Who’s who among 2018 White Sox spring training non-roster invitees

Tyler Danish (Jim Margalus)

Anthony Swarzak took the concept of a White Sox spring training non-roster invitee to new heights last season. Signed to a minor-league contract in his last year of team control, Swarzak cracked the 25-man roster out of spring training, transformed into one of Rick Renteria’s most reliable relievers and became valuable enough to headline his own deadline trade to Milwaukee for a non-negligible outfielder in Ryan Cordell.

Swarzak wasn’t alone in his jump from journeyman to White Sox, but he was the most successful of the non-roster invitees to appear in Chicago. Updating the list from the decade, which might be handy study material for a future Sporcle Saturday

  • 2017: Swarzak, David Holmberg, Aaron Bummer, Jace Fry, Nicky Delmonico, Geovany Soto, Cody Asche
  • 2016: Tim Anderson, Tyler Danish, Carson Fulmer, Jason Coats, Matt Purke, Hector Sanchez, Omar Narvaez
  • 2015: Soto, Carlos Rodon, Scott Carroll, Micah Johnson, Chris Beck
  • 2014: Zach Putnam, Chris Bassitt, Scott Snodgress, Andy Wilkins
  • 2013: Erik Johnson, Marcus Semien, Jake Petricka, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Bryan Anderson
  • 2012: Brian Bruney, Leyson Septimo, Eric Stults, Hector Gimenez, Ray Olmedo, Jordan Danks, Brian Omogrosso
  • 2011: Bruney, Donny Lucy, Jeff Gray (and his journal), Josh Kinney, Shane Lindsay, Dallas McPherson
  • 2010: Donny, Erick Threets

Thanks to the full 40-man and a host of worthy prospects hanging around just off the roster, there isn’t much room in camp for fliers, at least according to the crop the White Sox unveiled on Monday. Only six of the 22 non-roster invitees came from minor-league free agency, and only four of those six are total strangers.

Here’s how they break down:

Baby’s first spring, pitchers

Cease’s first full pro season with the White Sox will open in big-league camp as he tries to reclaim top-100 prospect status by proving his durability, both in-start and week to week. New top-100 prospect Dunning tipped his inclusion with a tweet, and fellow high-riser Hansen joins him with a more crowded bandwagon in tow.

Stephens’ rocky health history at Rice University resurfaced last year. Forearm tendinitis delayed his debut and limited him to 90 innings at Birmingham. He was successful enough as a starter to continue on that path to start this this season, but if and when high-minors rotations get crowded, he could shift to the bullpen. Walsh doesn’t really qualify as a baby at age 25, but the White Sox were sufficiently intrigued by him to give him some run in the Arizona Fall League. He struggled there, so the Sox didn’t concern themselves with protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. Still, he’s a righty who can hike his fastball into the upper 90s, so that will buy him multiple looks.

Baby’s first spring, position players

Burger and Robert probably wouldn’t have received invitations to spring training this early into their careers under normal circumstances (the same can be said for Cease above). Burger had a so-so pro debut at Kannapolis, and Robert hasn’t faced competitive pitching in the United States. Entering the second year of a rebuild, though, the first few weeks at Camelback Ranch might look more like an extension of Todd Steverson’s minicamp, with a close eye on key prospects, a focus on messaging, and maybe a little more Yoan Moncada time for Robert. (Worth noting: The White Sox’ press release gives the pronunciation of Robert’s name as “RAH-bert,” so they’re rolling with the anglicization.)

Zavala is in a separate category as a traditionally accomplished non-roster prospect. He launched 21 homers over 107 games between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, then followed that up with a strong showing in the AFL. Rick Hahn has cast him as a serious challenger to Zack Collins for catcher of the future.

Right-handed pitching depth

Beck, Volstad and Ynoa combined for 113 rough innings for the White Sox last season, and all have returned for another bite at the apple. Maybe Beck or Ynoa can pull off a Swarzak, but familiarity won’t allow anybody to raise hopes. Volstad seems more like a comforting presence in Triple-A, as he’s used to filling in starts around highly touted pitching prospects.

Scahill, 30, has appeared in 118 MLB games over six seasons with the Rockies, Pirates and Brewers. The Chicagoland native (Willowbrook) is a sinker-cutter guy who throws 94 and gets grounders, but has been consistently susceptible to homers when hitters get lift.

Left-handed pitching depth

House had a nice partial-season as an extra starter for the Indians back in 2014, posting a 3.35 ERA over 19 games and 102 innings thanks to a crafty lefty’s typical sinker-slider-changeup array. He hasn’t been able to generate an encore in the three seasons since. Shoulder problems limited House to 13 MLB innings in 2015 and led to a grievance, and he only appeared in four games for the Indians in 2016. A line drive to the head dashed dreams of a fresh start in Toronto. He recovered to pitch a full season, but he spent all but two games in Triple-A. Now 28, House is a candidate to fill David Holmberg’s role in the organization.

