Who’s who among 2019 White Sox spring training non-roster invitees

When somebody like Chris Beck gets designated for assignment, it’s often worth following up to see if anybody else could get more out of his stuff.

The Mets had the first crack at him, and the answer was a resounding “no.” Beck posted a 5.23 ERA over six games in New York, and it should’ve been worse considering he gave up nine walks and three homers to just five strikeouts over those 10⅓ innings.

The Mets then DFA’d him, and nobody claimed him the second time around. He ended up in Las Vegas with an 8.15 ERA, and cast himself into minor-league free agency after the season. Mets fans will struggle to recall him for Sporcle quizzes.

Back before Beck’s brief dalliance in Queens, his season started as a non-roster invitee for the White Sox. All in all, he lived a very common life cycle for players who join the fold in spring training as organizational depth (or return to the fold, in Beck’s case).

And now it’s time to start that process anew.

The White Sox announced the newest crop of NRIs and Wednesday, and most of the 20 names are familiar. The White Sox have a good farm system and a full 40-man roster, so they can’t open their doors all journeymen. They have to be more selective, at least until the regular season starts and trades for cash considerations become a thing.

Before we get to the new crop of NRIs, here’s the hallowed hall of players they hope to join. 2018 was a year for the organizational players, as Michael Kopech was the only guy with prospect status to break through last year’s NRIs.

Great fighters all. I’m guessing those to make the cut in 2019 will be also rather limited in upside, but the Sox are due for pleasant surprises after all the random misfortune to befall them last season.

Baby’s first spring, pitchers

Flores and Lambert are second-day 2016 draft picks who put themselves on the map last season. The seventh-rounder Flores might’ve been the farm system’s steadiest pitcher, posting a 2.65 ERA over 156 innings between Winston-Salem and Birmingham purely on pitchability (only 105 strikeouts, only 31 walks). The fifth-rounder Lambert was on track for a similar breakout after jumping to Double-A, but a strained oblique cut his season short just shy of 100 innings. He struck out 110 batters to 27 walks over those 95⅔ innings. Both players were invited on the Dominican Republic trip.

Thompson was not, but the invitation marks a jump in status. He looked like a potential Rule 5 pick after a successful first year in relief, but nobody bit on his 1.55 ERA. He doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he’s learned how to use some of that 6-foot-7-inch leverage.

Baby’s first spring, hitters

An NRI is a nice nod to Gonzalez, who made a name for himself with a strong 2018 despite being trapped underneath the Winston-Salem logjam in Kannapolis. Hitting better than other Dash outfielders upon promotion (.313/.376/.504) solidified his standing. He might’ve passed Rutherford, who made progress himself with the Dash (.293/.345/.436), but still needs a distinguishing feature. Here’s hoping spring training goes better for Madrigal than it did for the first-round pick the year before.

Right-handed pitching depth

Delgado has cleared six years of service time and is still in his 20s, which means he’s about as accomplished as non-roster invitees get. He pitched 271 games for Arizona from 2011 to 2018, but injuries stunted the last two. He suffered a flexor strain in 2017, followed by an oblique strain that limited him to 10 games in 2018. If healthy, he can be an effective swingman.

Marshall is another former Diamondback, but he’s chasing the high of a strong rookie season. After posting a 2.74 ERA over his first 57 games in 2014, he’s endured a 7.89 ERA in the subsequent 44 games scattered across four seasons and three organizations. He’s also endured a fractured skull from a line drive during a game in Triple-A in 2015.

You may remember Roach as a minor-league free agent who anchored Charlotte’s rotation during the first half of the 2018 season during the worst of Kopech’s struggles. After going 9-2 with a 2.65 ERA and putting himself in position for spot starts down the line, he instead requested his release to pursue an opportunity in Japan. He’s back in the States after posting a 5.01 ERA over 11 games with the Orix Blue Wave.

Left-handed pitching depth

If Turner turns into anything, you can thank Dioner Navarro. The White Sox acquired the lefty from Toronto in a late-August trade, but he keeps running headlong into the Triple-A wall. The 27-year-old has 1.56 ERA in Birmingham over the last two seasons, as opposed to 5.80 ERA in Charlotte, and the peripherals match. Guerrero seems older than 24, mostly because he made his Sox system debut in 2012. His stock appeared to be dead last year after a disastrous first two months in Birmingham, but he ended up turning it around in Charlotte, posting a 3.46 ERA over 12 starts, with 62 strikeouts over 65 innings.

