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Who will make White Sox Opening Day roster?

@scottmerkin
January 14, 2020

CHICAGO -- The starting lineup for the 2020 White Sox looks pretty much set weeks ahead of SoxFest on Jan. 24-25. The rotation follows in the same solid position. Yes, it has been an exceptional offseason for general manager Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office as they make

CHICAGO -- The starting lineup for the 2020 White Sox looks pretty much set weeks ahead of SoxFest on Jan. 24-25. The rotation follows in the same solid position.

Yes, it has been an exceptional offseason for general manager Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office as they make the move from full-on rebuild toward contention.

“There's not only enthusiasm apparently with the fan base,” Hahn said, “but there's enthusiasm among the player community as well about what this team is capable of doing over the next several years.”

Here’s a look at the 2020 White Sox Opening Day roster projection as the new year begins.

Catcher
Locks: Yasmani Grandal, James McCann
Possibilities: Zack Collins

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 he's coming off a 109-walk season. He’s one of the game’s best pitch-framers, and he has a true presence and plan in terms of handling pitching staffs mixed with young talent and veterans. Although the White Sox have the 26th man roster spot, Collins very well could start the season catching regularly with Triple-A Charlotte.

First base
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. Abreu has been a middle-of-the-order staple on this team for the past six years, and for the first time in his big league career, he should have a chance to contend for the postseason or at the very least play meaningful games in September.

Second base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Leury García, Nick Madrigal, Danny Mendick, free agent/trade

This position will belong to Madrigal, the team’s top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, but the high-contact, Gold Glove-caliber 22-year-old probably won’t break camp with the team. The White Sox will need someone to handle this spot for the season’s outset, which could fall to García, Mendick or a free-agent addition.

Shortstop
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 American League batting title? Well, steadier defense is something Anderson discussed after also leading the Majors with 26 errors. If he stays healthy, Anderson has true 30-30 potential.

Third base
Lock: Yoán Moncada
Possibilities: Mendick, García

Moncada was the team’s best all-round player through the course of the 2019 season, and he really could be just hitting the beginning of his full Most Valuable Player-caliber potential after posting a 5.7 WAR, according to FanGraphs. His focus this offseason has been 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.

Utility
Lock: García
Possibilities: Mendick, 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 resume looks similar to García's, without the outfield experience. Yolmer Sánchez certainly would be a good fit, but after Chicago did not tender the switch-hitter a contract, it’s not certain as to whether it finds a meeting place for a reserve role with the AL Gold Glove Award winner.

Outfield
Locks: Eloy Jiménez , Luis Robert, Nomar Mazara
Possibilities: Adam Engel, García, free agent/trade

The six-year, $50 million extension agreed upon by No. 3 overall prospect Robert and the White Sox all but guarantees that he starts the season as the team’s center fielder. Jiménez improved slightly in left field with his season-long pregame defensive work while showing off elite offensive capabilities (31 homers as a rookie, plus 25 RBIs and 1.093 OPS during a stellar September finish). Mazara is stronger against right-handed pitchers, but manager Rick Renteria wants to develop him against left-handers as well. Chicago still could add a right-handed hitter as a potential platoon or instead go with García, who hit .311 with a .786 OPS vs. southpaws in 2019. Engel provides Gold Glove-caliber defense, and he has better career numbers against lefties.

Designated hitter
Locks: Edwin Encarnación
Possibilities: Collins, Grandal, Abreu

Encarnación has eight straight seasons of 30-plus homers, but more importantly, he has 723 career games at designated hitter. Thus, he's not a position player being converted into the role, which has not worked for the White Sox in the recent past. Chicago only outranked the Royals and Tigers in 2019 home runs among AL teams, so adding a pure power hitter was a true plus.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Gio Gonzalez, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López
Possibility: Michael Kopech

After being unable to sign Zack Wheeler, the White Sox made two key veteran free-agent additions in Keuchel and Gonzalez. Keuchel’s 60.1% ground-ball rate last season was the highest of 152 pitchers with at least 250 batted balls induced, making Chicago's somewhat shaky defense in ’19 even more in need of improvement in '20. Kopech, who has not pitched in a regular-season game since September 2018, following Tommy John surgery, most likely will start at Charlotte. Look for Giolito to get the Opening Day nod, although the move probably won’t be announced until later in Spring Training.

Relievers
Locks: Alex Colomé, Aaron Bummer, Steve Cishek, Kelvin Herrera, Jace Fry, Evan Marshall
Possibilities: Free agent/trade, Jimmy Cordero, Ian Hamilton, Carson Fulmer, Jose Ruiz, Zack Burdi

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 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.

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