Remaining questions with White Sox roster as we near Opening Day

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Mar 18, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Travis Ishikawa (64) looks on from the dugout during the second inning against the Chicago Cubs at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Travis Ishikawa (64) looks on from the dugout during the second inning against the Chicago Cubs at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /
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With just 12 Cactus League games left before opening day the Chicago White Sox still have a few unanswered questions in regards to their 25-man roster that they will take into opening day. Here’s whats still unknown, and what look for in the coming weeks.

Back-Up First Baseman

Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

 

The Adam LaRoche retirement, regardless of all of the drama that swirled around it, did two things for the White Sox moving forward. It created $13 Million dollars in available money to spend on payroll, and more pressingly it created a need for a back-up first baseman behind starter Jose Abreu. Newly acquired White Sox outfielder Jerry Sands is making his case to break camp with the White Sox come Opening Day. The 28 year-old outfielder was claimed off of waivers from the Cleveland Indians this past off season, and coming into camp wasn’t thought to have much of a shot to stick with the team past spring training. Sands is hitting just .250 in 15 Cactus League games thus far, but has three home runs, eight RBI, and a double to his credit. He also has a few highlight reel defensive plays this spring.

Sands has played 119 major league games since 2011, splitting time between the Dodgers, Rays, and Indians over that span. 18 of those games were played as a first-baseman, with the rest being split between the corner outfield positions. Sands has a perfect fielding percentage at first base, as well as any other position for that matter. Sands is yet to make an error at the major league level in 270 defensive chances over his 119 major league games played. Sands actually has only committed five errors, in 620 defensive chances over a span of eight years of his professional baseball career, whether that be in the majors or the minors.

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Sands would be a viable defensive solution in both the back-up first-baseman role, as well as the outfield as a defensive replacement late in games, or even some extra depth given the fact that the White Sox will carry at least four outfielders at this point (Cabrera, Jackson, Eaton, and Garcia).

Designated Hitter

It’s likely that the designated hitter role will be filled internally, and more than likely occupied by some combination of players expected to occupy spots on the 25-man roster. It’s still unclear at this point what Manager Robin Ventura wants to do with the shoe in outfielders (Cabrera, Jackson, Eaton, and Garcia) to ensure that they are all getting regular at-bats. The outfield will likely be a fluid work in progress when the season begins, with Cabrera, and Garcia both seeing considerable time in the designated hitter’s role. I think that Dioner Navarro, and Alex Avila will be sharing time behind the plate, and possibly getting some at-bats in this role as well. Some may be worried that there is not necessarily a “set in stone” defensive alignment as we approach Opening Day, but I am more comforted than anything by the idea that we have depth and flexibility on the 25-man roster this season.

Shortstop

Jimmy Rollins has all but cemented himself into the starting role at the shortstop position this spring. Obviously he will share more time with his back-up than he would have in past years, given that he is entering his sixteenth major league season he will need to share some time in order to remain fresh throughout the season. The real question is who will be backing him up?

Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

If you would have asked me that question two weeks ago, I would have told you that Tyler Saladino was just about dead in the water in regards to his hopes of breaking camp with the big league roster. At the time Carlos Sanchez was tearing it up offensively, and we were already aware that he could handle to job defensively and Saladino was hitting .188. Since that time, Saladino has resurrected his name in the discussion by raising his batting average to a formidable .278, with an OBP of .381 to go along with three home runs, and seven RBI. I think that the organization overall is higher on the idea of giving Saladino the job behind Rollins, and his recent performance may have confirmed their original belief heading into camp.

Back-End of the Rotation

Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The White Sox have a bona-fide ace in Chris Sale at the top of the rotation, and a solid pair behind him in Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon occupying the 2/3 spots in the rotation. The fourth and fifth spots are less certain. But at this point, with Erik Johnson being demoted this week, and Jacob Turner having a poor spring thus far I think it’s safe to pencil in Mat Latos and John Danks into the end of the rotation come Opening Day. Turner will likely be in the bullpen, if he even breaks camp with the team, but Latos and Danks should not take their roles lightly as White Sox top-prospect Carson Fulmer has made it clear this spring that he will be in the White Sox rotation sooner, rather than later. If one of those two stumble out of the gates, I fully expect to see Fulmer get promoted to the White Sox from Double-A at which time he will begin the same bullpen-to-rotation transition that we saw Carlos Rodon do just a year ago.

Odd Men Out?

A few players on the bubble for the final rotation, and bench roles, in no specific order:

  1. Carlos Sanchez
  2. J.B. Shuck
  3. Jacob Turner
  4. Zach Putnam
  5. Jerry Sands
  6. Travis Ishikawa

The next two weeks will hopefully give us more of an insight into Manager Robin Ventura‘s plans heading into Opening Day, check back for updates before Opening Day.

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