Tagged: spring training

Chicago White Sox Positional Preview: Middle Infield

While shortstop and second base are next to each other on the diamond, the statuses of both positions for the Chicago White Sox couldn’t be further apart. One is emphatically decided for at least one more season, and the other has several options for manager Robin Ventura to pick from.

The locked in position is shortstop. 33-year old Alexei Ramirez came out of spring training last season on fire. March and April are traditionally Ramirez’s weakest months, but last season he figured out something early and hit a combined .329 in those months. In fact, he was so hot at times, longtime Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson said that Ramirez was the same level shortstop and even better than Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Not long after those proclamations were made Ramirez dropped off. He would go onto hit below .235 three out of the last four-plus months. A couple of categories that he was successful and an asset in to the club were with men on base and with runners in scoring position. He hit .295 and .305 respectively in those categories and was one of the reasons the Sox offense showed life at different times throughout the seasons.

While Ramirez is the guy now, one prospect to keep an eye on for the future at the position is Tim Anderson. The 21-year old hit a .301 batting average in rookie ball, high-A and double-A last season. WhiteSox.com rates Anderson as the number two prospect in the organization and number 81 overall amongst all prospects in the league. According to the site he grades at an above average level in his bat, arm and fielding while being well above average running.

Second base is a much different matter for the club. Carlos Sanchez at the position once they traded Gordon Beckham towards the end of August. Despite that chance last year, he currently resides in second place on the depth chart.  The 23-year old got the chance to play in 28 games last season and hit for a .250 average. He also struck out 25 times in his 100 at-bats while supplying very little power.

Unless he blows the minds of the management with his play the likelihood of him making the roster as the starter is small, and since they are already deep with utility players he’ll probably be sent to the minors.

The top spot on the depth chart is currently held by the White Sox top prospect at the position and fourth overall in the organization, Micah Johnson. It appears that Johnson has the inside track for the starting role as long as he puts in the work and has a solid spring.

Johnson put together a solid campaign in 2014. He managed a .294 batting average while only striking out 69 times in 419 at-bats in both double-A and triple-A. His batting average was actually right on par with his career average of a .297.

He also provides a speed threat on the bases. In 2013 Johnson stole 87 bases in 114 attempts between low-A, high-A, double-A, and Arizona fall ball. His speed is something the Sox have been missing on the base paths for a while now.

For the last several years the Sox seemed content with a base to base approach to running or making mistakes on the base paths that runs the team out of the inning. So if he is able to break camp with the big club, he could provide a spark at the bottom of the order ahead of leadoff hitter Adam Eaton.

Another person in the competition for the position is the formerly departed, but now returning, Beckham. He was signed as a utility player who could play all over the infield and that’s how the Sox plan to use him. He currently sits third on the depth chart at third base and second behind Alexei Ramirez at shortstop. So unless Johnson and Sanchez blow their chance at the position this spring, Beckham should remain as the reserve across the majority of the infield positions.

A couple other players fighting for playing time this season are Emilio Bonifacio and Leury Garcia. Bonifacio is set to split time at third base with Conor Gillaspie so the amount of time he’d see at the other positions should be limited. He also could potentially be used as a back-up outfielder in center as well.

Garcia will be fighting to break camp with the Sox. The 23-year old spent time at a wide variety of positions last season, including an inning on the mound in extra innings. His dismal year last season could play a role into the Sox managements decision if he has a mediocre spring training.

The Sox are deep with players at both positions. As Cactus League games begin, keep an eye on the race for second base because it could be a tight one down the stretch between the young guys and the veteran players.

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Danks Solid, Offense Nonexistent in Friday’s Loss to Cubs

In a Friday afternoon matchup versus the crosstown rival Cubs, John Danks took on the challenge of trying to stop the White Sox streak of bad pitching performances.

After a couple of days of White Sox pitching getting crushed, Danks looked solid while taking the loss. Danks was decently efficient in his pitches, throwing 66 percent of them for strikes. Unfortunately for him, Luis Valbuena took one of his pitches deep in the top of the fourth for a three run home run to give the North Siders a 4-0 lead. Danks would end up leaving at the end of the fifth inning and finished with a stat line of four runs on six hits and two strike outs.

Danks has had a pretty efficient spring which is always good. He’s doing so by locating his pitches well, especially cut fastball pitch that he’s been working on which was very flat last season.

