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. 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.
- Matt Davidson: Has anyone been more impressive at the plate this Spring than Davidson? Considered by many a failed prospect, Davidson has hit .467/.467/.700 in 30 at-bats this Spring, and leads the White Sox with four home runs. He has also limited his strikeouts to just four, as contact has always been his biggest issue as a professional. With the recent retirement of Adam LaRoche, Davidson is among those in competition for the final roster spot with the Major League Club. The White Sox are in need of a backup first baseman, and he has had some experience there as a minor leaguer. Davidson replaced Abreu at first base in yesterday’s game against the Indians, which likely means he is in consideration for that backup spot. It is widely known that the Sox would prefer a left-handed bat there, but with limited options internally, he may be the best option, especially if he hits like this. I would be surprised to see Davidson to break camp with the Major League club, but his Spring campaign has instilled some optimism that he could have a role with the big club in the near future.
- Jerry Sands: Sands has picked up his performance quite a bit since the LaRoche saga, and he is another player in competition for the final roster spot. He had a big day at the plate yesterday, going 2 for 5 with two home runs in the White Sox 6-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. Sands has the ability to play both the outfield and first base, as he has had experience at first at the Major League Level. Hitting .242/.257/.424 in 33 at-bats, he is out of minor league options, and like Davidson, hits from the right side. That .257 OBP is abysmal though, and he would need to improve that if he were to contribute on the South Side this Spring. Defensively he’s looked good in Cactus League play, including a couple highlight reel plays. I personally think the White Sox look elsewhere for their 25th roster spot, but Sands could serve as a valuable minor league asset, assuming he clears waivers and is not released.
- Carlos Sanchez: Sanchez has put together a very nice campaign this Spring, hitting .314/.385/.400 in 35 at-bats. Known more for his defense, he has shown promise at the plate, as he has put the ball in play more and has only struck out three times. Sanchez is still competing for a roster spot, but unfortunately for him the White Sox seem to prefer Tyler Saladino for that utility infielder role. He has already proven to be a very nice Triple-A player, but it seems he his destined to start the 2016 campaign back there. If Rollins or Saladino were to get off to a slow start, don’t be surprised if Sanchez comes up quickly, especially if he is hitting like he has this Spring.
- Travis Ishikawa: Ishikawa fits the bill for what the White Sox are looking for in a backup first baseman, as he hits from the left side and has major league experience as a first baseman. In addition, he could play the outfield as well, which could mean roster spots designated for a backup outfielder right could be utilized elsewhere. An improbable 2014 postseason hero for the San Francisco Giants, he was picked up by the White Sox this offseason on a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. After a slow start, Ishikawa has but together a respectable Spring, hitting .296/.367/.470 in 27 at bats. He has struck out in over 25% of his plate appearances though, which is a red flag. Though I like the upside of Davidson more, I think Ishikawa may be the most realistic internal option as the backup first baseman heading into the 2016 season for the White Sox. Though it remains to be seen whether the White Sox look externally to fill this void, I would not be surprised to see him head to Oakland when the season begins.
- Carson Fulmer: After a bit of a rocky start to the Spring, Fulmer has impressed as of late, giving up just one run over his last six and two thirds innings. He currently has a 6/5 K/BB rate, which is a bit discouraging, but you have to remember last year at this time he was facing college hitters. In addition, he has been working on adding a cutter and a change-up grip to an already solid repertoire. The 2015 first rounder earned some major praise from White Sox long-time pitching coach Don Cooper, who said that he was further along than Carlos Rodon was at this stage of the Spring last year. Rodon was called up in a relief role by the White Sox last April, and then slowly transitioned into the rotation. Fulmer likely will begin the 2016 campaign as the number one starter for the Birmingham Barons, but if he pitches well there and the White Sox have issues with the back end of their rotation to start the season, he could get the call-up very quickly. Keith Law of ESPN.com publically stated that Fulmer could have been a part of a big league bullpen the day he was drafted, and with the White Sox known to bring top-tier arms through the Minor League system quickly, he could be on that same route as well.
- Scott Carroll: Carroll had a very nice start against the Indians yesterday, hurling three scoreless innings giving up just two hits. On the Spring, Carroll has given up four runs on 10 hits over 8 innings, and also has racked up two strikeouts. Carroll in all likelihood does not break camp with the team, as he will be a part of the Triple-A Charlotte starting rotation to begin the season. Carroll is a nice asset for the White Sox in that he can spot-start when needed, as well as contribute as a long reliever at the Major League level. A clubhouse favorite, don’t be surprised if we see Carroll up with the Major League club early in 2016, especially if arms at the Major League level get injured or off to a rocky start.
