White Sox should see an intense battle in Spring Training for starting center field spot unless they make a trade or sign an established player.
As the Chicago White Sox enter the new year, they still have some question marks on their current roster before Spring Training starts. The Sox, similar to many other teams this offseason, haven’t made many moves. They haven’t addressed one of their voids in center field yet, but they do have some internal options for 2018.
If the Sox decide to not sign or trade for an established center fielder, they could start the 2018 season with one of three internal candidates. Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, and Charlie Tilson could all be vying for the starting center fielder job this Spring. Each player would be a good fit for a rebuilding year, but which player would be the best fit?
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Garcia started out nicely for the Sox last season. The 26-year-old had his best year in the majors in 2017. After getting off to a hot start as he was hitting .298, he sustained a sprained left finger on June 15 in a game against the Baltimore Orioles. He would return on July 30 but ended his season with a sprained right thumb on Sept. 1.
After Garcia’s injury, the Sox would give more playing time to Engel in center field. Garcia finally had a solid season at the plate and even made some good catches in center field. But his inability to remain healthy throughout the season could hurt his chances of starting in center field to begin the 2018 season.
Engel performed well defensively for the Sox after getting more playing time in center field. However, he struggled mightily at the plate. In 97 games played last season, Engel hit an astonishingly low .166 with six home runs and 21 RBIs. Engel has elite speed as he showcased this on the basepaths and in center field. The 26-year-old finished 2017 with eight stolen bases. He also made some spectacular catches defensively.
The future for Engel could be a defensive replacement and occasional pinch hitter. Engel doesn’t have enough offense to start every day in the major leagues and isn’t likely to get better. It would be a long shot if Engel started in center field on Opening Day. Engel’s offense has to improve or he could see his playing time decrease in 2018.
As for Tilson, he just needs to arrive at Spring Training completely healthy. With missing a year of action due to various injuries, he will need a lot of playing time this Spring to catch up. Tilson has just two at-bats in his major league career. After tearing his left hamstring in his major league debut, the road back to the Sox has been long for Tilson. It will be interesting to see how much value Tilson can provide in 2018 for the Sox.