May 16, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Dayan Viciedo (24) hits a double during the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
In 2015, the Chicago White Sox already have a better bench than in 2014. Obviously in ’14, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn were on the bench, but were extremely flawed due in large part to their age and were not the same players the were in the prime of their careers.
With that out in the open, here are the reserve or bench player candidates for ’15, and these spots will be very important for White Sox success this season.
We’ve spoken about the role of the backup catcher a lot this offseason, and it seems that Geovany Soto, Kevan Smith, Adrian Nieto, George Kottaras and Rob Brantly all will be battling this spring for the role to backup starting catcher Tyler Flowers.
The favorites right now to win the backup job would be Soto and Nieto, just because the played the most last year.
Jul 27, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago White Sox catcher Adrian Nieto (17) hits his first career home run in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Smith has never played in the majors, as he was a seventh round pick in ‘11, and let’s be honest Smith is a long shot to make the club, but is a good defender and has some power.
Kottaras and Brantly both are left-handed hitters, however, Brantly didn’t play in the majors in 2013. As I stated in an earlier article, Nieto could use more seasoning in the minors, therefore Soto may be the best option here.
Soto may have only played in 24 games last year between two teams (.250, 1 HR, 11 RBIs), but he still has a track record of success as recently as 2010 where he hit .280 with 17 HRs and 53 RBIs. My choice would be Soto, but we will see how spring training shakes out.
In the infield, the following players are in the running for reserve roles: the loser of the second baseman starters job (Micah Johnson or Carlos Sanchez), plus Emilio Bonifacio, Tyler Saladino, Leury Garcia and Matt Davidson.
In my opinion, if Johnson loses the second base job he returns to the minors. Therefore he will not be discussed. However, Sanchez is a possibility considering he can play both second base and shortstop.
Sanchez is more of a line drive hitter, which is something the White Sox need. Even though he struck out 25 times in 100 at-bats last year, keep in mind that he is young and he could improve making contact.
Jul 31, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Leury Garcia (28) makes a throw against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Garcia is a possibility to bring off of the bench due to his speed, not to mention the fact that he can play in the outfield. He can back up at third and second, along he can contribute at short.
The corners in the outfield are a possibility as well for Garcia, although he hasn’t been the best defender early in his career. The reason I would keep him is due to his speed, as he stole 11 bases in 74 games this past year.
Bonifacio could be used in the infield in a pinch, however due to his lack of fielding ability (less than .970 career fielding percentage) in the infield he is better used in the outfield.
Both third baseman prospect Davidson and shortstop prospect Saladino have a shot at this roster this year, but Saladino’s versatility is what makes him so valuable. Not to mention his speed, which is key. I think Davidson is more of the long-term fit at third, but for ‘15 I would keep Garcia and Bonifacio.
Players vying for the outfield reserve roles are J.B Shuck Dayan Viciedo, Tony Campana, and Bonifacio.
Shuck and Campana have been brought in to provide speed off of the bench. Campana stole 30 bases for the Cubs in 2012, and while Shuck isn’t a base stealer, he is still fast.
Sep 15, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Tony Campana (22) celebrates with his team after scoring off of a double hit by second baseman Howie Kendrick (not pictured) against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Bonifacio is fast as well, and is the best base stealer of the group. Bonifacio stole 40 bases for the Marlins in 2011, and is a slap-type hitter. His main problem is striking out too much, which is bad for a player that has only 13 times in career games.
Viciedo is a guy you don’t want in the outfield, not because he doesn’t have a great arm, because he does (13 OF assists in 2012), but due to the fact that that he is a terrible fielder. He also is very streaky hitting wise, and has poor plate discipline (388 Ks to 95 BBs). I would keep Bonifacio, Viciedo and Campana.
Even in the American League, a bench is key to winning.
In my opinion, speed a defense is key in that equation when looking at building a bench, unless you are looking for a potential platoon partner.
The more speed the better, due to the fact that when a slower hitter reaches late in a tight game the quicker you get him home the better. Not to mention that during every season there will be injuries, meaning the bench will be called on (keep in mind when that happens someone is called up from the minors, which could be one of these guys).
It isn’t always about finding the best players to put on the bench, but the right ones. Winning isn’t about finding the best 25 players a front office can find. It is about finding 25 guys that complement each other well throughout a 162 game season. Hopefully, the White Sox will or have found that.