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, Possible DH or OF platoon, #4 and #5 slots of the starting rotation, and one or two bench spots. Keep in mind that it is very early and players are just getting warmed up, so none of the status changes below are big swings. Also, these stock reports shouldn’t be taken as overall prospect status reports – just signs of their work in Spring Training thus far, in a very, very small sample size…
- Jacob Turner: The competition for the back end of the rotation will be an interesting one, with Turner in the mix with John Danks, Mat Latos, and Erik Johnson. With Danks and Latos currently the two favorites for the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation, Turner may be on the outside looking in. But Turner impressed Friday in his two innings of work against the Cleveland Indians, tossing two scoreless innings giving up no runs on just one hit. He also struck out two and walked one, and was up to 94 MPH with the fastball according to multiple local media reports. If Turner can string up some performances like he did on Friday, Robin Ventura may have to find a spot for Turner, whether that be in the rotation or already crowded bullpen. It is also worth noting that Turner is out of minor league options, so things could definitely get interesting here if Turner puts together a strong Spring.
- Jason Coats: Coats is another interesting non-roster invitee who made some noise this past week at the dish. Coats belted an opposite field home run off of Indians starter Trevor Bauer on Friday afternoon and added a double in his one plate appearance the next game. The 29th rounder in 2012 out of TCU has the cards stacked against him in regards to getting that last bench spot, especially after the White Sox agreed to terms with Austin Jackson on Sunday. But with above average defense at the corners and a strong arm, it would not surprise me if we see him up with the big club as soon as this season.
- Matt Davidson: Most assume Davidson is a lost cause, especially after two back-to-back disappointing seasons in Triple-A Charlotte. Davidson had a solid day at the plate Saturday against the defending champion Royals, going 2-3 with a double and a run scored. On Monday against the Angels, Davidson belted a solo homerun that cleared the batters eye in centerfield at Tempe Diablo Stadium. You can see that blast in the video here. Most White Sox fans are down on Davidson, and rightfully so, as he has not performed like the future third-base cornerstone the White Sox envisioned when acquiring him for former White Sox closer Addison Reed back in the 2013-14 offseason. Turning 25 in March, I think Davidson will likely start the 2016 campaign back in Charlotte, but I am not ready to count him out just yet. He has shown above average power potential and improved defense, and if he can limit the strikeouts, the White Sox may have something in the former top prospect.
- Carlos Sanchez: Sanchez had a nice weekend for the White Sox, hitting three doubles in nine at-bats. Known more for his glove, it was a breath of fresh air to see Sanchez put up solid appearances at the plate in these first few Spring Training games. Sanchez is fighting for that final bench spots with Tyler Saladino and J.B. Shuck most likely, and at this point, most would assume he would be the odd man out. With Ventura loving Saladino’s defense and ability to play three different positions in the infield, Sanchez may be headed back to Charlotte, where he has already posted strong Triple-A numbers in the past. If Sanchez can show he has improved with the stick, in addition to playing strong defense like he did when called up last season, he should push himself into consideration for that final 25 man roster spot.
- Jacob May : May has gotten off to a nice start this spring, with three hits in eight at bats, along with two stolen bases. Some considered May as a potential fourth outfielder early in the offseason, but after the signing of Jackson it is likely we see him start the 2016 campaign in Charlotte. The third rounder in 2013 out of Coastal Carolina is a very good athlete with solid defense and excellent speed. He tends to get streaky at the dish, but there is no question he could be a solid defensive outfielder at the Major League level. Similar to Coats, it would not be any surprise to see May up with the White Sox in some form come the 2016 season.
- Steve Lombardozzi: Lombardozzi, 27, joined the Sox on a minor league pact this offseason with an invite to Spring Training. Most notably known for his tenure as a utility man for the Washington Nationals, Lombardozzi got off to a hot start to start his career with the White Sox, smashing a two-run home run in yesterday’s win over the Angels. After a brief stint with the Pirates in 2015, Lombardozzi is another hopeful to break camp with the team, but like others appears to be a longshot. Lombardozzi possesses versatility similar to Ishikawa in that he can play the outfield as well as second base. I would be surprised to see him make the trip to Oakland to start the season, but he would definitely be a solid player to start in the minors and potentially call up when needed.