- Leury Garcia: Garcia came into camp this Spring as a longshot to make the Major League Club, and by the looks of it he will head back to Charlotte to start the 2016 season. He has hit .192/.192/.154 in 26 at bats with one home run. Garcia has the ability to play multiple positions, and has plus speed. The one major issue that has always held him back is his bat. Still just 25 years old, if he can look to improve at the plate and get on base, he could be a nice asset for the White Sox in the future. Acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Alex Rios deal back in 2013, Garcia spent some time up with the Major League team in 2013, but that did not amount to much at all. He has some really nice tools, but unless he learns to improve and make adjustments at the plate, he is destined to be a career minor leaguer.
- Jacob Turner: After a strong first start this Spring to begin his White Sox career, Turner has been a disappointment. After a rough week, he returned to the mound to face the Athletics Sunday, where he threw two innings giving up 2 runs on four hits with three walks. Once a top prospect, Turner bounced around quite a bit in over the past two seasons, beginning with the Miami Marlins in 2014 but then claimed on waivers by the Cubs at the end of 2014. He could not figure it out with the Cubs, so the White Sox took a flyer on him and made a claim in 2015. With the recent demotion to Erik Johnson (see below), Turner is competing with just Mat Latos for the White Sox final rotation spot. Latos is making his first Cactus league start this afternoon, and the general consensus seems to favor him to anchor the back of the White Sox rotation heading into 2016. Unless Latos were to really struggle, I think Turner is a longshot to crack the rotation when the team breaks camp. With zero options left, the White Sox have an interesting situation with Turner, who has not earned the right to be a part of the White Sox roster with his performances this Spring. With reliever Zach Putnam dealing with some hamstring tightness, I could see him beginning the season on the DL, and then the White Sox put Turner into the bullpen in a long-relief role. If Putman’s hamstring issues improve and he breaks camp with the Major League club, Turner may be out of luck and will likely be DFA’d.
- Optioned to AAA Charlotte: Right-handed starter Erik Johnson and catcher Kevan Smith were recently reassigned to Charlotte. Smith had a nice Spring in limited appearances, going 3 for 7 with two doubles and three RBIs this Spring. The former Pitt Quarterback will begin the 2016 season in Charlotte once again, where he hit .260/.330/.370 with six home runs last year. Johnson was in the mix to win the 5th rotation spot with the White Sox, but was very disappointing. The right-hander finished the Spring with six innings pitched, giving up nine runs on 10 hits and three strikeouts. There were some real concerns with Johnson’s velocity, as scouts had him sitting 85-89 MPH in his start against the Cubs last week. He also had command issues, which likely led White Sox brass to believe more time in AAA would help. This must come as a major disappointment to Johnson himself, as he broke camp with the Major League team in 2014, but has never really been consistent at the Major League level. He returns to Charlotte as the reigning International League Pitcher of the Year, and should be a likely call-up if a starter were to get hurt or to spot-start as well, assuming he performs well for the Knights.
- Optioned to AA Birmingham: Just one player was optioned to Birmingham this week in right-hander Michael Ynoa. Acquired in the Jeff Samardjiza blockbuster last offseason, Ynoa had a very nice spring for the White Sox, throwing five scoreless innings while only giving up two hits with six strikeouts. The 6’7” righty is on the forty-man roster, and is quite projectable as a future reliever. Ynoa signed with the Athletics back in 2008 to a $4.25M bonus, but never really put it together while in their system. Still just 24, I am hopeful Ynoa makes a big step this season at Birmingham and can be a future asset for the White Sox.
- Optioned to Minor League Camp: More familiar prospects to most were sent to Minor League camp this weekend, which included outfielders Adam Engel and Courtney Hawkins, infielders Andy Parrino and Steve Lombardozzi, and righty starter Tyler Danish. Of those listed, notables included were Lombardozzi, who had 6 hits in 15 at bats including a home run and five RBI’s, and Danish, who gave up two runs on five hits with five strikeouts in six innings of work. Lombardozzi and Parrino likely begin 2016 at AAA Charlotte, while Engel, Hawkins, and Danish likely start at AA Birmingham.
After these moves, this leaves 40 remaining in Major League camp: 19 pitchers, 3 catchers, 10 infielders, and 8 outfielders.
We’ll revisit this again in a week, when we should be very close to knowing which 25 players will be heading to Oakland with the team.
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Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Adam Engel, Adam LaRoche, alex rios, Andy Parrino, Carlos Rodon, Carlos Sanchez, Carson Fulmer, courtney hawkins, Don Cooper, Erik Johnson, Jacob Turner, Jerry Sands, jimmy rollins, Kevan Smith, Leury Garcia, Mat Latos, Matt Davidson, michael ynoa, Steve Lombardozzi, Travis Ishikawa, Tyler Danish, Tyler Saladino, Zach Putnam