With Spring Training quickly approaching for the White Sox. What are some gaps that must be filled by new manager Rick Renteria before Opening Day?
March is slowly approaching and with it brings along the first vital sign of baseball: Spring Training. The Chicago White Sox enter February with a roster that is still a work-in-progress but reports say the team isn’t done shopping a few of their veteran players.
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As Spring Training approaches, the completion of those deals is imperative for the coaching staff to get a better feel for the team they currently have. The White Sox have dealt, released and signed many different players this offseason, and that leaves manager Rick Renteria with a few question marks on both the depth chart and in the lineup.
However, with the direction the front office is taking this season, the Sox can afford to take their time filling in those gaps left by the offseason roster moves. Still, while Renteria has a “free pass” this season as far as wins go, his first assignment of the season is to figure out which pieces will complete the puzzle of this White Sox roster.
As the trade talks surrounding Jose Quintana and David Robertson continue to heat up, pitching is one of those question marks for the coaching staff. If both players are traded, Quintana’s spot should be taken up by either of the new additions, Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez.
Giolito and Lopez both have a handful of starts at the major league level and they both have a major part in the future of the White Sox. The rotation order would be Rodon-Shields-Gonzalez-Holland-Giolito/Lopez, which would get those two prospects much needed experience.
In the bullpen, Renteria will have to experiment without a clear-cut closer on the roster. He does, however, have a lot of options to experiment with. Nate Jones had a decent season in a setup role but it remains to be seen if he can fill Robertson’s spot if he gets traded. Tommy Kahnle and Dan Jennings, who had a combined 80+ relief appearances last season, could get a chance at a more important bullpen role, whether it’s as the closer or as the setup man.
The depth chart on the field, as well as the batting order, needs to be reshuffled. Last season, rookie infielder Tim Anderson solidified his place as a pro and as an everyday starter. The rest of the starting infield, Jose Abreu, Brett Lawrie and Todd Frazier, weren’t at risk of losing their starting roles to anyone. That is until the White Sox traded Chris Sale for prospects which included MLB’s Pipeline’s No. 2 prospect Yoan Moncada.
Moncada is listed as a middle infielder and has also played all his MLB games at third base and designated hitter for the Red Sox. He has been the talk of the offseason for fans, sportswriters and the league. Naturally the question for Moncada is not when is he going to play, but where is he going to play?
The native cuban is a versatile player that has incredible hitting and fielding skills, so inserting him in the lineup or on the diamond should be at the top of the ‘to-do’ list for Renteria. Moncada has enormous potential and Renteria needs to have him playing every day so he can learn the game at the professional level. The task of getting Moncada playing time should not be difficult for Renteria because of the potential and the skills that Moncada has already displayed in his young career.
The White Sox reportedly are committed to playing Moncada at second base, which could leave Lawrie at the DH position or on the bench. Having Moncada play second base would be the best option going forward in an effort to keep Frazier, Anderson and Abreu, who are all above-average fielders, at their current positions. Renteria can also play it safe and have Moncada bat as the DH to keep the infield as-is. There has also been reports that scouts see Moncada playing center field.
The outfield is now missing the biggest piece of the last few years with the trade of Adam Eaton. He was a great outfielder, with speed, a strong arm and a solid glove but now there’s an empty spot in center field for the taking. The argument can be made that Avisail Garcia’s spot in right field is not guaranteed because of his torrid performance the past two seasons. However, there is not a viable option for right field at the moment or Garcia’s starting role would surely be in danger.
Over in center field, White Sox prospect Charlie Tilson is finally on track to make a massive impact this season. Tilson is ready to return from the season-ending injury he sustained in August of last season and he is first in line for Eaton’s missing spot. Tilson is one of the team’s brightest young players and he has the opportunity to make his first time as a major league starter really count.
The last gap that was never truly filled is at catcher. Omar Narvaez is scheduled to be the starting catcher but his MLB experience is limited. The team also has Zack Collins, who was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this preseason for the White Sox. Collins is still in the minor leagues but he could make his debut during the course of this season depending on how much he has progressed or how Narvaez is keeping up with the starting job. The White Sox also have catchers Alfredo Gonzalez and Kevan Smith on the 40-man roster.
The White Sox have not involved Garcia, Lawrie or Melky Cabrera in trade talks and they have resigned Abreu and Frazier to one-year deals. As far as the lineup goes, it should stay about the same with players alternating at different positions
My projected starting lineup for Opening Day looks like this:
- Charlie Tilson, CF
- Tim Anderson, 2B
- Jose Abreu, 1B
- Todd Frazier, 3B
- Melky Cabrera, LF
- Yoan Moncada, 2B
- Brett Lawrie, DH
- Omar Narvaez, C
- Avisail Garcia, RF