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.
- Matt Davidson: Davidson has had a really nice start in Spring Training after a disappointing campaign in 2015 with Charlotte, as he has hit .455/.478/1.045 with ten hits in 22 at bats. Davidson continued to show up his power potential last Thursday, where he blasted an opposite field home run off Ian Kennedy in a 9-2 loss to the Royals. Yesterday against the Dodgers was even better for Davidson, as he went 2 for 2 with two 2-run home runs, one of which was a walk-off. Though he has not walked at all this spring, he only has two strikeouts. For someone who has had major contact issues in the minor leagues, this is very promising to see. Many were ready to write him off as a lost cause, but with a nice start to the Spring, hopefully he has regained form and lives up to the top prospect he once was. After the surprising news of DH Adam LaRoche retiring (more on this below), some may think Davidson could be an internal option as a DH option and a backup corner infielder. Though he has had an incredible Spring thus far, I would like to see Davidson back in Charlotte and prove himself down there before the White Sox give him any opportunity at the Major League level. It is great to see this out of Davidson, but you have to remember that this is just Spring Training. With that in mind, if he rakes in Charlotte to start the 2016 campaign, White Sox fans may see him up with the Major League Club sooner than they would think.
- Jimmy Rollins: Though Robin Ventura has publicly stated that Rollins will in all likelihood be on the final roster come end of Spring Training, Rollins has earned that roster spot thus far throughout the Spring. Brought in for what many assumed was a mentoring role for the younger players within the White Sox system and on the Major League club, he has shown thus far that he still has some ability left in the tank. Rollins has hit .304/.320/.565 over 24 plate appearances this Spring with two home runs and just four strikeouts. He has shown off the leather as well, playing very solid defense at the shortstop position. I was skeptical after Rick Hahn and company signed the long-time veteran to a minor league deal, but so far it looks like Rollins can be an impact player even at the age of 37. Having him in camp has meant more competition for roster spots on the major league roster, something that has not been a norm at Sox Spring Training camp in recent memory. I fully expect to the shortstop battle between Rollins, Tyler Saladino, and Carlos Sanchez to come down to the final days of Spring Training, but he may have the upper hand here with his performance in Arizona thus far.
- Carlos Sanchez: With a lot of talk of how well Avisail Garcia has looked this spring after a disastrous 2015 campaign, Sanchez’s performance thus far has really flown under the radar. Sanchez has put together a nice line at the plate, hitting .320/.393/.600 in 25 at-bats. Most assumed that Sanchez was destined to return to Charlotte after Brett Lawrie and Rollins were acquired by the White Sox this offseason, but if he continues to perform the way he has thus far Robin Ventura may have no choice but to keep him on the roster. In all likelihood, Sanchez is looking at a bench spot, and with Robin Ventura really high on Tyler Saladino‘s defensive abilities, he needs to put together a nice Spring to have any shot. He has exceeded expectations thus far, and hopefully he continues to do so as the Spring season progresses.
- Travis Ishikawa: After a rough start to the 2016 Spring, Ishikawa has turned it around for the Sox, hitting .412/.474/.471 in 17 at-bats. Before the LaRoche retirement, Ishikawa had a very slim chance to break camp with the Major League club. As a left-handed hitter with the ability to play both first base and the outfield though, he now could possibly serve as a backup to Jose Abreu at first, assuming the White Sox decide not to look externally for LaRoche replacements. I would like to see him hit for more power, but it was nice to see him have a good week after getting off to a slow start in the first week of camp. Keep an eye on him in the coming weeks, as he should be given more opportunities to earn a roster spot.
- Steve Lombardozzi: Another minor leaguer hopeful to break camp with the club to Oakland, Lombardozzi went 3 for 6 last week with an RBI. Lombardozzi has four hits in ten at bats, but like Ishikawa, is likely to start in Charlotte to begin the season. At 27 years old, he will get consistent at bats in Charlotte, as he should be an everyday player for the Knights at either second base or in the outfield. A switch hitter with solid speed, the White Sox may have found another asset in Lombardozzi who could come up at some point and help the Major League club in 2016.
- Erik Johnson: After a rough outing against the Angels last week, Johnson was not any better against the Cubs on Saturday, giving up seven runs on five hits over three innings against the Northsiders. One major league scout said Johnson was only throwing 85-89 mph, which is not good to hear. Johnson is battling for a final rotation spot between Jacob Turner and Mat Latos, all of which have not performed very well so far this spring. Though he has shown success at the Major League level, Johnson will be with the Charlotte Knights if he doesn’t improve his performance the rest of the Spring (and probably will be even if he does). He will continue to get opportunities, as will those he is competing with, but it has been a very disappointing start for him in his two starts this spring.
- Jacob Turner: After a promising first start for the White Sox to start the Spring, Turner has looked like a different pitcher in his last two starts. He was bombed in his start against Oakland last Wednesday, giving up five runs on six hits in just two and two-thirds of an inning. He returned to face the Royals this past Monday, and put up another disappointing start, giving up four runs on six hits over three innings. In seven and two-thirds innings this Spring, Turner has given up nine earned runs on thirteen hits. He, like Johnson, will continue to get opportunities to win that final starting rotation spot, but performances like these are only hurting his chances. As mentioned, Turner is out of minor league options, so if he does not improve this Spring, it will be interesting to see his fate in the coming weeks as a member of the White Sox.
