CHICAGO -- Let’s open the final White Sox Inbox before pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday.
The sky is definitely not falling, although there has been snow pretty much nonstop in Chicago over the past two weeks. A little bit of sarcasm or hyperbole was employed in the question above, or maybe it’s a reaction to Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA Standings having the White Sox projected third in the American League Central behind Minnesota and Cleveland with a win total of 83.1.
Minnesota remains the team to beat until someone actually beats them. The White Sox also are in the best position team-wise and talent-wise probably since they began Spring Training in 2006 after winning a World Series title. A great deal of their success will be dependent upon their great young talent continuing to progress -- in the field and on the mound -- and of course, avoiding injury, which goes for any contender.
But I picked them to win the division title for the first time since 2008 in our recent AL Central Roundtable, and I’m sticking with that prognostication.
If you had to pick one off-the-radar Minor League player to make an impact for this year’s White Sox team, who would that be?
I’ve heard good reports about Kade McClure. The right-handed pitcher, who was selected out of Louisville in the sixth round of the 2017 MLB Draft, has not pitched above Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, and those 12 games took place in ’19. But I’ve been told that he’s made great strides, both from people in the organization and others outside the organization who are quite focused on the team’s Minor League system. McClure received a non-roster invitation to big league camp.
Barring something unexpected, Lucroy is going to make this Opening Day White Sox roster. He mentioned on Thursday that he was originally contacted with the thought of manager Tony La Russa liking veteran players, and Lucroy should end up as the primary backup to Yasmani Grandal. Lucroy had great comments about handling the pitching staff and calling games coming first for a catcher, which is exactly what Chicago wants from a catcher in his position.
Collins also should be part of the Opening Day roster, so Lucroy won't necessarily supplant Collins. There will be chances for Collins to catch and also serve as designated hitter if Vaughn starts in the Minors and if the White Sox don’t add anyone.
Rodón will be the team’s fifth starter at the outset; it's assumed Kopech will begin the season in the Minors. López will be in the conversation and certainly will make the team, and Kopech should reach the White Sox before too long.
None of the players mentioned will likely make the team out of Spring Training, with the possible exception of Mercedes, but all are guys who could provide future help to the White Sox. Some might be called upon to make a difference in ’21.
If Vaughn doesn’t start the season with the White Sox, he won’t be absent for too long. There also are players on the roster, such as Lucroy, Collins or even Leury García, who can be rotated through the DH spot, not to mention Grandal, Abreu and Jiménez.
I love Mercedes' game and would love to see him fill a role on this team. Could he be a legitimate contender for a roster spot, DH or otherwise?
As I mentioned above, Mercedes is in the mix but probably a little more of a long shot. His situation depends on how many pitchers Chicago selects to open the season against the Angels. Mercedes certainly can hit, brings some defensive versatility and has developed a bit of a cult following during his short time with the team. But the White Sox are fairly right-handed-hitting directed in their lineup, so I’m sure that fact ultimately makes a difference.