CHICAGO -- White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has a positive view of his talent pool for the 2020 season even before the first pitch of the campaign is thrown by Lucas Giolito against the Twins on Friday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
This season should mark the franchise’s move from rebuild to postseason contention. But Hahn and the front office realize there are positives to be gained each day beyond the progress made by what he hopes is a championship-caliber team for an extended period of time.
“Whether it's the continued development of Luis Robert or some of the other players, like [Dylan] Cease and [Yoán] Moncada being back and Tim Anderson's continued growth,” Hahn said during a Thursday Zoom call. “There's a lot of things that regardless of how the remainder of the next three months goes on the field, there are a lot of positives that can still take place on a daily basis that are going to reinforce what we're looking to accomplish here over the better part of the next decade.”
Here’s a look at the players who make up the White Sox 30-man roster for Opening Day.
Collins, the team’s top pick in the 2016 Draft, feels as prepared as he ever has as a professional. With no Minor League season in 2020, his development will continue with the White Sox in what turned out to be a close decision between the left-handed hitter and Yermin Mercedes.
“In the end, when we made the decision for 16 pitchers and 14 position players, that really only left a spot for one of those two,” Hahn said. “The debate was we were probably going to be fine either way, but in the end, we felt Zack’s left-handed bat and a little bit more experience and familiarity with the arms in the big leagues gave him the advantage.
“If in the end, for whatever reason, we had to get Yermin active on the big league level, we feel real good with where he’s at right now. Certainly, an impressive bat.”
First base (1): José Abreu
Abreu begins his seventh year with the White Sox as the defending American League RBIs leader. This season marks the first one with Chicago presenting a viable start-to-finish chance to win for Abreu, who returned via a three-year, $50 million deal.
Andrew Vaughn, the team’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has an impressive plate presence, even with only 55 games of Minor League experience. But he will start 2020 at the alternate training site in Schaumburg, Ill.
“The goal always since I was drafted was to play in the big leagues. Doesn’t matter when, as soon as possible is kind of the goal,” Vaughn said. “I’m just going day by day, especially in these times. Put one foot ahead of the other and continue to play baseball.”
Second base (1): Leury García
García opens the season at second, but Nick Madrigal, the team’s top pick in the 2018 Draft and No. 4 prospect, is closer to making the Majors than he was in Spring Training. The White Sox opted against moving García to right field with Nomar Mazara on the injured list.
“In the end, we felt the lineup was stronger, and overall, we were going to be more productive with Leury at second base providing us that switch-hitting presence,” Hahn said. “Currently, Leury’s timing, his readiness, seems to be a little ahead of where Nicky was over the last couple weeks.
“I know the overall numbers for the Cactus League going back to Glendale and the three games here aren't extremely impressive for Nicky, but he certainly much more looked the part over the last three weeks. To his credit, he came in ready to compete, and we still think the world of him and believe he's going to help us at some point over the summer.”
Shortstop (1): Tim Anderson
After winning the AL batting title with a .335 average in 2019, what does Anderson do for an encore? He continues to put forth a tireless work ethic.
Anderson has shown easy power during Summer Camp and feels as if he can tap more into that side of his game while not sacrificing his lofty average. The White Sox also have praised Anderson's defensive improvement after he led the Majors with 26 errors last season.
Third base (1): Yoán Moncada
Moncada tested positive for COVID-19 during the intake process prior to Summer Camp, but he returned to the team on July 16. He played in the last two exhibition games and looks ready to go for Opening Day.
White Sox manager Rick Renteria cautioned against overusing Moncada early on, which will probably prevent him from playing three or four games in a row at the outset. Danny Mendick, Cheslor Cuthbert and Nicky Delmonico could get starts at third.
The left-handed-hitting Delmonico, who was added to the 40-man roster, and the right-handed-hitting Engel figure to platoon in right with Mazara, the team’s projected starter who is opening 2020 on the injured list. García and Mendick are also capable of playing the outfield, but Hahn added Mazara is improving each day and could be working his way back, beginning in Schaumburg, at some point next week.
“Having both Delmonico and Engel on the roster provides Ricky with the ability to set it up as a platoon,” Hahn said. “I don’t know based on the daily basis if he’s going to follow the strict left/right breakdowns, but he certainly has that option and also has the ability to sub in late in games for defense, if he feels that need based on the roster.”
Encarnación provides more than just a consistent power hitter for this deep White Sox lineup. He’s an individual with extensive experience handling the designated hitter role and is another veteran presence who will help in the clubhouse.
“We look up to him, because anything we can take from him is going to help us to continue to be better at a Major League level,” Mazara said. “He’s been doing it so long and playing everywhere.
“He’s very open-minded, and he actually wants us to have fun and go out there and don’t worry about anything. Just play the game. That makes it easier.”
Mendick can handle pretty much any spot on the diamond. He already has expressed a desire to play all nine positions.
Rodón became emotional during a Wednesday postgame Zoom call when talking about the adversity he’s faced over the past few years and his return from Tommy John surgery last May. He will enter the season as the fifth starter, with veteran Gio González providing length and left-handed insurance out of the bullpen at the outset.
“We like how he matches up against lefties,” Hahn said of González. “He’s capable of getting out both lefties and righties, so he’s viable under the new three-batter rule. He provides Ricky with a number of different options for his use.”
Heuer, who turned 24 on July 3, impressed during Spring Training and Summer Camp, and now, the sixth-round pick from the 2018 Draft is breaking camp with the team. Lambert would not have been ready to contribute if this season started in March, as he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery he underwent last June. A little more than one year later, Lambert is in the Majors as another long-relief/spot-start option.
Right-hander Carson Fulmer, the team’s top pick in the 2015 Draft, was designated for assignment.