In an interview with WhiteSox.com, Danks had this to say, “I felt real good. I was able to throw all my pitches and I felt good about where I’m at.” Danks continued, “Obviously, there are a couple I would like to have back, but the goal today was not to walk anybody and I did that. I feel like I got my command better than what it has been and still got some good stuff on the ball.”

It would be helpful for the White Sox can go to battle with three efficient lefties at the top of their pitching rotation. Most teams have trouble finding and keeping two left-hand pitchers to fill out their rotations. The Sox are hoping that Danks could give them something substantial back on the three years at $14.25 million per year investment they have in him.

Luis Valbuena struck again in the seventh off of Scott Downs to make it 5-0. The Cubs would go on to add two more on a wild pitch in the seventh and a single in the ninth.

The Sox hitters seemed baffled by the Cubs pitching staff. Abreu, Dunn and Garcia had one hit each which was all the offense the White Sox could manage to produce.

The only note for the offensive side of the ball was catcher Tyler Flowers leaving the game in the bottom of the sixth after swinging at a pitch from Cubs reliever Alberto Cabrera with leg cramps. He would be replaced by pitch hitter Jaime Pedroza in the at-bat and by Adrian Nieto behind the plate on defense.

Next on the block was a split squad against the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants on Saturday.

Danks Doubles Up on Home Runs in White Sox Blow Out Loss

The Chicago White Sox welcomed Jesse Chavez and Oakland A’s yesterday at Camelback Ranch, but the bright sunny Tuesday in Glendale turned dark in a flash for the Sox.

Jose Quintana was hoping to forget his last outing when he gave up 7 runs to the LA Angels in three innings on the mound, but things got even worse for him in this outing. Without recording a single out in the first inning, Quintana gave up three singles, two doubles, a triple, a home run and two walks in the nine batters he faced.

He isn’t in trouble of losing a spot in the rotation, and Robin Ventura will still have the confidence to put him out there. However the last two games have to be slightly concerning, especially games like Tuesday’s where he didn’t get a single out.

Connor Gillaspie, who’s in control of the winning the job at third base got one back for the Sox with a home run in the last of the second inning. Gillaspie has taken the lead in the competition for the starting role at the hot corner by hitting .273 in the spring games with three home runs.

Jeff Keppinger was also involved in the race for the spot at third, but with a stubborn shoulder injury that he had cleaned out at the end of last season, he is likely going to start the season on the disabled list.

Matt Davidson has only one less hit than Gillaspie in spring games, but has accumulated half of those in just two games. In an interview Davidson had with Whitesox.com he said, “I’m human and I want to be in the big leagues and I’m not satisfied with going to the Minors but then again, I’m not going to be disappointed. I still want to have a collective great 2014.” Davidson is still a 50-50 shot to make the big club this season. There are still 13 more moves that need to be made after the six moves from today.

Tyler Flowers added another home run to center field in the bottom of the third. Flowers beat out Josh Phegley for the starting position at catcher still has to prove himself as a hitter in the majors. The White Sox are hoping he can turn around his injury plagued 2013 season. The team can’t afford another to have Flowers hit .195 again this season if they plan to compete for the central division.

One of the hottest players on the team right now is outfielder Jordan Danks. Danks contributed a pair of home runs in the seventh and ninth innings. A hot Danks could give the Sox an opportunity to trade either or both Alejandro DeAza or Dayan Viciedo.

The Sox relief pitchers didn’t fare much better in the game Tuesday. They used six relievers and only two of them didn’t allow a run. Most of the pitchers seemed like they had lost control of most of their pitches, and couldn’t consistently hit their targets. With only a couple of weeks left before the start of the season it’s a little concerning that most of the six were wildly ineffective.

The game was a blow out from the beginning. The Sox ended up losing 16 to 6 and gave up 20 hits in the game with Alexei Ramirez having the only error in the game.

Phegley Among Six Players Reassigned by the White Sox

The White Sox made six roster moves today as they cut their active roster to 38 players.

In the most notable move of the day, they reassigned catcher Josh Phegley to their Triple-A Charlotte club. Coming into Spring Training, Phegley was in competition with Tyler Flowers for the starting job at the catcher spot. The club made the announcement on Sunday that Flowers would be the starting catcher.

Phegley had six hits in 23 at bats with one home run. Flowers currently has seven hits on the spring in 28 at bats and two home runs. With the competition so close, they decided to go with Flowers since he is older and has shown that he handles the pitchers well. Phegley will use the opportunity to be Charlotte’s everyday starting catcher, and work on his game to be ready for when his name is called.