Catchers for those pitchers

Gonzalez notched a couple of firsts (hit, RBI) over three games with the White Sox in 2018, but looked overwhelmed otherwise during the days between Welington Castillo’s suspension and Kevan Smith’s return from injury. With two catching prospects above him and one already on the 40-man roster, he might be hard-pressed for a second chance. Nolan hit .173 for Winston-Salem last season.

Organizational players

Skole led the White Sox with a .930 OPS last year. Sure, it was only from four games during Matt Davidson’s DL stint, and most most of that production came in a memorable debut, but that still registers as a triumph for an NRI. Tilson had less fun in Chicago, hitting .264/.331/.292 over 41 games and posting abysmal defensive numbers in left. Considering he barely played in 2017 after tearing his hamstring in 2016, he’s seen worse. He was DFA’d to make room for Jon Jay, but found no takers.

Peterson is also making a return engagement, as he hit .198/.281/.360 for Charlotte after the White Sox claimed him off waivers from Seattle in 2017. He recovered to hit fairly well for Triple-A Louisville last season (.277/.322/.462), but the 117 strikeouts to 25 walks makes a first cup of coffee difficult to come by.

Goins is the only truly new name to the organization, a glove-first utility infielder with 489 games under his belt, mostly with Toronto. I mostly associate him with a costly error during the last start of Mark Buehrle’s career, which was one of four outs he lacked in reaching 200 innings for a 15th and final time.

Show something

I could have placed Mendick under the “first spring” category, as the 22nd-round pick from 2015 has finally cracked big-league camp. But as a Rule 5-eligible utility infielder with Jose Rondon, Leury Garcia and maybe Yolmer Sanchez in front of him, it behooves him to make a case earlier than later, even if it’s to get a better shot elsewhere.

Robert doesn’t have to make such a case with his performance at Camelback Ranch, but he will have to show that he can make it through an entire month-plus without getting hurt.

The NRI for Collins marks the start of a key season for his career. He’s hit .244, .224 and .234 in each of his first three minor-league seasons, and while he draws a ton of walks, it’s hard to imagine his bat keeping upper-level pitching honest without generating more action. At the same time, it’s hard to imagine his glove getting him to the big leagues. One of these things has to improve, and I’d rather it be his bat, because the Sox need first basemen, too.

Notable omissions

All three pitchers have previously been invited to the big-league camp, but none made the list this year. With Burdi and Dunning, James Fegan says the lack of NRIs is more indicative of a cautious track than setbacks with their elbows, as both were throwing during the Dominican Republic trip. Hansen wasn’t mentioned, but I’d extend this rationale to him as well since he’s in the greatest need of a factory reset.

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17 Comments
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Willardmarshall

Grateful not to have awakened this morning and found my name listed among Organizational Players….

GreatjonHumber

Holding out hope for Rutherford. He was quietly decent last year.

Smclean09

I have hope that this can be the tagline for 2019 White Sox

Lurker Laura

“Quietly Decent” does have a better ring to it than, “Loudly Putrid.”

Sophist

I thought he meant “holding out hope”

Smclean09

That’s just the running Sox fan tagline in general.

yinkadoubledare

Did they try taking out the Hansen cartridge and blowing on it

vanillablue

yes, and when that didn’t work, they tried pressing on his UCL and rotator cuff at the same time for 30 seconds

Trooper Galactus

Rec’d. Also, as an avid collector, this is absolutely the last thing anybody should do to a video game cartridge.

MrTopaz

Burger isn’t expected to be cleared to play until June, right?

MrTopaz

Thank you.

quickly0and2

I’m eager to see Madrigal face major league pitching.  Hoping his hit tool is already up for the challenge

PopeDonnPall

This article kind of encapsulates my concern with Madrigal just based on the eye test. He hits primarily bloops to right. Seems like opponents can shift oppo on him or play shallow and take away a lot of those singles.

PopeDonnPall

I swear I’m not 90 but I can’t seem to successfully link but here’s the gist…

“For a player with modest power like Madrigal, there are very few doubles and home runs in right field. His pro stats from his debut reflect that—he slugged only .348 and had an .045 isolated power thanks to seven doubles and no other extra-base hits.

Madrigal’s spray chart as a White Sox prospect showed that the left fielder could take some time off when Madrigal batted. Only one of Madrigal’s 47 hits was hit to left field (a double on Sept. 3).

“if Madrigal is going to live up to the expectations that come with being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft, he’s going to have to start pulling the ball much more consistently.

craigws

Aw man, looking back over some of those old threads. Can’t believe it’s been six years since good ol’ cb46. Heady times.