Catchers for those pitchers

Collins made his big-league camp debut last year, and his advanced batting eye against non-roster pitchers and spring training umpires won’t tell us much. Perhaps we’ll get camera angles of swing changes. Gonzalez fell off the 40-man after failing to make headway in Birmingham the last two seasons, but he has a decent idea of the strike zone, both at the plate and behind it. Zavala is also in this group, with Welington Castillo, Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith above them all.

New organizational players

We know May, who won last year’s spring training battle for center field only to start the season 0-for-26. He was usurped by Leury Garcia and Adam Engel, among others, and was recently designated for assignment to make room for the return of Miguel Gonzalez.

Leonard, 25, has posted respectable performances at the plate while climbing up the ladder in the Tampa Bay Rays system, but he hasn’t developed a carrying tool. He’s a third baseman with gap power and a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio, although he’s fast enough for an impressive success rate on the basepaths over his minor-league career (58-for-68). Maybe that’s why he spent more time in the outfield in 2017. Skole joins Casey Gillaspie and Daniel Palka in the group of slugging natural first basemen who have stalled at Triple-A.

Show something

Guerrero and Clark are in the same boat. They’re fastball-changeup lefties who looked vulnerable to the Rule 5 draft thanks to high-minors success, but weren’t taken. Guerrero is a starter and Clark is a reliever, and both could see time in Chicago if they get the right breaks. It’d behoove both to start building cases early due to their lack of 40-man roster spots.

Danish is overcoming his own bad break, suffering a dislocated left shoulder in a September car accident that likely cost him a call-up if the promotions of Volstad and Al Alburquerque are any indication. This came after season-ending knee surgery in 2016, so he’s spent the last two springs trying to build himself back up. The lack of progress cost him his 40-man roster spot, but his determination has always been a positive in his scouting reports. That’ll be put to the test.

Kopech stands alone as the one non-roster guy who can make March media sessions a little awkward for Rick Hahn. Kopech only threw 15 innings in Triple-A last year, so it’s easy to justify starting him in Charlotte beyond simple service time concerns. Hahn can say that he wants Kopech to prove he can get deep into starts against International League lineups, and that’s true enough.

That said, when Kopech is right, he’s obviously the most talented pitcher the White Sox have. Should he show up to Cactus League play throwing straight-up porn for radar gun and GIF enthusiasts, he might make all merit-based talks just a teeny bit silly.

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I’m looking forward to Seby Zavala’s progression through the system. I’m glad to know Hahn is so high on him.


I had heard that Zavala was impressing lately, and your description here has me excited.


The new name with which I was unfamiliar is TJ House. Based on your description, Jim, it seems like he may have hit a line of bad luck but could be ready for a resurgence. I like the upside and am hopeful to hear good news on him this spring.


That Sporcle would stump me.


Get to memorizing!


Good lord, actively working to improve Sporcle scores would be an insane use of my aging brain cells.


Thanks, Jim – fun to go through this list every year and then see who surprises everybody.

I have no idea why, but for some reason, I’m thinking Cease will look really good, ends up having an impressive MiLB season, and jumps back on the lists, tantalizing everyone.

Un Perro

Cease has control/command issues and hasn’t learned to work deep into games.  The raw stuff is really impressive, but he still has to conquer the hardest part of development – pitching.  While there’s a lot of room for optimism – he ended the year with a couple of impressive starts – you should probably temper your expectations.


Oh,  get it. Just an irrational feeling. Perhaps I just want to be tantalized.


My money is on Scahill.  Coop. Fix. Impress. Deadline flip.  Boom. Steak. Dinner.

John SF

I would write it as :

Coop-fix.  Imp, then Press.  Flippity flip-flop.  Boom,  Steak Dinner.

But style guides are tricky.  Some people use the Oxford comma, but oh well.


The Oxford comma should always be used and I hate it when it is not used.   That is all.


I have the same optimism about Cease. Maybe because he has given up only 4 HRs in 162 innings, maybe because he is an ex-Cub who was really hyped when he was in their system so I want him to do well, perhaps because we share the same birthday (not the year of course). He’s 22 so he has some time to learn and improve.


Burger at #10 for 3B on MLBpipeline.

I can’t say exactly why, but he’s one guy that I’m certainly irrationally optimistic on. Don’t think he’ll blow anyone away at each level, but I can see him steadily progress through the system for the next few seasons and turn into a really solid 3B. Guy’s got great makeup from all reports and his work ethic this offseason looks fantastic.

Patrick Nolan

I’m giving Burger the nickname “Ground Beef” until he starts putting the ball in the air.