- Jerry Sands: Another Major League roster hopeful, Sands has really struggled at the plate this spring, hitting .182/.208/.364 in 22 at-bats. Sands has struck out in eight times in those at-bats, which is not good to see. Claimed on waivers from the rival-Indians this offseason, Sands has struggled against Major League pitching, but has performed well in parts of five seasons at the Triple-A level, hitting .268/.357/.492. I do not see Sands as part of the Major League Roster come April, but he is out of Minor League options. After the LaRoche retirement, Sands should get more opportunities as a backup similar to Davidson and Ishikawa, but he is not going to win a job if he continues to hit like this. He is a big strong kid with can possibly back up Abreu and be an extra outfielder for the Sox, but I don’t see that happening unless he really turns it around at the plate quickly.
- Courtney Hawkins: Hawkins had zero chance of making the team heading into Spring Training this year, but he has been given opportunities against Major League competition the past two weeks. Hawkins has one hit in 14 at-bats, which is less than stellar for the former first-rounder. Hawkins has been a disappointment since joining the White Sox organization, but some of that disappointment may have been come from the White Sox rushing him within the Minor League system, as he has been among youngest players in his leagues while at High-A Winston Salem and Double-A Birmingham. I assume Hawkins won’t be in Major League camp much longer, as he is likely going to head back to Birmingham for the second year in a row to start the 2016 season. Still just 22 years old, this may be the make or break year for him, as he really needs to put together a nice season to be considered a potential part of the White Sox future going forward.
- Retired: In very surprising news today out of Glendale, White DH Adam LaRoche decided to hang up the spikes after a 12 year Major League Career (though this has not yet been made 100% official). After an abysmal 2015 season, LaRoche was set to earn $13M in 2016. With no guarantee on consistent playing time, along with a nagging back injury from last season that returned this Spring, he decided to leave the game due to unspecified “personal reasons”. Though his tenure with the White Sox was a disappointment, LaRoche was considered a great teammate and a class act, even with his struggles in 2015. With this, Hahn could have some ideas up his sleeve for potential replacements. With the season less than three weeks away, it will be interesting to see if he brings in another player externally to take LaRoche’s roster spot, or gives players already within the White Sox system an opportunity. FutureSox wishes nothing but the best to Adam LaRoche and his family in his post-playing career.
- Optioned to AAA Charlotte: The White optioned four players to Charlotte this week, which include Right-handed starter Chris Beck, outfielder Daniel Fields, RHP Brandon Brennan, and RHP Daniel Webb. This could also be a precautionary move with Beck, who underwent Ulnar Nerve Translocation Surgery in June, but it would have been nice to see Beck get some more opportunities against Major League competition, assuming he is completely healthy. Fields was claimed from the Dodgers this past offseason, and made his MLB debut with the Tigers in 2015. Another depth piece for the White Sox, Fields is still just 25 years old. A .244/.329/.270 hitter over four minor league seasons, Fields will have to improve on those numbers if he hopes to have any chance to get called up to the Major League club. The White Sox must have see some potential though when they claimed him this past offseason, as he is on the 40-man roster. Brennan threw two scoreless innings in two appearances for the Sox this Spring, and is likely to begin the 2016 season in Birmingham. Webb had a really rough spring, giving up eight runs on ten hits over 6.2 innings. Webb has fallen from grace a bit, as he seemed like a big part of the White Sox future in the bullpen after the 2014 campaign. Don Cooper has raved about his stuff and even called him a potential future closer, but he has had clear control issues along with a back injury that sidelined him last August. It was disappointing to see him be sent to Charlotte this early, but I am hopeful he will get consistent appearances with the Knights and improve upon his control issues.
- Assigned to Minor-League Camp: RHP Colin Kleven, LHP Will Lamb, C Omar Narvaez, RHP Peter Tago, LHP Nik Turley, RHP Josh Wall, and LHP Jordan Guerrero are all headed back to the minors. None of these guys were in the Opening Day picture for the White Sox, but getting to face Major League competition should help their development significantly. Notables here were Narvaez, who hit a single in his one at bat, Kleven, who threw one scoreless inning with two strikeouts, and Tago, who threw two and a third scoreless innings with one strikeout.
- Released: After clearing waivers last week, the White Sox cut ties with third baseman Mike Olt. Olt was given an opportunity with the White Sox last season, hitting .203/.267/.316 in 79 at-bats. A former top prospect, Olt’s career has seemed to derail a bit since experiencing vision problems. Olt is still just 26, and most would assume he will get an opportunity with another organization.
After these moves, this leaves 49 remaining in Major League camp: 23 pitchers, four catchers, 12 infielders, and 10 outfielders.
We’ll revisit this again in a week, when we should have a better idea on which 25 players will be heading to Oakland with the team.
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Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Adam LaRoche, Brandon Brennan, Carlos Sanchez, Chris Beck, Colin Kleven, courtney hawkins, Daniel Fields, Daniel Webb, Erik Johnson, Jacob Turner, Jerry Sands, jimmy rollins, Jordan Guerrero, Josh Wall, Mat Latos, Matt Davidson, Mike Olt, Nik Turley, Omar Navaez, Peter Tago, Steve Lombardozzi, Travis Ishikawa, Tyler Saladino, Will Lamb