- Carson Fulmer: There was talk in some circles that Fulmer could be on a path to the Show similar to the likes of Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon. GM Rick Hahn shot those rumors down quickly, saying that they would be perfectly content with Fulmer spending the entire 2016 campaign in the minors. Fulmer got his first taste of pitching in the Big Leagues on Saturday, squaring off against the Royals. The 2016 1st rounder was hit around a bit, giving up three earned runs on five hits over two innings. He did not walk or strikeout anyone, and there was some hard contact against him. There is no need to press the panic button when it comes to the starter out of Vanderbilt, but I think the expectations of him possibly joining the White Sox early in the season may need to come to a halt. Especially if the White Sox plan on using Fulmer as a starter, it would be best to give him some time in the minors, as he has thrown just 23 innings as a professional. I am really high on Fulmer myself and I think he will be a valuable part of the White Sox in the near future, but I would be shocked if he were starting the season anywhere but Birmingham, where he should be their number one starter.
- Erik Johnson : Rotation hopeful Erik Johnson had a rough outing in his first Spring Training start on Monday, surrending four runs on three hits over three innings on Monday against the Angels. Per CSN’s Dan Hayes, Johnson was very encouraged by his outing, mentioning that he feels great and that the ball is coming out of his hand nicely. Outside of a homerun surrendered to Mike Trout, Johnson may have been victim to a bit of bad luck, as he had a fair share of weak contact that fell in for hits. The 2015 International Pitcher of the Year, Johnson no question has a very nice arm with lots of upside. He is in stiff competition with three other guys for rotation spots, so he will need to turn it around in order to stay into consideration and potentially win a starting job.
- Travis Ishikawa: 2014 Giants Postseason Hero Travis Ishikawa joined the Sox on a minor league pact with an invite to Spring Training in January. Ishikawa has had a tough few days at the plate, going 1-6 with three strikeouts. Another candidate on the outside looking in, Ishikawa would need to have a dominant spring to crack the big league roster as the last bench bat. One thing Ishikawa offers is versatility, as he can play both first base and the corner outfield positions. I would assume Ishikawa starts the season in Charlotte, mostly as insurance on LaRoche and Abreu.
- Scott Carroll: Clubhouse favorite Scott Carroll had a rough appearance on Thursday against the Indians, tossing 1.2 innings while surrendering three runs on three hits. He fared better in his appearance Monday Against the Angels, throwing an inning and a third surrendering no runs on two hits with two strikeouts. The feel-good story of 2014 for the White Sox, Carroll seems destined to return to AAA Charlotte. With an already-crowded bullpen in addition to four guys competing for two rotation spots, I would be surprised to see Carroll break camp with the big league club. Already 31 years old, the White Sox likely see Carroll as a guy who can come up and spot start when needed or as a long-reliever, and nothing more. Although a fantastic twitter follow, I would be surprised if we see Carroll up with the White Sox anytime soon in 2016.
- Chris Beck: Beck was another pitcher who got roughed up in his two innings. The big righty gave up two runs on three hits against the Indians, while allowing three walks and punching out three. The rust isn’t a big surprise, given he hadn’t pitched in a game since June after having Ulnar Nerve Translocation surgery. So his stock isn’t down per se, so much as expectations have now been more properly set – Beck needs to get some AAA innings under his belt and get his strength back. He’s still a very real possibility to see time in Chicago in 2016.
- Mike Olt: The only notable roster cut this week was third-baseman Mike Olt, who was designated for assignment Sunday after the Austin Jackson signing. He cleared waivers and was designated to Charlotte, but will stay in Major League camp for now. Once a top prospects for the Rangers, Olt has had significant vision problems which effected his performance and it’s not clear if they continue to be an issue for him. The UConn product began 2015 with the Cubs, but was then DFA’d which led to the White Sox claiming him. After the acquisitions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie, it was almost certain Olt did not have a spot on the 25-man roster, and regardless of cause he’s struggled on both sides of the ball in 2015.
The White Sox Spring Training roster remains at 63. It is safe to assume the first wave of players will be reassigned or possibly cut beginning sometime next week. We’ll revisit this again in a week, when we should have a bit more information on what 25 players will be heading to Oakland to start the season with the team.
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