this Spring. Most would assume that the White Sox brass would like to see Davidson perform like this in Charlotte before getting the call to the Major League club, as he has been very disappointing in the last two consecutive seasons as the third baseman of the Knights. With a Spring like this though, it may be hard for the White Sox to send down the former top prospect. Though he hits from the right side, Davidson could provide depth at both corner infield positions as well as serve as a DH when needed. I came to believe this past weekend that Davidson was a long shot for the 25th spot on the roster, but his performance this Spring cannot go ignored. Though unlikely at this point, it is possible that Davidson does break camp with the Major League team and head to Oakland to start the 2016 season. If not, I look forward to seeing him show off his improvements at Triple-A Charlotte to start the year and possibly find his way up to Chicago with the Major League club in the near future.
- Carlos Sanchez: Sanchez has put together a really nice spring at the plate, hitting .333/.368/.593 over 54 at bats. In yesterday’s game against the Rockies, he showed off some of his power, going 3 for 4 with two home runs and four RBI’s. We know Sanchez has a solid glove and can provide depth in the middle infield and possibly at third, but he still may be one of the odd men out to win the final roster spot. I assume Sanchez starts the year at Triple-A Charlotte, where he has already proven himself as a solid player. With Jimmy Rollins and Tyler Saladino on the Major League roster, it may not be that bad for Sanchez to start in Charlotte, where he will play every day and not have to fight for time. He is also just 23, which people fail to remember, so he is still young and should blossom into a better overall player. Without question Sanchez has the potential to be a Major League regular, but it may not be his time just yet. Sanchez could contribute for the White Sox at some point in the 2016 season, as he provides infield depth with solid speed and the luxury of hitting from both sides.
- Scott Carroll: Similar to Ishikawa, Carroll got off to a rough start, but has really put together some solid outings. Carroll has a 4.50 ERA over 12 innings this spring, where he has given up 14 hits with five strikeouts. Last week alone, he threw seven innings (two separate appearances) of two run ball on six hits with three strikeouts. Though on the outside looking in to break camp with the Major League club, he has impressed as of late. As noted last week, Carroll will start in Triple-A as part of the starting rotation, but he couls be counted on to contribute at some point in 2016 with the Major League team, whether that be out of the bullpen or for a spot-start, both of which he has experience with.
- Phillippe Aumont: Once a top-prospect, Aumont came to terms with the White Sox this past offseason on a minor-league pact with an invite to Spring Training. Aumont has flown under the radar this spring, as he has thrown six and two-thirds scoreless innings over seven appearances. In addition, he has given up just five hits with eight strikeouts, but has also walked four. Aumont likely begins the 2016 campaign in Triple-A Charlotte, where he will be a part of the Knights’ bullpen. Standing at 6’7″ and 240 lbs., the White Sox are hopeful he can regain the upside that once made him a top-prospect. Control has always been an issue though, as he has 34 walks over 43 and two-thirds innings in his Major League career. With an already crowded bullpen at the Major League level, Aumont will need to be exceptional in Charlotte in order to have any chance to get called up this season. He also may need some luck as well, as there are quite a few candidates who will join him in Charlotte that could also contribute at the Major League level. It has been a very nice Spring for Aumont, and let’s hope this success continues down in Charlotte to start the season.
- Jerry Sands: Sands has been Mr. Inconsistency this Spring, showing signs of success as well as looking lost at the plate. Sands has hit .220/.245/.422 in 45 at-bats this Spring, which is simply not going to cut it for a guy competing for a final roster spot on the Major League roster. Sands has had some success against lefties at the Major League level (career .292 against lefties at the Major League level), and also has some experience playing both first base and left field. He has also put together a solid minor-league career, but has not amounted to much as a major leaguer. Though he is currently out of minor league options, I still cannot see the scenario where Sands makes the Major League team out of Spring Training. Also worth noting, it is public knowledge that the White Sox prefer a left-handed bat for the final roster spot to balance out their lineup, and Sands hits from the right-side. If he were to clear waivers, he would be in the middle of the Triple-A Charlotte lineup to start the 2016. If Sands performs at a high level in Charlotte, he could play himself into an opportunity at the Major League level, especially if the White Sox struggle at the plate, something that has occurred quite a bit in most recent memory.
