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Shaping the White Sox’s 30-Man Roster

by Jordan Lazowski

First of all, hope you all enjoyed your Independence Day weekend (appropriately, of course)! 

Spring Training Part II is upon us, and the White Sox broke for Summer Camp at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday with 44 players vying for 30 roster spots. 

Thirty, you ask? That seems odd. Let’s look at the rules for roster transactions quickly before we begin:

  • All teams are allowed to submit up to 60 players that will be kept in their Player Pool to start the year. These players will be part of Summer Camp.
  • From this initial list of 60, teams will pick 30 players to break camp with them for Opening Weekend (July 23 and 24). The remaining 30 will work out separately from the team in a location near the team’s home ballpark and will be available to be brought onto the team throughout the year. 
  • After two weeks (around August 7 and 8), this roster of 30 will be cut to 28. Two weeks after that (around August 21 and 22), the final two cuts occur, leaving the roster at its final number of 26. 

There are a lot of other rules that go into this, including the three-player “Taxi Squad” for road games, but for the purposes of this article, what you need to know is above.

So, the natural question remains: who is going to be on the White Sox’s 30-man roster for the start of the season? Opening up the roster actually leaves a lot more questions than answers for the club. 

What’s the general strategy here? My thought is that most teams should carry extra pitchers to start the season. After not throwing for three months just after starting to get going again back in March, it’s going to be a quick turnaround for pitchers to start the season. I would prefer to see most of the expansion of players be on the pitching side. However, after those first two weeks, things get increasingly more difficult to predict, as you’ll see below.

But, let’s look at all available options for the White Sox and see if we can piece together what the roster might look like on July 23.

Note: Michael Kopech is included in these projections, despite recent reports that there is no set timeline for his return to the team due to personal matters. Certainly, there should be no rush back to the team for him. For creative purposes, if Kopech is not back by July 24, assumedly the next pitcher “on the bubble” would make the team. 

July 24: Opening Weekend

Hitters

Locks (12): Yasmani Grandal, James McCann, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Edwin Encarnacion, Danny Mendick, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Eloy Jimenez, Nomar Mazara, Luis Robert

On the Bubble (4): Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes, Nick Madrigal, Nicky Delmonico

A couple of things stand out here. First, I don’t think Nick Madrigal is a lock to make the roster. With how service time rules work, the White Sox are likely to play some games to get an extra year of control. I’m also on the record as saying I wasn’t sure Madrigal was ready to be the starting second baseman back in March, service time games or not. I don’t think any workouts he does with the other 29 guys on the backfields will change his readiness in two weeks, but the fact that Madrigal didn’t force the issue last time we saw him (.472 OPS in 26 Spring ABs) leads me to anticipate Danny Mendick and Leury Garcia will be the ones who hold down the fort at 2B for the time being.

The other battle will likely be between Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes for the third catching spot on the roster. Neither of them will see much time, but I believe Collins likely has the edge here as a left-handed bat and as the superior receiver behind the plate. I don’t think it’s worth it for the White Sox to carry five outfielders, which leaves Nicky Delmonico on the outside looking in, although he might have an edge over Mercedes as a lefty.

Prediction: Zack Collins only. The White Sox carry 13 fielders to start camp.

Pitchers

Locks (14): Aaron Bummer, Dylan Cease, Steve Cishek, Alex Colome, Jimmy Cordero, Jace Fry, Lucas Giolito, Gio Gonzalez, Kelvin Herrera, Dallas Keuchel, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Evan Marshall, Carlos Rodon

On the Bubble (4): Carson Fulmer, Jose Ruiz, Codi Heuer, Tayron Guerrero, Ross Detwiler

Pitching is much less interesting because it’s pretty clear among the bubble players who is likely to get in. Fulmer was pitching well enough to be in consideration to make the team during the spring (1.86 ERA in 9.2 IP), and Jose Ruiz and Ross Detwiler both have major league experience eating up innings that would be beneficial to the Sox as they start the season. It will be interesting to see how the White Sox handle having seven starting pitchers for five spots – and Ricky Renteria is on record saying they will get creative (finally) – but I don’t see a reason both Kopech and Rodon wouldn’t break camp with the team at this point (again, assuming Kopech is ready to join the club). 

Prediction: Carson Fulmer, Jose Ruiz, and Ross Detwiler make the team. 17 pitchers to start.

August 7-8: First Round of Cuts

Hitters

Locks (9): Yasmani Grandal, James McCann, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Edwin Encarnacion, Eloy Jimenez, Nomar Mazara, Luis Robert

On the Bubble (7): Danny Mendick, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Nick Madrigal, Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes, Nicky Delmonico

NOW things start to get fun. After two weeks, the White Sox will either have already brought Madrigal up or will be getting ready to do so. Just this one move puts three guys in a tough spot: Mendick, Garcia, and Engel. I think Mendick has the advantage for one reason: who’s the Sox’s backup 3B? Garcia has only started 15 games at third base in his career – he’s a swiss army knife, but he doesn’t play third. That leaves Garcia and Engel fighting for the fourth outfield spot. Because of Engel’s defense and his propensity to hit left-handed pitchers, I really do see a world in which Leury doesn’t make the roster after the first round of cuts. However, I don’t think it will come to fruition – it will depend on if the Sox want to carry three catchers or not. 

