White Sox: Outfield Depth Waiting on Arrivals of Jimenez, Robert
White Sox has outfield depth in the minors with top prospects waiting to be promoted. Current team has plenty of outfielders ready to perform.
The White Sox saw a lot of turnover at many different defensive positions this past year. Beginning in February, the positions up for grabs were catcher, second base, third base, and seemingly the entire outfield. While catcher was still be up for grabs between Geovany Soto, Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith, the other positions were filled as the year went on.
Yoan Moncada sealed his spot at second base and Matt Davidson and Yolmer Sanchez secured their turns at third base, with Davidson primarily taking the designated hitter spot of the lineup. However, the outfield is a bit of a different story. Avisail Garcia has a lockdown on right field for next season for sure, but center field and left field remain vacant heading into the offseason with only a few tentative front-runners in the race.
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Last season, it was Melky Cabrera, Charlie Tilson and Garcia who were slated to be the starting outfielders in to start 2017. Then it became Jacob May in center, then Wily Garcia in left, then a lot of Leury Garcia, Alen Hanson and Adam Engel in between.
In short, the White Sox had nine different players play left field and center field in 2017, and there’s still not a definite answer as to who will start out in both positions next season. It’s not a concern going forward because those spots will almost certainly be taken by Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez but not for a few years, or a few months at least.
The player slotted to be the starting center fielder to start this past season was Tilson who has been absolutely plagued by injuries. He’s sustained two season-ending injuries in 2016 and 2017. Tilson was a highly-rated prospect when he arrived from the St. Louis Cardinals but the Sox have more options to try out in the outfield now.
Engel started many of the games in center field mainly because of his defense which was showcased time after time with amazing catches. However, if the offense stays around the same next year (.166 batting average, lowest on team with more than 20 games played), Engel can’t stay out in center very long.
Other options include Hanson who was a solid option defensively and offensively, and Leury Garcia who is a natural infielder. Previously mentioned May, who had a torrid start to his MLB career, and Ryan Cordell who is the No. 16 Sox prospect and has been placed on the 40-player roster for Spring Training.
Now in left, the Sox are hoping to bank on breakout rookie Nicky Delmonico who broke a team-record for his ability to get on-base in 2017. The Sox started Cabrera in left to begin the year but Willy Garcia filled in while he was on paternity leave, as well as Rymer Liriano later in the season.
As of right now, the Sox should start Delmonico in left field because he has had the best MLB experience between him, Willy Garcia and Liriano and perhaps even Hanson. Delmonico has tremendous upside because no one really knows how great he can be. At his best, he gets on base and has crazy power with a great eye at the plate.
In center, Engel should get the start because of his tremendous defense but the Sox should wait and see how he holds up at the plate. If he continues to hit under the Mendoza line, they should try Hanson out in center because of his athletic ability, which is decent. What Sox fans would love to see would be Cordell start in center. While he is technically a Sox prospect, Cordell will MLB-ready in 2018 and could be a part of the future if he pans out and plays to his potential.
Overall, best case scenario for the Sox outfield will be this:
These aforementioned players can hold down the outfield until Jimenez and Robert are called up. Jimenez and Robert reach their maximum potential, which is both of them being All-Star caliber players, Jimenez smashing 30-plus home runs a year, Robert doing it all at the plate and on the field. But also, these players like Delmonico, Hanson and Engel could play well enough to either be a part of the future when the Sox are ready to compete or can be used in trade packages to get big-time free agents, again, when the Sox are ready.
Next: Where Does Matt Davidson Fit for the White Sox in 2018?
Regardless, the good thing for the Sox is that the time to be panicking about missing gaps on the roster is not now so they have time to find who will work out for them and who will not. Either way, the organization is definitely banking on Jimenez and Robert to dominate in the outfield, which should be very exciting for Sox fans.