The fun-sized spring training means fewer opportunities for prospects and non-roster invitees, but some members of the White Sox who aren’t part of immediate plans were able to see immediate action due to a season-opening split-squad date with the Cubs on Thursday.
The White Sox won both games — 5-2 at Camelback Ranch, and 4-3 at Sloan Park in Mesa — blasting a combined five homers over 13 combined innings of offense. White Sox fans also came away winners, at least if they had a full cable package or out-of-market access on MLB.tv. They could flip between NBC Sports Chicago and Marquee Sports Network to watch their prospects of choice.
That’s precisely what I did, and numerous said White Sox prospects cooperated. Five of them provided visual examples of progress they’ve made or need to make, and one was just great to see doing anything at all. Let’s start with that guy.
Normally, a pitcher like Kyle Hendricks might be a difficult assignment for a player who hasn’t seen standard professional game action in two years. A spring training version of Hendricks who cares more about getting pitch counts up than executing an entire arsenal might be an ideal bridge for somebody who last took meaningful cuts in Nippon Professional Baseball.
Colás did what he needed to in his first stateside plate appearance, driving a Kyle Hendricks two-seamer to deep left center for a sacrifice fly and the game’s first run.
The other at-bats were tougher tasks — he struck out in a lefty-lefty matchup against Cubs 2021 first-round pick Jordan Wicks, then got aced on a backdoor slider from sidewinder Scott Effross in the sixth. There’s a lot of value in him just seeing pitches with intent, no matter the quality, so a season-starting assignment in A-ball would be understandable.
Céspedes is one of the more divisive prospects in the White Sox system. His last name, signing bonus and decent first stateside performances combine for easy excitement among fans who have never seen him play. Those who have watched him closely are concerned that his big swing generates impressive highlights, but the pitch recognition will relegate them to few and far between.
So after a rough performance in the Arizona Fall League, it’s nice to see him make a mark in the limited spring action he’ll receive, hitting the day’s most impressive homer.
Without radar-gun readings, it’s hard to know if he stayed back on a 2-1 changeup or stayed down on a 2-1 sinker, but either one is a pleasure to see considering the difficulty he had getting contact against Double-A pitchers in the air.
His flare to center escaped a diving catch attempt for a single in the fourth, and even his sixth-inning strikeout could’ve been worse. He fell behind 0-2, but extended it to seven pitches by laying off a slider low, a fastball high, a slider low, then fouling off an offspeed pitch before getting outguessed on a fastball down the middle to end it. Previous versions of himself would’ve returned to the dugout sooner, so there’s that.
I’m waiting to see if Major League Baseball allows teams to carry expanded rosters for the first weeks of the season — and given that they’re considering bringing the Manfred Man back for extra innings after initial reports said otherwise, there’s reason to believe that plenty of other elements will change shape during the shortened spring.
One would probably assume that the 27th and 28th roster spots would go to extra pitchers in order to preserve arms, but the White Sox could use one for Adolfo to buy themselves a little extra time in trying to sneak him through waivers, unless his spring performance generates enough interest in a change-of-scenery trade. This is a fine way to start either conversation.
Unlike Colás, Ramos had to deal with Hendricks’ craftier side. He took the first two curves for strikes, then could only stay back long enough on a third one to pop out meekly to the right side.
Ramos had a more comfortable approach with the platoon advantage against Wicks, turning on a 1-2 fastball and hoisting it over just over the left-field wall. That’s the ability to lift the ball to the pull side that I mentioned in his top prospects write-up.
(This was also the first-ever plate appearance of baseball my son watched, as I brought him downstairs from his nap between innings.)
Ramos played third, which is his most natural position, even if he’s not a sure bet to stick there. His inexperience showed in consecutive plays in the fourth inning, first cutting off a routine play for Danny Mendick with a dive that knocked the grounder into left field.
He then was part of a slapstick-like display on a high pop-up down the left-field line. He didn’t necessarily do anything wrong — it was more on Mendick overrunning the ball — but they bumped into each other, which didn’t help Mendick’s attempt at backtracking.
They weren’t the only victims of the vaunted high sky, as you’ll see in a bit.
After hitting .400/.533/.514 in the Arizona Fall League, Sánchez is hitting .500/.667/1.000 over three plate appearances in the Cactus League. He’s the one who turned the second inning into a scoring threat with an automatic double to the right-center gap off Hendricks …
… and he later drew a tough walk against Wicks.
He finally lost his percent OBP his third time up with a flair down the right-field line that should’ve ended the inning. Here’s the other run-in with the high sky down the other right-field line.
If he keeps this up, he’ll make the Josh Harrison signing look like overkill, which is what a productive farm system does with regularity.
During his last couple months at Winston-Salem last year, Mieses showed the makings of a possible outfield platoon bat. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but it represents progress from previous years, where he didn’t look like anything. He has one of those aesthetically pleasing left-handed swings … at least against right-handed pitching.
It worked out that way in his first-ever Cactus League game. He started the second-inning rally with a broken-bat single into right field off Hendriks, then came around to score on the Sánchez double and Colás sac fly.
Facing the lefty Wicks, Mieses didn’t look comfortable pulling the trigger, and swung through a slider that stayed up and over the plate for strike three.
But then when he got a chance to see Effross’ long arm action coming at him, he got around on an 0-1 fastball on the inside corner, splitting the right-center gap for a triple.
His afternoon started and ended on high notes, and it’s nice when they help summarize the state of a previously anonymous prospect. Mieses wasn’t alone in this regard on Thursday, and nobody would mind if they made it so easy on us throughout the 2022 season, wherever they’re playing it.