The pitching staff became clearer this week, but the bats off the bench are becoming cloudier. The fallout from the LaRoche retirement is still finishing, but the team looks destined to find a replacement at designated hitter from within. LaRoche was the only backup first baseman on the depth chart heading into the season and with that hole created, the White Sox may have to get creative with their bench. To make it more compelling, the internal options that fit in better as a first baseman are hitting the cover off the ball. A past top prospect is giving the team reason to believe after he was almost completely given up on.
The only thing that we do know, although not with 100 percent confidence, is the White Sox will have 13 hitters on the Opening Day roster. That leaves two spots free after all of the guaranteed spots are penciled in. Below will describe how each of them is trending and who has the best shot to fill in those two spots.
Carlos Sanchez (Week three of games: 4/12, 0 BB, 2 K, 4 TB, 0.666 OPS, 7 TC, 1 E) – STEADY
Sanchez still remains my top choice of this bunch to make the roster. Various places do not even have him making the squad but his versatility still provides for the team’s greater need. He has been playing third base more often recently, perhaps lending a belief that if Todd Frazier is needed to play at first, Sanchez can cover third. Currently, there are five guaranteed infielders and four guaranteed outfielders but there still is a need for a flexible infielder. Despite Sanchez’s first error of the spring this week, he still provides the best defensive option.
J.B. Shuck (Week 3: 2/7, 0 BB, 0 K, 3 TB, 0.714 OPS, 1 SB, 2 TC, 0 E) – STOCK DOWN
Shuck’s at-bats have gone down as others have been given more chances. It’s hard to read what exactly that may mean as it’s possible Shuck has nothing left to prove. Shuck has been given few chances in the field this spring, and his true strength remains as a pinch-hitter. Will the White Sox choose someone with more depth or someone with true pinch-hitting skills?
Jerry Sands (Week 3: 4/13, 0 BB, 3 K, 10 TB, 1.077 OPS, 5 TC, 0 E) – STOCK UP
Sands continued to rake this week with a two-home run game. He also had another highlight reel play in the outfield. Sands’ experience at first base really gives the team a lot of flexibility as he can play there or in the outfield. Manager Robin Ventura spoke on Sands this week and said he needs to work on hitting against right-handed pitching. With the loss of LaRoche, the team does need right-handed hitting talent off the bench.
Matt Davidson (Week 3: 4/8, 0 BB, 3 K, 4 TB, 1.000 OPS) – STOCK UP
Davidson is taking practice at first base which shows the team is willing to invest in this possibility. With options remaining, it’s expected he starts in Triple-A, but may be up with the big club before too long.
Travis Ishikawa (Week 3: 2/12, 0 BB, 5 K, 6 TB, 0.666 OPS) – STEADY
Ishikawa has value with the most career reps at first base. The bat cooled off this week a bit, but if the White Sox are looking for the most similar replacement for LaRoche, it’s Ishikawa.
Jacob May (Week 3: 2/7, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB, 4 TB, 0.660 OPS) – STOCK DOWN
May has had a very good spring and the team has to be encouraged that they have this option at some point down the road.
Leury Garcia (Week 3: 0/7, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 TB, 0.000 OPS, 8 TC, 1 E) – STOCK DOWN
After three years with the White Sox, it looks like Garcia’s time may be coming to an end. The “prize” of the Alex Rios trade, Garcia did provide some solid time in Chicago.
With the demotion of Erik Johnson and the release of Zach Phillips, this list got a lot clearer. With presumably two spots available in the bullpen, it looks like the White Sox will be going with one righty and one lefty.
Zach Putnam (Week 3: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 0 ER, 0 HR) – STEADY
Putnam will make his third consecutive Opening Day roster and will hope to bounce back from a rough 2015.
Dan Jennings (Week 3: 4 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 ER, 0 HR) – STOCK UP
The White Sox had a good week on the mound and Jennings was one of the best. With the release of Phillips, Jennings will be the second southpaw in the bullpen behind Zach Duke.
Jacob Turner (Week 3: 2 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 1 K, 2 ER, 0 HR) – STOCK DOWN
Turner still has to be mentioned as a possibility due to his lack of options. He has been unimpressive in spring, but will still probably be picked up and given another chance by a different team.
Scott Carroll (Week 3: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 ER, 0 HR) – STEADY
Carroll was given a spot start this week and impressed. Expect that to happen at some point this season, whether it is for an injured pitcher or a make-up game.
Tommy Kahnle (Week 3: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 ER, 0 HR) – STEADY
Kahnle got noticed early on in spring and has done nothing to hurt his standing. The White Sox will go with the more proven options to start but there may be a future for Kahnle with the team.