While we wait on you-know-who to sign or not sign, there are still some intriguing battles for roster spots that will play out during Spring Training.
Even with the additions that have been made this offseason, there are still quite a few questions going into Spring Training for the White Sox. These include the fifth starter spot, filling out the bullpen, utility role players and all three outfield positions. In this article, I’ll look at the crowded outfielders and how it may play out.
Last season, the White Sox had eight different players start and play at least 10-plus games in the outfield. Of those, the main core consisted of the following players. Only outfield starts are shown next to their names. Adam Engel (124 starts), Avisail Garcia (91 starts), Nicky Delmonico (77 starts), Daniel Palka (68 starts), Leury Garcia (50 starts), Ryan Cordell (10 starts), Ryan LaMarre (18 starts) and Charlie Tilson (32 starts).
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Of those players, we can eliminate Avisail Garcia as he’s signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, LaMarre is now with the Atlanta Braves, and Leury Garcia will be battling for a utility role, which I’ll discuss in a future article. That leaves us with five players from last years team, with Engel, Delmonico, and Palka the players with the most significant playing time.
Add to that mix the new additions from this offseason, notably Jon Jay and Brandon Guyer, and you have about eight players battling for three outfield starting spots. We won’t speculate on further acquisitions that could possibly be coming (Joc Pederson???) at this point.
Obviously, Jay is going to be a part of this mix so he takes one spot. Unless something drastic happens, I would assume that both Engel and Palka will be going north with the team as well. As Palka may see more time as a designated hitter than in right field this year, that still leaves a spot left for another player.
For the remaining players, we may need to look at who still has minor league options left. Both Delmonico and Guyer can be sent to Triple-A Charlotte without risk of losing them through waivers. It would seem that those two will need to really impress this Spring to get a shot to make the club.
Charlie Tilson will probably get his final shot at making the team during Spring Training. His is an unfortunate story as he was in line to be the starting center fielder when he was acquired in 2016 before injuries have seemed to completely derail his career. Cordell, acquired from Milwaukee in the Anthony Swarzak deal in 2017, will be in the mix this Spring as well.
The other player in the mix, of course, is top rated prospect Eloy Jimenez. Whether he breaks camp with the team or, as expected, starts the season in Charlotte for a few weeks, he will be starting in left field for most of the season. So there goes one spot for these other players. So, where does that leave us?
As of right now, it appears that Engel will be the starting center fielder on opening day. However, if he doesn’t show some improvement at the plate early on, he could be at risk of being sent down when Jimenez gets called up. Jay will get significant time starting in right field and Jimenez will be the starting left fielder, although it may not be on opening day. Palka seems to have a good hold on a roster spot as a part-time right fielder and DH.
The guys who seem to be on the outside looking in are Delmonico, Guyer, Cordell and Tilson. Of those Delmonico would have an edge as a left handed batter. He and the others may also be battling Leury Garcia and Jose Rondon for roster spots as utility bench players as well. Of course, if the Sox do manage to sign Manny Machado, then Yolmer Sanchez obviously grabs one of those spots.
A crowded outfield battle will get settled as Spring Training commences. However, with prospects such as the three Luis’s (Luis Robert, Luis Gonzalez and Luis Alexander Basabe), Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo and Steele Walker all hoping to be fully ready for the majors in the next year or two, the battles will only get more intense.