With the Austin Jackson signing, the White Sox appear to be done with their offseason. Anything can happen, but it does seem like that move was the bow on the very busy package that was this offseason. The move did create a few more positional battles than before, but most believe that outside of the shortstop battle and fifth spot in the starting rotation, there is not much left to decide. What does still remain ambiguous however, are the final spots on the 25 man roster. In what I plan to have be a weekly piece, here is an update on the stocks of the remaining candidates for the 25 man roster.
First off, let’s list the spots that are cemented, of course with the caveat of an injury changing things. These guys are, at the least, going to be on the 40 man roster and, without an injury, will be lacing them up Opening Day.
Second base – Brett Lawrie
Third base – Todd Frazier
Left-field – Melky Cabrera
Center-field – Austin Jackson
That gives twelve spots for position players and nine for pitchers. Teams typically begin the season with thirteen position players and twelve pitchers. The White Sox started last season with fourteen position players but Chris Sale started the season on the disabled list, which he only remained on for a week. In all likelihood, the White Sox will start with twelve pitchers active.
With those expectations, it looks like one position player spot is up for grabs and three pitcher spots. Let’s start with the candidates for the position spot, ranked by likelihood of making the Opening Day roster.
Carlos Sanchez (Week one of games: 6/14, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 SB/CS, 1.324 OPS; 15 total chances, 0 errors)
There shouldn’t be a White Sox player happier with the Austin Jackson signing than Carlos Sanchez. With the cementing of a roster spot to an everyday outfielder, there is less of a need for depth. The White Sox still remain committed to Avisail Garcia, and he will surely be a part of an outfield rotation, especially with Adam Eaton’s current injury. Sanchez can back up second base or shortstop, giving him versatility. His role will primarily be a late defensive replacement for Lawrie, thus his defense should be weighed first. If he hits, that’s great, but at-bats will not be an expectation. Even with the Rollins/Saladino battle leaving a suitable backup who will place before Sanchez in playing time, there should still be a spot for Sanchez.
J.B. Shuck (Week 1: 4/12, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 SB/1 CS, 0.641 OPS; 3 TC, 0 E)
Shuck was possibly discouraged by the Jackson signing, but there isn’t a lot of overlap between the two. Shuck remains as the best left-handed bat off the bench in a heavy right-handed lineup. He was a very competent pinch-hitter last season (12/42 with an .820 OPS) as well. His glove was not needed much last year and doesn’t project well anyway (-4.9 UZR last season, according to Fangraphs). Ideally, the White Sox would like a little more speed from a now fifth outfielder. Shuck was 7 of 12 in stolen base attempts last season. Expect to see a few more attempts this spring out of Shuck.
Leury Garcia (Week 1: 3/10, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 SB/CS, 0.600 OPS, 9 TC, 0 E)
Garcia can play either infield or outfield which has obvious advantages as the 13th position player on the roster. He has played every position other than first and catcher in the last two seasons (and he even has pitched!). His speed is also an asset (19 stolen bases in 137 career games).
Jacob May (Week 1: 3/10, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 SB/0 CS, 0.864 OPS, 3 TC, 0 E)
May is a long shot to make the roster due to only reaching AA in his minor league career and having plenty of options left, but he is the non-roster invitee who has really surprised this spring. He has two doubles and two stolen bases in only eleven plate appearances. May projects as a big speed guy with 37 stolen bases in 2014 and 38 in 2015.
Jerry Sands (Week 1: 2/12, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 SB/CS, 0.600 OPS, 9 TC, 0 E)
My personal favorite for no reason other than intrigue, but Jerry Sands has certainly cooled off after game one. In the Spring Training opener, he had a double and an impressive leaping catch at the fence. He set the bar high…and has come all the way down. The Jackson signing almost leaves no reason for Sands, having little speed and being an average-at-best outfielder. The Jerry Sands for All-Star campaign may be over before it started.
On to the pitchers. Quick note – it can be reasoned that it’s not a wise activity to take much out of Spring Training from any player, but pitchers probably even less than hitters. Pitching coach Don Cooper was quoted this week as saying something along the lines that he takes almost nothing out of ST pitching performances. However, for the sake of this article, it’s more likely that a solid performance in Arizona can go a long way to making the Opening Day roster. Again, with the nine pitchers I listed above, there are three remaining spots for the pitching staff.
Dan Jennings (Week 1: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 ER, 0 HR)
Jennings gets the first spot here because the White Sox need a lefty out of the pen to join Zach Duke. Duke didn’t have overpowering splits (.274/.330/.305) against lefties in 2015, albeit with a .347 BABIP. Jennings had a better 2014 overall with the Marlins and the White Sox will hope to find those results in 2016.
Zach Putnam (Week 1: 1.2 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 3 ER, 1 HR)
Putnam did not have a great first week of ST but as mentioned above, that provides little weight, especially with the small sample size. Putnam took a big step backwards in performance from 2014 to 2015 and his roster spot is not guaranteed. His FIP went up nearly a run and he allowed seven home runs in only 48 innings (two allowed in 54 innings in 2014).
Erik Johnson (Week 1: 3 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 4 ER, 1 HR)
Johnson was destined for the fifth spot in the rotation until Mat Latos was brought in to compete. Latos has a longer track record, however, Johnson had the better 2015. If Latos makes the rotation (he has yet to start in spring), Johnson may still stay up with the big club (as he does have options remaining) to be the long-relief arm in the bullpen. Johnson’s back-of-the-baseball-card stats looked good in 2014 (3-1, 3.34 ERA) but the deeper stats start to take some shine off (5.93 FIP, 2.1 HR/9).
Daniel Webb (Week 1: 4 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 ER, 0 HR)
Webb was another pitcher to have a much better 2014 than 2015. Injuries plagued him throughout the 2015 season, limiting his innings to only 30. Webb has looked good in spring, but he is nowhere near a lock to make the roster.
Tommy Kahnle (2 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 0 ER, 0 HR)
Kahnle will hope escaping Coors Field may turn his career around. He didn’t put up bad numbers as a Rockie but I’m sure he looks forward to a different home ballpark.
Scott Carroll (3 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 3 ER, 0 HR)
Carroll has not been sharp in spring. After starting 19 games in 2014, Carroll only appeared in 18 games total in 2015 (all in relief). With options remaining, he may be sent down and ultimately decide if he will stay in the pen for good.
Jacob Turner (4.2 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 5 ER, 0 HR)
Turner looked good in his first appearance against Cleveland and then was roughed up Wednesday by Oakland. The White Sox took a flyer on him, although are paying him $1.5 million and he is without an option. He may make the roster, but it would have to be at the expense of someone like Johnson.
Zach Phillips (3 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 ER, 0 HR)
I’ve listed Phillips due to his left-handedness, but that’s about all he can offer at this point. Phillips hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013 (Japan in 2014, and AAA in 2015) and will likely continue his craft in the minors in April.