Prediction: Mendick, Madrigal, Collins, and Garcia all make the roster. As the only real power bat off the bench, I think Collins will have some sort of value to the team in late-hitting innings. Mendick and Engel will be the players most likely to move as rosters get cut down because they both have options remaining (Engel: 1 and Mendick: 3). However, if either of those guys are raking, a demotion would be pretty hard to justify. Let’s root for the Sox having no easy options as rosters contract in size.

Pitchers

Locks (14): Aaron Bummer, Dylan Cease, Steve Cishek, Alex Colome, Jimmy Cordero, Jace Fry, Lucas Giolito, Gio Gonzalez, Kelvin Herrera, Dallas Keuchel, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Evan Marshall, Carlos Rodon

On the Bubble (4): Carson Fulmer, Jose Ruiz, Codi Heuer, Tayron Guerrero, Ross Detwiler

The locks aren’t really going to change all that much. Unless someone like Cordero, Herrera, Gonzalez, or Marshall REALLY starts to struggle, I’d say those 14 are likely to be the ones on the roster throughout most of the season. The guys on the bubble are likely going to be there most of the season, especially those who have options remaining. Jose Ruiz, with one option remaining, is the most expendable here.

Prediction: Carson Fulmer is the 15th man. This is of course dependent on how he’s pitching, and if it’s been a rough ride, Jose Ruiz or Ross Detwiler could easily be staying. Look for guys like Codi Heuer to potentially make an impact later in the season as the bullpen continues to shuffle. 

August 21-22: Final Round of Cuts

Note: Though the rule of having a maximum of 13 pitchers on the roster has been lifted this year, I decided to stick with that rule here. This will be what the Sox need to do moving forward, so it’s probably best practice to do it here too. However, as the season develops, I could easily see them carrying 14 pitchers down the stretch if they’re in the playoff hunt – something I would anticipate multiple playoff teams doing (looking at you, Rays).

Hitters

Locks (10): Yasmani Grandal, James McCann, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Edwin Encarnacion, Eloy Jimenez, Nomar Mazara, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal

On the Bubble (6): Danny Mendick, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes, Nicky Delmonico

By this time, I think we can all predict the starting lineup plus James McCann. With Mendick, Garcia, and Collins rounding out the top 13 last time, I don’t see any reason this is likely to change unless, again, someone is struggling mightily. 

Prediction: No change from August 7-8 cuts. If the Sox cut from 13 to 12 and carry 14 pitchers instead, Mendick or Collins is likely to end up here due to remaining options. In that case, Mendick still has the edge as the utility infielder with Collins in a logjam behind Abreu, McCann, Grandal, and Encarnacion.

Pitchers

Locks (10): Aaron Bummer, Dylan Cease, Steve Cishek, Alex Colome, Lucas Giolito, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Carlos Rodon

On the Bubble (9): Carson Fulmer, Jose Ruiz, Codi Heuer, Tayron Guerrero, Ross Detwiler, Jimmy Cordero, Jace Fry, Evan Marshall, Kelvin Herrera

Three spots for nine players… every writer’s dream. Honestly, it’s going to be whoever the three best performers have been to this point in the season. If the Sox choose to go with 14 pitchers, then it’ll be whoever the four best performers have been. Anyone’s guess is as good as mine, but let’s just try…

Prediction: Jimmy Cordero, Evan Marshall, and Kelvin Herrera remain on the roster. I think Fry might not be as necessary depending on the role the Sox use Rodon in, and his career lefty/righty splits aren’t fantastic. This is actually important this year because of the new three batter minimum rule. If the Sox carry 14, I’d pick Fulmer as my 14th


I hope that exercise shows you just how difficult the exercise of each of the expanded rosters really is for teams. In theory, it seems like expanding rosters should make it easier on teams. In reality, more spaces mean more options for how to stack a roster, and coming to a consensus on the best option is not that easy. The good news is that we get to sit back and watch the professionals make all the tough decisions while pretending we would’ve made the right ones all along. 

Let’s just play ball already! July 24th can’t come soon enough.


Share your thoughts in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for more.

Featured Photo: @FotoGenocide_/Twitter

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Aaron Sapoznik

Will the White Sox even be allowed to carry 14 pitchers once active rosters are paired down to 26 players on August 7th or 8th. The new 26-man roster rule enacted for 2020 seems to suggest the number of pitchers will be capped at 13 until rosters can expand on September 1st: Effective with the 2020 season, teams will be allowed 26-man active rosters from the start of the season through August 31, as well as the postseason. Teams will be limited to carrying 13 pitchers except from September 1 to the end of the regular season, when this limit… Read more »

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