Inbox: What does catcher situation look like?
Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from fans
Here’s a look at this week’s White Sox inquiries as Spring Training comes to a close.
In honor of your birthday [March 18], when should the White Sox get their 18th win? More generally, how important is it to get off to a good start? What would be a good goal by, say, Memorial Day?
Darrin, Carlinville, IL, @CoachDeNeve
The White Sox have a scheduled off-day on May 6 after a two-game series in Cincinnati, and I’m going to guess they will have 18 victories by that break in the action at the latest. According to excellent analysis from MLB.com’s David Adler, the White Sox fall in with teams with a neutral April schedule category, so no great advantage or disadvantage. A good start is important in what should be a big-time American League Central race with the Twins, but as we saw last year, a good finish is equally, if not more so important.
Has (Jonathan) Lucroy made the team or is it still possible they go with Yaz (Grandal) and (Zack) Collins?
Rock, Woodstock, IL, @vegasrock72
My guess remains that Lucroy will be on the Opening Day roster, with Dallas Keuchel presenting a strong endorsement after Lucroy caught him against the Cubs on Tuesday. He gives the White Sox another veteran to handle a top-notch pitching staff, but don’t overlook Collins’ chance to make the team and contribute.
He seems as comfortable as he ever has been at the plate and behind the plate. I also applaud his confidence, with Collins telling me last week that he 100 percent belongs on the Opening Day roster and it would be a mistake not to take him. Taking a third catcher will be influenced by the White Sox decision to carry another utility infielder besides Leury García and whether Andrew Vaughn breaks camp as a designated hitter, which should happen.
If (Reynaldo) López gets sent to Minors, who becomes our long relief guy?
Rick, Lemont, IL, @rickcwik16
Here’s a little bit of behind-the-scenes Inbox honesty. This article was supposed to run Monday, where I surmised López would break camp with the team only hours before he was reassigned to the alternate training site. But the right-hander has an option remaining, and manager Tony La Russa spoke Tuesday about keeping him stretched out as sort of a protection starter. That explanation makes more sense than keeping him in long relief, which was discussed by the team, per La Russa.
Michael Kopech would be the bullpen pitcher who can give the most innings, which would help his development toward a future spot in the rotation while pitching in relief this season. But the White Sox are counting on their rotation going consistently deep in games, meaning they hope to not need a long reliever very often.
Will Billy Hamilton break camp with the team or stay down at Charlotte? I know a speedster holds value come September but if he makes the team doesn’t he hold back a valuable bat off the bench?
Mike, Rogers Park, IL, @notKevinMiller
Hamilton already had a pretty good chance to make the team, but with Adam Engel’s right hamstring strain, he’s now pretty close to a lock. Maybe that statement is a little strong, but Hamilton is a veteran who can steal a base late in a close game or become an important defensive replacement. When general manger Rick Hahn talks about winning a specific game or two in the course of winning 90-to-95 during a season, Hamilton is a player who can make that incremental difference.
If you had to identify a potential “weak spot” in the roster so far when it comes to the 2021 season, what would it be?
Overall depth, which could be said for many even top-flight teams, although the White Sox still have talented players behind the everyday talent: See right-handers Jimmy Lambert and/or Jonathan Stiever as two examples. But it’s more about the unknown for this talented crew.
Will Luis Robert look more like the player from August, offensively, as opposed to his September struggles? Will the 2021 version of Yoán Moncada be closer to the 2019 Most Valuable Player-caliber version, as opposed to the player who struggled in ’20 while slowed by COVID-19 after-effects? Those are just two considerations, and it’s really not a bad weakness to have, especially when you consider the immense talent of the players involved.
What are your thoughts/expectations for Jake Burger this season?
Eli, Wilmette, IL, @AloneTeenSoxFan
Burger’s comeback tale is a moving one, especially hearing him talk about tearing up on his way to his first Cactus League workout this February. But he needs a season full of at-bats and plays in the field, after not being in Minor League action since 2017. There’s that special sound of ball meeting bat when Burger is swinging, according to what a few people in the organization have told me, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses now that he’s completely healthy and, literally, in the best shape of his life.