Mar 10, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Trayce Thompson (75) swings against the Milwaukee Brewers during a spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Trayce Thompson has been in the White Sox organization for six years and spent the last two seasons at Double A Birmingham.
He is loved for his defensive ability to play all three outfield positions but offensively has had his issues. Power (27 homers in 2012) and speed (25 steals in 2013) have always been there, but consistency making contact (career .237 hitter) has kept him in the minors.
Mar 18, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics right fielder Michael Taylor (23) hits a two run triple in the third inning against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Taylor, once a top 20 prospect according to Baseball Prospectus, was acquired from the Oakland A’s in July last season.
The 29-year-old outfielder has played just 37 games in the majors despite putting up good numbers in the minors. He is a career .289 hitter over eight minor league seasons and has hit 11 home runs or more each of the last four.
Defensively, he doesn’t grade out too well but profiles best in right field.
J.B. Shuck was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Indians this offseason.
He had a solid rookie campaign in 2013 with the Los Angeles Angels hitting .293 in 129 games. The following year, he hit just .145 in the majors but the majority of his time was spent in the minors where he hit .320 with an .828 OPS.
Defensively, he is a solid corner outfielder but doesn’t deliver much power. He has never hit more than five in a season, and that was in 2014 while in the minors.
Tyler Saladino is the most interesting choice here. Saladino essentially came out of nowhere in 2014 by hitting .310 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 82 games at Triple-A Charlotte.
After hitting .305 in 2010, his average steadily dropped to .272, .236 and .229 accordingly. He has flashed power (16 home runs in 2011), speed (39 stolen bases in 2012) and defensive versatility (played left field and all four infield spots last season).
It is unclear where exactly the 25-year-old fits in the organization or what exactly fits as his best position. Saladino is behind Matt Davidson at third, Tim Anderson at short and both Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez at second. That leaves the outfield where there is no immediate prospect in his way.
If Saladino can recover from the Tommy John surgery that ended his season in July, he could be someone that is hard to keep out of the majors.
Based on major league experience, Shuck profiles as the favorite to win the final roster spot. Of the four players, he is the only left-handed bat, and the players likely to be out of the lineup or pinch hit for (Garcia and Flowers mostly) are right-handed. Though he has the least amount of power, his bat is the only one that has produced at the major league level.
Ideally, whoever has the strongest spring should win the job, but Shuck has the least number of flaws. Thompson hasn’t been able to reach Triple-A during his time in the organization (just 18 at-bats in 2012), so it’s obvious the majors is a big step for him.
Taylor could hit his way on the team but isn’t preferred in the field. Saladino may have to return slowly from surgery and could certainly play his way onto the roster. It just won’t likely happen Opening Day.
You will never hear anyone say they miss Dayan Viciedo, but his release created the void that is this final roster spot. With him, you get the pop off the bench that most teams desire. Hopefully, the White Sox can get find some glimpse of that in one of these four men.