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Rebuild over? White Sox ready to compete

Young nucleus believes talent is there to stay in contention in 2018
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Phase 2 of the White Sox rebuild officially begins on Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, when James Shields takes the mound against the Royals. This phase is being viewed as a development stage for the plethora of top prospects assembled by the organization, as the White Sox push toward their goal of sustained success.

But don't try to sell that theory to the White Sox players leaving Arizona. They believe the future can be now, as in this upcoming 2018 season, especially if some of those designated long-term staples make huge strides in the present.

CHICAGO -- Phase 2 of the White Sox rebuild officially begins on Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, when James Shields takes the mound against the Royals. This phase is being viewed as a development stage for the plethora of top prospects assembled by the organization, as the White Sox push toward their goal of sustained success.

But don't try to sell that theory to the White Sox players leaving Arizona. They believe the future can be now, as in this upcoming 2018 season, especially if some of those designated long-term staples make huge strides in the present.

Here's a look at a few things you need to know as the White Sox get ready for action:

Projected Opening Day lineup: 2B Yoan Moncada, RF Avisail Garcia, 1B Jose Abreu, C Welington Castillo, DH Matt Davidson, SS Tim Anderson, LF Nicky Delmonico, 3B Yolmer Sanchez, CF Adam Engel, RHP Shields

Key roles
• Moncada started slowly during Cactus League play, but looked like a possible breakout player offensively by the time he broke camp. Moncada will strike out a decent amount, but he has the ability to work deep into counts and set the table for the offense, while also driving in runs when the order turns over.

Video: Moncada discusses his different mindset this spring

• White Sox manager Rick Renteria has not anointed a specific closer, but he certainly has plenty of options. Nate Jones figures to be the clubhouse leader for ninth-inning work, along with Joakim Soria, Juan Minaya and even Hector Santiago. But Renteria also could use Jones in the seventh if that inning becomes the highest-leverage situation.

Video: Jones discusses team's youth, developing into winner

• The left-handed-hitting Delmonico will be the team's primary left fielder, and Davidson will get a heavy amount of work at designated hitter, but the White Sox have flexibility. Switch-hitting Leury Garcia could move into left field against tougher southpaws, and Davidson certainly will get looks at third base. This situation isn't a platoon, but there are options.

Carson Fulmer struggled during Cactus League action, but was always targeted as the team's fifth starter. Santiago has long-relief potential behind Fulmer, or any other starter if necessary.

Injury update
• There were no Cactus League starts for Carlos Rodon, but that move certainly wasn't a surprise. The left-hander had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder late last September and was expected to be out of action from six to eight months.

• Catcher Kevan Smith could end up on the disabled list to start the season due to a left ankle sprain. Smith was in a battle with Omar Narvaez for the second catcher's spot, with both players producing solid showings in '17, but figures to go to Triple-A Charlotte when healthy.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox