White Sox have some real questions heading into Spring Training; what the team chooses to do will be revealed in the next few weeks.
I performed my daily Google News search for White Sox news and was thrilled to find the Daily Herald article, Spring training preview: 5 key questions facing the White Sox.
“Damn!” I thought to myself. As a White Sox contributor (translation: blogger), I hate when I intend to write an article about a topic only to be beaten to the story by the real sports writers. But I’m thrilled to write – and disappointed at the same time – that the five key questions posed in this article are not at all what I believe the top five questions are for the club this spring training.
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For the record and to save readers from running to the Daily Herald article, the five key questions are listed below:
- When will the Sox be legitimate contenders?
- Is Jose Abreu going to be traded?
- Is Rick Renteria the manager for the long haul?
- Is Avisail Garcia going to be traded?
- What’s up with Carlos Rodon?
Um, really? Those are the five key questions for the White Sox as Spring Training is about to kick off? Those are key questions for the White Sox, no doubt, but they have absolutely nothing to do Spring Training. Each question is very general in its nature and forward-looking, and frankly may still be asked in July.
No, there are better questions to recognize and they offer interesting consideration. With apologies to my favorite Chicagoland paper, here are what I believe are the real five key questions facing the Sox this spring training.
1. Who wins the Center Field job? The outcome will show a lot about the 2018 Sox. Do they emphasize defense and range to help their young pitchers? Do they look for more of an offensive contributor, or do they use a platoon of players to hold the position down in this year of low expectations? My hunch is the team will have plenty of offense and that stellar defense and speed on the basepaths will be prioritized. Leury Garcia may start on opening day, but the future center fielder may well be Adam Engel or Charlie Tilson – and this may surface if either performs well in Spring Training.
2. How will the young starting pitchers do? Sure, it’s just the Spring and not like we’re holding anyone to wins and losses in March. However, a forward-looking indicator may be if Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito log solid innings without taking significant amounts of punishment. They’ll be working on things which is what the Spring is about, but the degree of success versus failure may well extend into the season and could play into the club’s decisions on who to break camp with and what the starting rotation looks like.
3. Who plays third base? Matt Davidson and Yolmer Sanchez may alternate at the position here, with the former also taking at-bats as the team’s designated hitter. The decision of who plays third base is a key one. Add a capable power hitter to a lineup that includes Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Yoan Moncada, Nicky Delmonico, Tim Anderson and Welington Castillo – and you have one heck of an offense. I will not be surprised if the team signed Mike Moustakas to a one or two-year deal if the cost is modest, moving Davidson to designated hitter and using Sanchez in a utility role.
4. Who wins the backup catcher position? A backup catcher isn’t exactly everyone’s vision of an impact role, but with this young pitching staff, the potential for contribution is especially high. Kevan Smith demonstrated solid offense in 2017 but threw out only eight of 64 base stealers for a dismal caught stealing percentage of 13 percent.
Omar Narvaez was slightly better at 24 percent but drove in only 14 runs in 295 plate appearances as a left-handed bat. A key to the White Sox starters success in 2018 will be minimizing the number of runners in scoring position. Castillo led the majors in this category in 2017. His backup will be key in 2018.
5. Which relief pitchers does the team break camp with, and who will be the closer? All the starting pitching and offense in the world may be for naught if the team can’t hold leads and close games. The acquisitions of Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan were key. How healthy Is Nate Jones? Does Juan Minaya keep the closer role? Do Aaron Bummer or Brad Goldberg head to Chicago or Charlotte? And do the bets the Sox placed on Danny Farquhar, Jeanmar Gomez or Bruce Rondon pay off?
I believe these are the pressing questions and areas to watch for Spring Training. The clock begins ticking on Tuesday when pitchers and catchers report. The future starts then, Sox fans. Fasten your seat belts, the year is going to be fun.