Who’s who among 2021 White Sox spring training non-roster invitees

The White Sox normally unveil their list of spring training non-roster invitees during the third week of January. This year, they delivered it a week before pitchers and catchers report.

Most people might tell you that the slow thawing of the free agent market and uncertainties about the size and shape of spring training may have required the Sox to take their time. I choose to believe that they spent the last few weeks desperately trying to figure out how to get Matt Skole on board. He’d been an NRI in each of the last three springs, but it appears as though a four-peat isn’t in the cards.

For the first time since 2017, a White Sox team didn’t need to pull Skole from the non-roster ranks, but the Sox called upon 10 others to join the 30- and 28-man rosters over the course of the season. Updating the Big Board for Ol’ Sporcle Ted:

This year’s field of 21 players isn’t nearly as deep on intrigue as previous years, for reasons across the spectrum. Most of the jobs at the MLB level are spoken for, so the Sox might not be the most appealing location for fringe veterans seeking chances. On the other hand, the White Sox might’ve called up more imposing internal candidates, but the farm system is mostly arid between the 40-man roster and A-ball. Throw in some complications with spring training being smaller than usual, and the field is the field. See below for details.

Baby’s first spring, pitchers

It’s hard to call anybody who stands 6’7″ “stealthy,” but McClure has managed to sneak into the middle of some top prospect lists. He recovered from knee surgery and worked with Ben Hansen, the White Sox’s senior biomechanical engineer, to get a little more velocity out of his frame. Power on his control-based arsenal would give his prospect stock the oomph it’s lacked.

The right-handed Dopico and left-handed Sousa have a lot in common otherwise, in the sense that they keep popping up with noteworthy assignments despite a modest draft origin and merely decent old-for-level results. Both have participated in the Arizona Fall League, and now here both are in major league camp.

Baby’s first spring, hitters

The Cohoes native has spent most of his career as a jack-of-all-trades in A-ball, appearing at every position except pitcher and catcher during his pro career. He hasn’t hit enough to hold down one position for himself — .257/.313/.377 across his career — but his presence makes the life of a minor league manager much easier, so perhaps he’ll do the same during a spring training where there won’t be the usual amount of players around.

Right-handed pitching depth

Let’s start with the guys who had been previously rostered: Burr, coming back from Tommy John surgery; Guerrero, a hard-throwing giant who lacks secondary stuff; McRae, who was briefly the White Sox’s victory cigar in 2020; Vargas, who survived the DFA to remain in the organization after the White Sox claimed him from Arizona in November.

Paulino didn’t quite reach the 40-man, but his name is known to Birmingham box score enthusiasts after he came over from the Phillies in the Luis Avilán trade of 2018. The White Sox tried making a starter out of a profile that looks middle-reliefy.

Sadzeck is new to the organization, but some White Sox fans might know him if they grew up around Crystal Lake. He’s 6’7″ and 240 pounds, and walked too many batters in brief appearances with the Rangers and Mariners the last two years. He averages 97 with his fastball, but threw his slider more than half the time last year. Wright hasn’t been able to get traction over five different MLB stints resulting in a 6.00 ERA over 110 games and 258 innings, but he spent his age-30 season with the NC Dinos of the KBO, where he went 11-9 with a 4.68 ERA over 29 starts and 158 innings. He tried turning his slider into a cutter a couple years ago, but it didn’t seem to make a dent, at least stateside.

Left-handed pitching depth

All three are familiar to those who follow the minor leagues. Lindgren is the most intriguing, because he joined the White Sox organization after missing the entirety of the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to two Tommy John surgeries, and he looked like he’d knocked some rust off over 15 appearances between Kannapolis and Winston-Salem in 2019. He’ll turn 28 in March, but he rocketed up the Yankees system at the start of his pro career, so it’s worth seeing if he can do it again.

Medeiros spent 2020 trying to redefine himself as a sinker-oriented reliever in the model of Aaron Bummer, because he ended up having a homer problem and a walk problem in Birmingham in 2019, even after a shift to the bullpen. It’s hard to count on that paying off, but at least he’s trying something different after two years of poor results since coming over the Joakim Soria trade. Tomshaw has eaten innings in the Birmingham and Charlotte rotations the last two years, and it’s a living.

