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Top 5 Storylines of White Sox Spring Training

by Tim Moran

Now that game action is underway in Arizona, it’s a great time to look at some White Sox narratives to track this spring.

Undoubtedly, the roster is vastly different than this time last year. With that comes an abundance of interesting young talent, comeback stories, and position battles.

1) Are the new reclamation project pitchers any good?

Possibly the most striking difference between the 2023 and 2024 depth charts is the starting rotation. Only two pitchers remain from last year, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech. As for the remaining spots, two expect to be filled by very interesting arms.

Michael Soroka was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Aaron Bummer trade, and the former elite prospect has a lot to prove. Two Achilles injuries derailed his career between 2020-2022, and last year’s attempt at a comeback with Atlanta was cut short after some rough outings and forearm inflammation.

Erick Fedde, himself a once-highly-touted farmhand, failed to make a name for himself with the Washington Nationals. So, he took his talents to Korea last season for the NC Dinos. There, he excelled, registering a 2.00 ERA and 10.4 K/9 across 180.1 innings pitched. Fedde and Soroka appear to be locks to crack the year in the rotation.

While not expected to start for the Sox, Jared Shuster and Shane Drohan are also names to monitor. Shuster was acquired in the Bummer trade and Drohan in the Rule 5 draft from Boston. The former has only one good season in the minors to his name, while the latter struggled mightily with Triple-A Worcester in 2023.

So, the important question is: Did Chris Getz cook? Do any of these guys have some magic to uncover? The odds are low that any become an above-average pitcher, but I’d like to think that one develops into a decent #4 or #5 starter.

2) Does Garrett Crochet have what it takes to start?

Ah, Garrett Crochet. The flamethrower from Tennessee left major league hitters mystified before throwing a single pitch in the minor leagues. He then continued shining in a relief role in 2021 before getting hurt in Spring Training, needing Tommy John, and looking dismal in his brief 2023 return.

After all that, the 24-year-old still has his mind set on being a starter in the big leagues. Chris Getz seemed warm to the idea:

All in all, it appears the plan for Crochet likely sees him start some games for Double-A Birmingham or Triple-A Charlotte. Then, if that goes well, the White Sox will determine later on if he’s ready to pitch in Chicago. It’s a bold move, but considering the outlook of the team…why not?

Still, the big question is whether Crochet can reasonably succeed in his goals. He dabbled with a changeup at times but was primarily a two-pitch pitcher for the South Siders. That won’t fly as a starter. It sounds like Crochet is well aware, and has added a dimension or two to his game this offseason, according to Scott Merkin.

Looking forward, it will be interesting to see how this plan dictates Crochet’s spring appearances, and if the plan shifts at all over time. In addition, Crochet’s supposed improvements to his game will be fun to watch unfold. What does the lanky lefty have in store for Sox fans?

3) Who will round out the outfield?

In my opinion, the battle for Chicago’s outfield spots is more interesting than its counterpart infield roster fight. This is mostly due to the variety of skill sets at play. Left field and center field are taken, but right field and a backup spot or two are up for grabs.

Gavin Sheets has been around a few years and flashed some major potential in his rookie season. But his numbers last year were abysmal, and with horrendous fielding abilities, Sheets has to prove he still has real power.

Kevin Pillar, with quite the opposite talents as Sheets, posted numerous solid years in the pros. But the 35-year-old hasn’t performed at the plate in two years. Is he still capable of fielding at an elite level, and if so, is that enough to warrant a 26-man roster spot?

Dominic Fletcher, acquired for Cristian Mena from Arizona, has a “leg up” on right field according to Scott Merkin. Given his age and the recent trade, Fletcher seems mostly like a shoo-in to break camp with the Sox. Whether he’s the bona-fide starter remains to be seen though.

Zach DeLoach is also a name to consider. Obtained in the Gregory Santos trade, the 26-year-old knows how to get on base and whacked 23 homers last season in Triple-A. He needs to prove that he can replicate it against major-league talent, however.

Finally, there’s Oscar Colas. Considered by many to be the long-awaited solution for right field, the Cuban slugger fell flat in his rookie 2023 campaign. Sox brass is likely still holding out some hope that a productive MLB career is possible for Colas. But he likely needs to show something in spring to start the season in black and white.

4) Who will round out the infield?

Despite any flaws, the Sox do indeed have a starting infield for 2024. How long Paul DeJong will outlast Colson Montgomery remains to be seen, but Nicky Lopez, Yoan Moncada, and Andrew Vaughn probably aren’t getting replaced at any time this year. Yet, a backup or two will be necessary.

Lenyn Sosa still has upside in theory, but even his Triple-A numbers took a step back in 2023. Jose Rodriguez has gotten some prospect hype at times but likely doesn’t get on base enough to be a serious contender for playing time.

Bryan Ramos has the highest potential, being just 21 and putting up stellar numbers with pitcher-friendly Double-A Birmingham. Yet he hasn’t played a game above that level, so an opening-day 26-man roster appearance seems doubtful. Still, it will be exciting to see him compete over the next month.

Rounding out the group is familiar face Danny Mendick. Now 30 years old, Mendick came back from injury with the New York Mets last year but could not find his footing. Given his experience and ability to put up somewhat respectable numbers (2023 excluded), Mendick has the edge here. But Sosa could certainly give him a run for his money with a dominant spring, being just 24 and flashing major upside at times in the minors.

5) Who will be the primary catcher?

Unless Martin Maldonado finds the Fountain of Youth, I hope the answer is Max Stassi.

Sure, Maldonado has a World Series ring. But he’s only ever been known for his fielding, and in 2023 even that part of his game took a major dip. “But he’s worth it because he calls a great game!” Sadly that’s not true, as the Astros last year had a better ERA in games without Maldonado behind the dish than in games with him (kudos to this detailed Reddit post from August).

Max Stassi is also a project, don’t get me wrong. He missed all of 2023 due to family concerns and was just as bad as Maldonado offensively in 2022. However, Stassi has a much better track record at the plate and exhibited superior defense most recently.

Getz and Co. are paying Maldonado over $4 million, so they don’t intend for him to sit on the bench all year. Whether the spot is truly up for grabs will be interesting to watch, and seeing two veterans attempt to bounce back is a fun story.

Follow us @SoxOn35th for more throughout the season!

Featured Image: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

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What about Touki Toussant starting?

Dave Roller

Tim – Those are good storylines to follow. You added some excellent insight, especially with your dive into the outfielding situation. You may want to update your bio since TA is now with the Fish.

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