With Opening Day nearing, who will make White Sox roster?
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There are 11 Cactus League contests remaining for the White Sox before breaking camp to start the 2023 regular season. But manager Pedro Grifol wasn’t entertaining the idea of his 26-man roster already being pretty well set.
“When I say this, I mean this. Guys are competing,” Grifol said. “It’s not so much about stats. It’s just about how they’re going about it, what they’re bringing to the table. How they help our roster. Obviously, you go out there and perform.”
Grifol would like to have his roster set by March 25-26. There are some intriguing future options for the White Sox even beyond who joins them initially in Houston.
“This is probably the best group of NRIs that I’ve seen since I’ve been a part of the big leagues,” Grifol said. “It’s created pretty good depth and competition to our camp.”
Here’s my third look at the White Sox Opening Day roster projection.
Catcher (2): Yasmani Grandal, Seby Zavala
Others: Sebastian Rivero
Zavala would make his first Opening Day roster, while Grandal is set at No. 1. Grifol plans to use him as much as possible behind the plate.
First base (1): Andrew Vaughn
Others: Gavin Sheets, Jake Burger, Grandal
Vaughn has not played since March 12 due to lower back soreness, although Grifol described the injury as minor and listed him as day to day. Vaughn was feeling comfortable in his return from the outfield.
“It's been good just getting back into my routine and getting on that ground ball schedule, taking as many as I can,” Vaughn said prior to being sidelined. “It's all coming back to me.”
Second base (1): Elvis Andrus
Others: Romy Gonzalez, Leury García
Andrus continues working at his new position after 14 seasons playing shortstop. Andrus also returns his clubhouse leadership and energy after playing 43 games for the White Sox in 2022.
Shortstop (1): Tim Anderson
Others: García, Andrus
Anderson not only is a driving force for the White Sox but has made a similar impression with his energy and hard work during World Baseball Classic competition with Team USA.
“My biggest key is trying to be successful and keep working and keep learning,” said Anderson in an earlier interview. “If you are always working, your numbers are going to be there. I just have to go out and try to be great on a day-to-day basis.”
Third base (1): Yoán Moncada
Others: Burger, García
Moncada looks very impressive during his Team Cuba stint, with a .421 average (8-for-19), one home run and three doubles in five games. Burger continues to flex his new-dad muscles with a team-high four Cactus League home runs.
Outfield (3): Andrew Benintendi, Luis Robert, Oscar Colas
Others: Sheets, García, Eloy Jiménez
Nothing has been given to Colas. In fact, Grifol has preached ongoing development at the Major League level even if the rookie makes the team. It’s a near certainty Colas will be the team’s right fielder on Opening Day.
Designated hitter (1): Jiménez
Others: Sheets, Vaughn, Grandal, Burger
Jiménez returned from WBC play for the Dominican Republic ready to continue preparing for the season. In fact, he didn’t even take a day off after coming back. There will be some opportunities in right field for him.
Utility (3): García, Sheets, Hanser Alberto
Others: Gonzalez, Victor Reyes, Billy Hamilton, Jake Marisnick, Burger
Zavala looks to be the only lock off the bench with a number of quality options. García and Gonzalez both could break camp with the left-handed power bat of Sheets. Don’t forget the speed element, defense in center and great clubhouse presence of Hamilton. But Alberto also brings versatility and the same clubhouse presence.
Starting pitchers (5): Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Mike Clevinger, Michael Kopech
Others: Davis Martin, Tanner Banks
Kopech made his second Cactus League start Saturday and is on pace for the home opener on April 3 following end-of-season surgery to repair a right knee meniscus tear. Cease remains the favorite as the Opening Day starter after his performance in 2022, although Grifol will wait until after the WBC to announce.
Bullpen (8): Kendall Graveman, Reynaldo López, Aaron Bummer (L), Joe Kelly, Jimmy Lambert, Jake Diekman (L), José Ruiz, Nick Avila
Others: Gregory Santos, Frank German, Banks, Matt Foster
Bummer expects to be ready for the season opener after taking a step back at the start of Spring Training to deal with left lat soreness from the offseason. He threw live batting practice Saturday. Avila, a Rule 5 Draft selection, has the edge for the last bullpen spot, but Santos also has been very impressive.
Liam Hendriks is receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, so the White Sox will go with a high-leverage crew to fill in for one of the game’s best closers. Garrett Crochet had Tommy John surgery prior to the start of last season and the target is a mid-May return after a Minor League rehab assignment.