GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first full-squad Spring Training workout for the White Sox took place on Monday at Camelback Ranch, which was more of a formality considering every player had reported by Sunday. A number of players actually have been in Arizona working out since the beginning of the month.
There’s a palpable buzz around this vastly improved team, manifesting itself in highly confident player talk ranging from predictions concerning playoffs-or-bust to the more extreme thoughts of World Series titles. The organization has put together a solid pitching staff alongside a rich lineup with the chance to stack up against even the best in baseball.
“We are trying to have a lineup that’s one through nine dangerous hitters. Good, dangerous hitters,” White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said. “We have some good young hitters combined with some veteran guys who kind of will show the way and lead the way enough to where you don’t have to rely on [the young hitters].
“You’ve seen us have to rely on young guys in the last couple of years while they grew. Now, some of our young guys have grown into their own. In addition, we brought in some veteran guys from which not only our newest young guys but our early-in-the-career guys can learn.”
Here’s an updated look at the 2020 White Sox Opening Day roster projection, with Cactus League action beginning on February 22.
• Forecasting all 30 teams: Lineups, rotations, closers
Locks: Yasmani Grandal, James McCann
Possibilities: Zack Collins
Collins has worked on everything from his stance as a catcher to the way he blocks the ball to the way he receives. His capabilities on offense already have been shown in the Minors and during a solid September finish in 2019, but the team’s top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft seems unlikely to break camp as a 26th man relegated to primarily pinch-hitting duties. He could benefit more from catching regularly at Triple-A Charlotte.
Grandal has the ability to help this team in so many ways. He’s a power-packed switch-hitter with a career on-base percentage of .348 and coming off a 109-walk season. He’s one of the game’s best pitch-framers and has a true presence and plan in terms of handling pitching staffs mixed with young talent and veterans. He has dealt with a mild left calf strain at the outset of camp, but there are seemingly no worries he’ll be ready by Opening Day.
Lock: José Abreu
Possibilities: Grandal, Edwin Encarnación, Collins
There was never a doubt concerning Abreu’s return to the White Sox. And even when he accepted the team’s one-year qualifying offer, there was very little doubt a multi-year deal eventually would be reached. During his first press conference in Arizona, Abreu told reporters the White Sox were the only team he focused upon during a brief foray into free agency.
Abreu has been a middle-of-the-order staple on this team for the past six years. For the first time in his big league career, Abreu should have a chance to contend for the postseason or at the very least play meaningful games in September.
Locks: Leury García
Possibilities:Nick Madrigal, Danny Mendick
This position eventually will belong to Madrigal, the team’s top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and don’t completely rule out Madrigal being part of the Opening Day lineup. If the high-contact, Gold Glove-caliber 22-year-old starts with Charlotte, the White Sox will need someone to handle this spot for the season’s outset. As of camp’s open, the free agent possibility looks to be the least likely option.
Lock: Tim Anderson
Possibilities: García, Mendick
What will Anderson do for an encore, after raising his average from .240 to a Major League best .335 and winning the AL batting title? Steadier defense is something Anderson discussed after also leading the Majors with 26 errors. In fact, Anderson predicted a Gold Glove during a Spring Training press conference -- maybe not this year, but sometime in the future. If he stays healthy, Anderson has true 30-30 potential in terms of home runs and stolen bases.
Lock: Yoán Moncada
Possibilities: Mendick, García
Moncada was the team’s best all-round player through the course of the 2019 season and really could be just hitting the beginning of his full Most Valuable Player-caliber potential after posting a 5.7 fWAR. His focus this offseason was on lower-half conditioning, trying to avoid the right hamstring injury that cost him three weeks in ’19. The switch-hitter also looked more comfortable defensively after making the move from second to third.
Possibilities: Mendick, Cheslor Cuthbert, Andrew Romine, free agent/trade
García came up as a shortstop, and the White Sox prefer to have their prime utility infielder possess clear capabilities at that spot. Mendick’s capabilities look similar to García, without the outfield experience, and he’s pretty close to being a roster lock. Cuthbert, 27, is a right-handed hitting third baseman/first baseman, while, the switch-hitting Romine, 34, plays across the diamond. Both are non-roster invites who would be in need of a 40-man spot.
Locks: Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Nomar Mazara
Possibilities: Adam Engel, García, free agent/trade
The six-year, $50 million extension agreed upon by Robert and the White Sox guarantees the No. 3 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline starts the season as the team’s center fielder. Jimenéz slightly improved in left field through season-long pregame defensive work, while showing off elite offensive capabilities via 31 homers as a rookie and 25 RBIs to go with a 1.093 OPS during a stellar September. Mazara is stronger against right-handed pitchers, but manager Rick Renteria wants to develop him against left-handers as well. The White Sox have a right-handed hitting option in García, who hit .311 with a .786 OPS vs. southpaws in ’19, but Mazara appears penciled in as an everyday player. Engel provides Gold Glove caliber defense, with better career numbers against lefties.
Possibilities: Collins, Grandal, Abreu
Encarnación has eight straight seasons of 30+ homers, but more importantly, he has 723 career games at designated hitter and is not a position player being converted into the role which has not worked for the White Sox in the recent past. The White Sox only out-ranked the Royals and Tigers in ’19 home runs among AL teams, so adding a pure power hitter was a true plus. Abreu called Encarnación the “missing piece.”
Locks: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López
Possibility: Michael Kopech
Michael Kopech, who has not pitched in a regular-season game since Sept ’18 following Tommy John surgery, almost certainly will start at Charlotte. González has dealt with shoulder discomfort, slowing him down slightly at the start of camp, but there’s no concern about his Opening Day availability. Look for Giolito to get the Opening Day nod, although the move probably won’t be announced until later in Spring Training. Giolito has been hampered by a muscle strain near his rib cage but lists his concern over that malady at “zero percent.”
Locks: Alex Colomé, Aaron Bummer, Steve Cishek, Kelvin Herrera, Jace Fry, Evan Marshall, Jimmy Cordero
Possibilities: Free agent/trade, Ian Hamilton, Carson Fulmer, Jose Ruiz
Cishek, who threw in a combined 150 games over the last two seasons for the Cubs, represents the newest free-agent addition and gives opposing hitters a different look late in games. After dealing with rough Spring Training results, Bummer was one of the breakout performers for the White Sox, and really, in all of baseball in 2019. Colomé will start as the team’s closer, but Bummer could move into that role if Colomé eventually is moved. Watch for Zack Burdi, who is fully healed and throwing the ball well following Tommy John surgery and right knee surgery. Herrera finished with a 1.93 ERA in September to go with 15 strikeouts and three walks in 9 1/3 innings.
Fulmer is out of options, but that situation doesn’t give him a leg up for the eighth spot. The White Sox don’t necessarily need a long reliever, with relievers such as Fry, Cordero and Marshall all capable of going two innings.
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.