Phegley addressed the issue in an interview with WhiteSox.com, telling the website “I believe I’m a starter and I can be a front-line starter in the big leagues, but there just needs to be some improvement, and I think sitting, catching every four, five days, I don’t think that’s going to do me any justice.”

”I want to play every day, and I’d like to help this club. It’s everyone’s goal to be a big leaguer. I want to be a starter, and going to Charlotte and playing every day is going to help my game out, so I’m all for it,” Phegley continued.

Phegley wasn’t the only one going to the minors today. Right-hander Andre Rienzo and left-hander Eric Surkamp were also optioned down to Triple-A along with Phegley.

Infielder Andy Wilkins and right-handers Chris Beck and Cody Winiarski were reassigned to the Minor League camp.

The moves now leave the White Sox with 17 pitchers, three catchers, 12 infielders, and six outfielders remaining in the Major League camp. There are still 13 players left to cut to reach the 25-man roster for opening day.

Schierholtz Could Be Anchor for Outfield in Flux

Schierholtz leads off while Gonzalez covers the bag.

Schierholtz leads off while Gonzalez covers the bag.

Mesa, Arizona – The Chicago Cubs’ roster is full of guys who could potentially be plugged into their outfield spots, and they also have a done of guys in their pipeline that could be contributors on the green grass at Wrigley Field at some point in the near future. So far in Cactus League play though, there is one guy that is standing out, and he is making a strong case to lock down the right field spot for the North Siders.

That player is Nate Schierholtz, and he pleaded his case in a strong way on Friday afternoon at Cubs Park. In six innings of work, Schierholtz reached base all three times that he stepped to the plate, including a double in the bottom of the sixth inning that helped propel a four run Cubs rally that culminated with a Luis Valbuena home run to right-center field.

That inning ended up helping the Cubs to a 5-4 victory in the game, but even without the outcome in mind, it was still clear that Schierholtz was well-suited to batting ahead of Anthony Rizzo in the Cubs’ lineup. He was willing to take pitches (as he did in his first inning walk), but he was also willing to swing the bat when necessary, as he showed when he became the first Cub to hit the ball out of the infield on a fourth inning single.

Overall on the spring, Schierholtz hasn’t had outrageously great numbers, but he has still been consistent. His .375 OBP and .899 OPS are both very solid, and he has three walks to go along with his six hits in 24 plate appearances. He also had a home run and two RBI in Cactus League play.

Schierholtz may not get the adulation that guys like Junior Lake receive, and he may not have the raw potential of players like Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, but he is a player who knows what his role is on the team, and he approaches the game like a savvy veteran. He definitely did that on Friday, and if he can continue to do so, then he is going to be an integral part of the Cubs’ lineup this year.

White Sox Make the First of Their Roster Moves

Coming into Spring Training the White Sox carried 54 players on their roster, and as of yesterday they knocked it down to 47 players.  This is just the first of several moves the Sox will make in the next two weeks.

According to WhiteSox.com, “the White Sox optioned left-hander Charlie Leesman to Triple-A Charlotte, optioned outfielders Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson to Double-A Birmingham and reassigned catcher Miguel Gonzalez, right-handers Deunte Heath and Omar Poveda, left hander Scott Snodgress and outfielder Keenyn Walker to Minor League camp.”

Gonzalez, Poveda, Snodgress, and Walker were non-roster invitees by the White Sox coming into camp.  Leesman, Mitchell, Thompson, and Heath are on the 40-man roster for the Sox.

It’s possible throughout the season that there could be a Major League appearance by Mitchell, Leesman, and Heath, especially the latter two pending on injuries to the bullpen.

These moves now leave the Sox with 47 players in Major League camp.  The White Sox now have 23 pitchers, 14 infielders, four catchers, six outfielders left in camp.

James’ Cactus League Journey: Brewers vs. Angels

Tempe Diablo Stadium, spring training home of the Angels

Tempe Diablo Stadium, spring training home of the Angels

Tempe – Not sure what it is about the two Cactus League games I’ve attended so far this season, but if they are any indication, then the NL Central is going to be hideously bullied around, as I provide my thoughts on the California Angels and Milwaukee Brewers.

-Okay, so the lead to this post was a complete lie. Obviously we have no idea whether or not the Central will be good this year, but odds are it will be in the conversation as the best division in baseball. It’s just hard to see that, considering the Cubs lost 13-0 on Tuesday to the Rockies, and in my second game of this baseball odyssey, the Angels racked up 10 runs in two innings and dispatched the Brewers by a score of 12-2.

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