Catchers for those pitchers

With four catchers on the 40-man roster, the White Sox don’t have to dip much further in the reserves to make sure all the arms have mitts to throw to. Perez makes tons of contact, but has lacked the strength to get past Winston-Salem. The Sox also invited another catcher you know, but I’m saving him for the last group.

Organizational players

As far as NRIs go, Beckham and Williams are decent options to have in reserve. Beckham can stand at three infield positions and post double-digit home run totals in a double-digit amount of games, which he’s done for second-division teams. A first-division club like the White Sox shouldn’t need even that much. Williams couldn’t built upon his promising rookie season, when he hit .288/.338/.473 over 83 games for the Phillies, but his name might become popular as a left-handed corner outfielder in Charlotte. He posted a .955 OPS for Triple-A Lehigh Valley two years ago, when he was 25.

“Matt Reynolds” is probably the most generic-sounding baseball player name you could create, even more so than Joe Smith. He went 0-for-11 in a cup of coffee with the Royals last year, dragging his average cown to .212 over parts of four seasons. He turned 30 in December. Hernández can slap his way to a higher average, but not much else. He hit .250/.279/.338 in his most extended MLB run with Boston in 2019, drawing just three walks against 42 strikeouts.

Show something

Lucroy gives the White Sox six catchers at spring training, but only he and Yasmani Grandal have accomplished anything in the major leagues. He’s been barely better than replacement level over the last four seasons, but the hope is that the herniated disk repair and reunion with Jerry Narron can give his career one last boost. It doesn’t quite seem like he’s a lock for the active roster, and there’d be value in having him hanging off the roster in case Zack Collins truly can’t cut it, but it also wouldn’t make sense to risk losing him to an opt-out if he’s experiencing any rejuvenation. At least he makes the backup catcher battle more than a best-of-what’s-left competition after James McCann departed for the Mets.

But when it comes down to it, the most eyes will be on Vaughn, who still seems to be Plan A at DH because of the White Sox’s aversion to more credible options during the winter. I discussed the kinds of doubts I have in Thursday’s installment of Prospect Week, and I’m genuinely curious to see how it’ll play out, and whether the White Sox would call him up for Opening Day after years of manipulating the service time of options who had proven more at that point.

They’ll be around

By and large, the players who are neither on the 40-man roster nor on this list will report to the second spring training for players at Double-A and below in April, but James Fegan said there will be exceptions.

We’ll see what kind of company Kelley has among the other high school picks to better understand that assignment, while the sight of Céspedes lends some credence to the idea that he could be high-minors ready in short order.

(Photo by Ron Vesely / Chicago White Sox)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Oddvark

Has Norge Vera officially signed? Will he be hanging around with Cespedes and Kelley?

John SF

Keith Law listed him on his top Sox prospect list and said that “he signed in January”

But I have not seen any reporting to confirm this. I sort of assume Law wouldn’t say something like that if he hadn’t checked?

But I’m also pretty sure that Ben Badler from BA said as recently as early February that NV hadn’t signed. So who to trust????

metasox

So is Céspedes stateside now?

Last edited 2 years ago by metasox
shaggy65

I believe he’s been stateside for a year or so while he trained with his big bro. It is certainly a welcome change to see a high-profile int’l signing who doesn’t have to spend a year in the DSL dodging American income taxes.

John SF

Yep. Baby Cespy has a house in the same Miami neighborhood as his brother and he’s been here a year.

asinwreck

*Reads this report*

*Realizes that a decade has passed since Dallas McPherson was invited to camp*

*Checks to see if estate planning is up-to-date*

roke1960

Phillies closing in on a deal with Brad Miller, for $3 – $3.5M. So Jerry can’t even pony up that much for DH/infield insurance? We better not have injuries, and Vaughn better be good. I wonder where the money was spent, Rick???

jhomeslice

Brad Miller is a career .240 hitter that has hit more than 20 homers only once. Glad someone else got him. I’m all for an upgrade or insurance but would rather see Mercedes and Vaughn give it a try at DH unless they are going to get a real player. I can’t imagine Vaughn or Mercedes not being appreciably better than Miller, or the guy the Sox had last year.