2014 Spring Training Preview: White Sox Position Battles
After a very impressive and productive off season, it’s time for Rick Hahn to take a step back, find a nice seat in the stands and watch his hard work translate to a young, productive product on the field.
Hahn added Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, Scott Downs, Felipe Paulino, Adrian Nieto, Eric Surkamp, Ronald Belisario, and Mitchell Boggs. Over the course of one off season, the White Sox have managed to not only add youthful presence but a good mix of veterans looking for a second chance.
The question still remains whether or not the White Sox acquisitions will catapult them into a contender role but it gives them a much brighter future. With so much youth and many new young faces, the team will not only look to improve on their 63-99 record from a year ago but will also have many spots on the 25 man roster up for grabs.
Starting Pitching (4th and 5th starters)
After trading Hector Santiago for Adam Eaton, the Sox now have voids at the back end of the rotation. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and John Danks will anchor the front end of the rotation. This leaves Erik Johnson, Felipe Paulino, Eric Surkamp, and Andre Rienzo fighting for the final two spots.
Front Runners: Erik Johnson and Felipe Paulino.
Relief Pitching (Middle and Long Relievers)
With closer Addison Reed going to Arizona, the team finds itself down three relievers. Good news is that there will be more than enough competition to find at least a mediocre front end to a once top 10 pen.
Nate Jones is expected to take over the closing role, while Matt Lindstrom, Scott Downs, and Ronald Belisario are expected to solidify the back end.
Mitchell Boggs, Charlie Leesman, Nestor Molina, Donnie Veal, Daniel Webb, and Jake Petricka will go as the main competition to the battle. Couple that with the two players that will miss out on the starting rotation and you have yourself a crowded competition. Look for one of the losers of the starters battle to slide into a long reliever role, which limits the initial six to just two positions.
Front Runners: Eric Surkamp, Daniel Webb, and Mitchell Boggs.
Phegley mania has subsided, Flowers has failed to impress and Adrian Nieto must make the roster to stay with the team. This position may be the most questionable on the team.
Tyler Flowers has just not lived up to his initial expectations, now at 28 years old, he is now on his last leg with the team. Josh Phegley produced in the minors but left much to be desired in his 65 game stint with the team last year. Nieto provides the most interesting scenario of the three. Being the product of the Rule 5 draft, he must crack the 25 man roster or he will have to go back to the Washington Nationals. At only 24 years old, he becomes a cautiously attractive option with a productive Spring Training. Oh, and there is Hector Gimenez.
Front Runners: Tyler Flowers and Adrian Nieto.
Soon to be 23 year old Matt Davidson was former top prospect of the Arizona Diamondbacks, now finds himself with a real chance to break Arizona starting at the hot corner. Utility man Jeff Keppinger, now in his second season with the team will look to start the season starting at 3rd, again… Conor Gillaspie, started off the beginning of the 2013 season with a bang, however, he ended it with a .245 average. Gillaspie is your typical “grinder”, not good, not great but he gets the job done.
Front Runner: Conor Gillaspie
It will be a very entertaining time in Arizona for the Sox this year. While Hahn did go to a youth movement, expect to see a few familiar faces step in to start the season over some of the younger players.
For example, Matt Davidson should start the season in Triple A unless he lights it up in the early weeks. Nestor Molina, Andre Rienzo, and Josh Phegley are also candidates to begin the season down in the minors due to minmal roster spots at the positions.
When all is said and done, hopefully this new look Sox team will finish better than last year’s disasterous team did.