Back in the days when I was playing pick-up basketball on a regular basis, a friend of a friend occasionally brought this cocky, obnoxious, short, fat guy with him. They guy who arrogant as hell, but did nothing but heave 3-pointers up all game, missing the vast majority of them. We called him “Ground Chuck”.


Please tell me he said “Make it rain!” with every shot.


He grunted like a tennis player.

karkovice squad

You hooped with Sandy Lyle!?


Kark – nice, but I admit I had to look him up. Didn’t recognize the name.


The Athletic just posted an article today about his off-season work. Launch angle seems to have been the primary focus. Gotta say I like what I hear so far.


When he starts hitting dingers let’s call him ‘bat flip burger’.


I’m surprised so many are already pessimistic on Burger. He’s got barely 200 PA in the minors but didn’t strike out. I’m taking a wait and see approach with his SLG/ISO, but 15 extra base hits is fine (not good, not bad, just fine), so the only concern would be a walk rate that I’d like to see more around 10%.


For me, it’s the underwhelming Kann debut coupled with the pessimistic reports about his ability to stay at 3B. Maybe some Zack Collins sadness mixed in as well. There’s just so much riding on that bat.

Trooper Galactus

That’s actually a drop for him.  He was #8 before, I think.

Ted Mulvey

An NRI Sporcle Saturday. I dig it. Going in the Big Book of Ideas.


Wither Spencer Adams? I guess the prospect shine is off, but Guerrero and Stephens both got invites yet he didn’t.


Probably because of age/40 man.

I think Adams rebuild some of his prospect shine last year, still not striking out guys at the rate you’d like to see, but the control is still there and hopefully he’ll figure out his homer issues this year (if it wasn’t bad luck).

lil jimmy

Struck in the face with an errant ball, while picking his nose.

lil jimmy

Spencer Adams. He was there last year. I saw him pitch three innings. He looked good. And tall, very tall.

Josh Nelson

Thanks for posting, Jim.

For those that want to go, Baderbrau will be giving 15% off to attendees bill. Plus, they have a new deal with Lyft which you can earn ride credits for buying their new beer, Five Star Lager.

Please fill out the Eventbrite invite so I can give Baderbrau a head count.

Patrick Nolan

Are last minute attendees possible? I won’t know if I can come down until the day of.

Lurker Laura

Bummed that I won’t be able to make it. But at least it’s because I’ll be curling.


Your hair?       ba dum, tish!

As Cirensica

Keith Law’s top 50 prospect is out. Paywalled, but Eloy is 6th, and Tatis is 3rd. Kopech is 11th and Robert is 46th and Hansen is 49th

Link: http://www.espn.com/mlb/insider/story/_/id/22181590/keith-law-2018-top-100-prospects-nos-50-1-introducing-tomorrow-superstars


my dad isn’t into following the prospects and all that.  when i saw him this weekend, he laughingly said, “i can’t believe we’ll still be running james shields out there this year,” and i just chuckled and kept quite.  because ignorance is bliss.  and old people’s hearts and what have you.

John SF

It’s some very very weak consolation…


…but the higher Tatis climbs on these lists, the better it speaks to skill of our Latin scouting team.

And that’s the same team that gave us Micker Adolfo and Luis Robert, among others.

(similarly, the way that Shields implode has made people worry about our pro-scouting)

Anyway, I’m a life-long homer and I’m a glass-half-full guy in general.   We should celebrate the rise in Tatis Jr. on these lists, even as we lament the trade itself, IMHO.

As Cirensica

People (At leas I) started to worry of ChiSox pro-scouting skill way before the James Shields deal.  I am still some kinda worried.

If you believe our scouts in Latin america were assessing good prospects does not explain why they let (or didn’t factor) one of their good ones being a trade chip for Tatis Jr to get such horrid production back.

The consolation is that Hahn hopefully learned a lesson here.  He is gonna think twice before trading Latino american prospects with so little data about their potential.


Porn.  Heh.


i lol’d.


Tribune reporting, unsurprisingly, Rodon has not begun a throwing program, won’t be ready for opening day, 8 months looking like a best case scenario. (had surgery Sept. 27)


At least this year we were sort of expecting this

Eagle Bones

I can’t find the link now, but I don’t recall the part about 8 months being the best case scenario now.

Eagle Bones

May be splitting hairs here, but 8 months being the best case scenario and it likely being closer to 8 months isn’t really the same thing, no?  I’ll hang up and listen.

As Cirensica

I am starting to think the future core should not rely too much on Rodon. Too much injury history already, and the guy is not even 26.

Return to pitch in 8 month means he will be ready in 10 months? He needs some conditioning prior to start throwing in the majors. So best case scenario is late July, early August?  It’s a good thing we are tanking, but I think Hahn still needs to sign another pitcher for this team.


I try to read the Jeff Gray journal once a year. It is my flaw.