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Inbox: Madrigal at second ... eventually

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers White Sox fans' questions
@scottmerkin
February 26, 2020

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With Spring Training 2020 quickly approaching the halfway mark, it’s a good time for a White Sox Inbox. Here’s what was on your minds this week.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- With Spring Training 2020 quickly approaching the halfway mark, it’s a good time for a White Sox Inbox. Here’s what was on your minds this week.

Why haven't the Sox signed Brian Dozier and who will be playing second for the White Sox on Opening Day?
-- Scott, Midlothian, Ill., @SykoScotty

Dozier has signed with the Padres since this question was submitted, but it deserves an answer. Nick Madrigal, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and the No. 40 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline, eventually will be the team’s starting second baseman, barring something totally unexpected.

It’s just a question of when he officially takes over that role. It’s somewhat difficult to convince a veteran to sign on if the starting job might only be his for a few weeks or a month. Look for Leury García to start at second at the outset, while Danny Mendick also will get playing time.

Will there be a real competition between [Zack] Collins and [Yermin] Mercedes for the 26th roster spot?
-- Vince, Melrose Park, Ill., @vinnyc52

It won’t just be a competition between Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes. Veteran non-roster infielders such as Cheslor Cuthbert and Andrew Romine are in play for the final roster spot, as is Seby Zavala, if Chicago decides to go with a third catcher, or Nicky Delmonico, if the team wants another left-handed bat. There’s also a real possibility that the 26th man will be someone the White Sox acquire during Spring Training.

With the White Sox lineup set and sturdy, the 26th man will be taking more of a pinch-hitter/part-time role, and I’m not sure the White Sox want Collins to have such infrequent playing time. Mercedes is a viable option, as he possesses big-time power and he is considered a decent receiver behind the plate.

How many wins will the Sox collect this year?
-- Ozzie, Caracas, Venezuela, @OzzieGuillen

It’s an honor to have a World Series champion manager, an expert baseball analyst and an all-around good person take the time to submit an Inbox question. Actually, Ozzie could better answer this question than I could, as he knows exactly what it takes to get through a 162-game season and then win 11 more in the grueling postseason.

But factoring in the changes the team made and the American League Central itself, I’ll go with 118 wins.

Actually, I kid.

After 72 wins last year, if the team stays healthy and the young core continues to develop, 86 wins in 2020 seems reasonable to me. The unfortunate elbow injury to the Yankees’ Luis Severino adds another interesting twist at the top of the AL, albeit with Severino having started only three regular-season games and two playoff games in 2019 for a 103-win squad. The White Sox are one of the teams farther down in the mix trying to chase New York, although they have a little longer way to go than teams such as the Twins, Astros and A’s.

An arm we all seem to be forgetting is Dane Dunning. Where do you think he starts the season, and do you see him pushing for a rotation or bullpen spot at all this year? If yes, how quickly?
-- Luke, Chicago, @lstanczyk27

Dane Dunning has not been forgotten. He is scheduled to throw a live batting-practice session on Friday and he is more than ready to face hitters and test himself on his comeback trail from Tommy John surgery last March. I’ve shared this story many times, but last spring White Sox general manager Rick Hahn listed Dunning as a candidate for the fifth spot in Chicago’s rotation if not for the arm issue. If all goes well, Dunning could be in position to help the White Sox later in the season, but most likely not until well into the season’s second half.

Who is a more likely “breakout candidate” in your opinion: Nomar Mazara or Reynaldo López
-- Corey, Mokena, Ill., @coreyeldiablo

López seems more essential to the White Sox success, with the rotation slightly more of a question mark than the lineup. He worked on his mechanics and his mindset at Mamba Sports Academy during the offseason, and the White Sox hope that will pay dividends.

Who in camp has impressed/will impress us this spring, but won’t be called up this year?
-- Brendan, Chicago, @Brendo18

Here are a few names to watch, regardless of their timetable for arrival: Micker Adolfo, Blake Rutherford, Zack Burdi, Codi Heuer, Ian Hamilton, Yermin Mercedes and a now healthy Nicky Delmonico.

Won’t it be fun when Michigan wins the CWS and the CWS wins the World Series!
-- Vincent, Kalamazoo, Mich., @cwsox

Let’s add University of Michigan basketball and football national championships while we are at it. But even without a World Series championship -- or without the first White Sox playoff appearance since 2008, which would represent quite a seismic jump for the team -- this season still can be a vast success.

Just want to say I appreciate your work. Thank you.
-- Robert, @piercy_robert

Thank you, Robert. I really appreciate everyone reading. It should be a very interesting White Sox season, so please keep on following.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.