- Leury Garcia: A longshot to break camp with the Major League roster at the beginning of Spring Training, Garcia has really struggled at the plate, hitting an abysmal .143/.143/.371 in 35 at-bats. As I noted last week, Garcia needs to hit at a decent clip to have any chance as a Major League regular. He has plus speed and can play both the infield and outfield, but his main shortcoming has always been his inability to hit Major League pitching. Personally, I think focusing on hitting from one side of the plate could help him improve, even though his splits are not great from either side (MLB career .174 from the left-side and .194 from the right-side). He’ll return to Charlotte to begin the 2016 season, where he should see regular playing time in both the infield and outfield. He is still just 25 years old, but this may be the make or break year for Garcia to solidify himself as part of the White Sox future.
- Tommy Kahnle: Claimed off waivers from the Colorado Rockies this offseason, Tommy Kahnle came into White Sox camp in hopes of finding a spot in an already crowded bullpen. He has had his ups and downs this Spring, giving up seven earned runs in nine innings, but only on four hits. He has 11 strikeouts on the Spring, but also has six walks, which in return have negatively impacted his high ERA. Control issues have been an ongoing issue for Kahnle in his time as a professional, but he has shown signs of success at the Major League level. If the White Sox decide to use the final roster spot on another arm, Kahnle could be on the Opening Day roster. His Spring has not been good by any means, but he has had success as a Major Leaguer with most of his outings at Coors Field, which most baseball fans know as a pitcher’s nightmare and by far the most hitter-friendly ballpark in all of baseball. I would prefer the White Sox to use their final roster spot on a bat, but be on the lookout for Kahnle if they decide to go with an arm instead.
- Jacob Turner: Turner has been a major disappointment this Spring for the White Sox, who had hopes he could compete for a spot in the starting rotation heading into Spring Training. Over 12 innings this Spring, he has given up 14 runs on 20 hits, with eight walks and nine strikeouts. Turner made his first relief appearance on Friday against the Seattle Mariners, where he blew a save after surrendering a two-run homer to slugger Nelson Cruz. Turner is out of minor-league options, and that is likely the only reason he remains in Major League camp. Even if the White Sox use the final roster spot on an arm, I do not see any way you could give it to Turner, who by no means has earned that spot. Similar to Davidson, he is a former top prospect, and he is just 24 years old. The White Sox will likely place Turner on waivers, where he could get picked up by another team. If he clears waivers, I would assume the White Sox would send him to Triple-A Charlotte instead of releasing him. In Charlotte then he would figure to be a part of their starting rotation. There is some upside here with Turner, as he has shown some success as a Major leaguer like Kahnle, but he needs to really improve his performance if he wants to make an impact with the White Sox in 2016.
- Four players were optioned to Minor League camp this week, led by top two White Sox prospects Carson Fulmer and Tim Anderson. In addition, RHP Matt Lollis and southpaw Matt Purke were optioned as well. Fulmer put together a respectable 2016 Spring, posting a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings over five appearances (three starts). He gave up seven runs on 15 hits, with ten strikeouts and eight walks. I was able to watch Fulmer’s final Spring start on Saturday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and I came away impressed. He did nibble the strike-zone a bit and showed some inconsistency with his off-speed command, but he was still impressive and showed great poise against a strong Dodgers lineup considered where he is in the development curve. The biggest thing I noticed was that he has slowed down his delivery quite a bit since his days as the ace of the Vanderbilt Commodores, which should really help with his control. Anderson also put together a solid spring, hitting .286/.267/.571 with two doubles and a triple over 14 at bats. He showed some promise on the defensive side as well, which has always been a concern to many on whether a future move to the outfield could be in store for him. I came away impressed with how he looked at shortstop this Spring, and he should only improve there with more time and experience in the minors. Fulmer is set to begin the 2016 season at Double-A Birmingham whereas Anderson should start in Triple-A Charlotte. Both are close to Major League ready, so I would not be surprised to see them up with the Major League club come this season, and it may be sooner than most think. Lollis and Purke were both signed to Minor League deals with invites to Spring Training this past offseason, and they will start the 2016 campaign in Triple-A Charlotte. I would assume both are a part of the Knights bullpen, but Purke has some recent experience as a starter, so he could also fit in as a part of the rotation.
After these moves, this leaves 36 remaining in Major League camp: 16 pitchers, 3 catchers, 9 infielders, and 8 outfielders.
We should know in the coming days the final 25-man roster heading to Oakland next Monday to start the 2016 campaign with the White Sox, and we will keep you updated once roster moves are made.
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