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Inbox: How will playing time at first shake out?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from White Sox fans
@scottmerkin
February 10, 2020

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The start of Spring Training for the White Sox arrives in two days, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch on Wednesday. I'll have in-depth coverage throughout camp and during the course of the regular season for this team projected to be on the rise, but

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The start of Spring Training for the White Sox arrives in two days, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Camelback Ranch on Wednesday. I'll have in-depth coverage throughout camp and during the course of the regular season for this team projected to be on the rise, but let's start by answering a few questions.

José Abreu was a needed piece for this team, as both an on-field performer and clubhouse mentor, but Edwin Encarnación was an excellent addition. He gives the team a proven power hitter and a veteran who understands the designated hitter position. It also gives first baseman Andrew Vaughn, the No. 16 prospect overall per MLB Pipeline, ample development time in the Minors. If he's deemed to still need more time in 2021, the White Sox have a '21 club option for Encarnación.

Both moves clearly will help the Twins. The Josh Donaldson addition was a major one both offensively and defensively. But the White Sox are not really at a point where they need to worry about other teams. Chicago's focus should fall upon getting better overall and moving up from the 72 wins it had in 2019, which represented a 10-win increase from '18.

I've been on record previously saying the White Sox will play meaningful baseball in September, and nothing has changed my mind. The Twins and Indians still look to be division favorites, but if things go as planned for the White sox, with the younger players taking another step forward and the Sox free-agent additions making their presence felt, the American League Central will become a three-team race.

It's too early to tell. The White Sox are very high on [Nomar] Mazara and believe there is untapped potential to be found. There are solid prospects behind him in the Minors, such as Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo and Luis Alexander Basabe, to name a few. The club will certainly explore the outfield free-agent market next offseason. It was not a one-offseason foray in the context of finishing off the rebuild.

General manager Rick Hahn and the front office have put together a rotation with five solid starters, so I don't see them skipping anyone. That's not how they operate.

Hahn spoke at SoxFest about having the freedom to make in-season moves, both from a monetary and prospect capital point of view. But it's just not the rebuild maturation leading to this response. For as long as I've covered the team (18 seasons), the White Sox have been aggressive at the Trade Deadline in trying to enhance a contender or trying to build up the young core in moves from the past few years.

Options exist even if the right-hander just needs a break for a day or two. The White Sox added free agent Steve Cishek, who has appeared in 150 games combined over the past two seasons for the Cubs, and southpaw Aaron Bummer is coming off of a career breakout in 2019. Don't forget Zack Burdi, who I've mentioned a number of times in Inbox answers and written about during the offseason. He's healthy and should make a late-inning difference at some point this season.

Second base is the lone spot where there's somewhat of a position battle for the White Sox as Spring Training approaches. Nick Madrigal eventually will be the starter and will start for the bulk of the season, but Danny Mendick definitely has a chance at the outset. My guess right now for second base on Opening Day would be Leury García.

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