The White Sox still have nearly two weeks before they and the rest of Major League Baseball have to drop two players from their active roster. As we saw during the opening series in which the Sox lost Lucas Giolito and AJ Pollock to muscle strains, it’s a little too soon to start buying plane tickets.
But it’s still worth having a general idea of which players may be on the bubble, because that helps inform the debates over playing time and pitcher deployment, and adds stakes to some random innings and spot starts that April games usually lack.
Thanks to the aforementioned injuries as well as Yoán Moncada’s absence, a roster crunch with the players on hand can mostly be solved by LIFO, because there was a reason certain players started the year in Charlotte. In a scenario where Giolito, Pollock and Moncada all return without nobody else requiring a trip to the shelf, then the cuts require more careful consideration.
Here’s where they stand as they open a road trip to Cleveland and Minnesota that Monday’s weather postponement shortened from seven to six.
Giolito has been throwing without issue, so let’s account for him in this exercise, knowing everybody else can slide up a spot if he’s somehow delayed into May.
- Lucas Giolito
- Dylan Cease
- Michael Kopech
- Dallas Keuchel
- Reynaldo López
- Vince Velasquez
- Liam Hendriks
- Aaron Bummer
- Kendall Graveman
- José Ruiz
- Bennett Sousa
- Tanner Banks
- Kyle Crick
- Matt Foster
- Jimmy Lambert
- Anderson Severino
The only real debate at this point is Crick or Foster. I’d probably roll with Foster based only on performance, because Foster’s enhanced slider allows him to give hitters a different look from the fastball-changeup guy they thumped last year, whereas Crick’s a slider-first guy who has rolled a few too many for my comfort early on.
Both have options. The only difference is that Crick has one, and the Sox haven’t used this year’s yet because Crick broke camp with the club off a minor-league contract. Foster has two options, which gives the Sox slightly more flexibility in handling his immediate future. This isn’t a significant-enough factor to prioritize one over the other in the face of a gap in results. It’s more of a tiebreaker.
If and when Joe Kelly comes back — he’s supposedly sitting 95 in Arizona right now — then Banks seems like the most vulnerable. Kelly handles lefties well as a righty, and López/Velasquez gives the White Sox multiple innings of relief on long man, and they’re on guaranteed contracts. Banks hasn’t been scored upon in three games and 5⅓ innings, so he’s doing what he can to make the White Sox recheck even the simplest of math.
AJ Pollock is supposed to be heading to Charlotte soon according to Tony La Russa, and perhaps I’ll see him in Nashville this week. History says it’s a fool’s errand to pencil in a healthy Pollock until he’s actually on a field, but this exercise is a pointless errand if Pollock isn’t healthy. The White Sox are already carrying just 13 position players because they replaced Pollock with a pitcher, and with the 26-man roster limiting pitching staffs to 13, the reductions would have to come on the other side of the roster.
So we’re including Pollack for purposes of content, and even then, it’s pretty simple.
- Yasmani Grandal
- Reese McGuire
- José Abreu
- Josh Harrison
- Tim Anderson
- Jake Burger
- Eloy Jiménez
- Luis Robert
- AJ Pollock
- Andrew Vaughn
- Adam Engel
- Leury García
- Gavin Sheets
- Danny Mendick
Likewise, Moncada’s return would theoretically be a straight swap with Burger, because Vaughn is already having a hard-enough time getting the playing time his hot start warrants, so Burger’s right/right corner profile further adds to the congestion.
The question is whether Vaughn stakes his claim to the DH spot with enough authority that Sheets has to settle for leftovers, but Vaughn have to get an uninterrupted string of starts before that’s an issue. Sheets has the ideal skill set for a left-handed bench bat, even if that role isn’t an ideal job with regards to his development. He’s achieved enough to get his own shot at staking down a position, but I don’t want to dwell on that too much, because it’s the sort of thing that makes fans turn “more bats than spots” into a problem to actively solve, rather than excess to enjoy.
I think the biggest question on the position player side is: Is Grandal’s bat sooooo much better than anyone else’s that he needs to get starts at DH instead of rotating guys? I’m not saying he should never get DH bats but it shouldn’t be too difficult to get regular playing time for Eloy/Gavin/Vaugh/Abreu/Grandal while rotating them all through DH throughout the week (once we are far enough into the season to know that all of them warrant ABs).
I don’t think it’s a function of being soooo much better, but it is soooo much more left-handed. Even if you have other guys hitting RHP (as Vaughn is now for example), there’s still value in dropping in the occasional LH batter to make the opposing manager’s job harder.
And it’s not like there isn’t enough positional flexibility among those other guys to get them ABs somewhere other than DH. Sheets has played RF and 1B while Vaughn can play either corner and 1B. Going full Sunday lineup your worst case scenario is:
CF – Engel
DH – Grandal
LF – Jimenez
RF – Vaughn
1B – Sheets
2B – Harrison
SS – Garcia
C – McGuire
3B – Burger
If that’s the worst lineup that can reasonably be constructed, we’re in pretty good shape.
Is it better for Burger to play 1 or 2 times a week with the big club or get starts every day in Charlotte? Only reason I would possibly keep Mendick over Burger.
I think even our hapless manager knows Jake is their best 3b until Yoan gets back. He is getting majority of starts so far. If he does well they might like him over Mendick when Yoan is back.
I don’t know if his playing 2b in the majors is a pipe dream or not, but he did make one start at 2b at Charlotte before getting called up. Moncada being out really screwed them with Burger not being able to develop at 2b. Probably wishful thinking to hope he could pick up the position that quickly even if he were still at AAA. They sure could use somebody though.
I think the key is that whenever the team is at “full health” (if we get there), Burger and Mendick are down in AAA for the 13: Grandal, Abreu, Harrison, TA, Moncada, Eloy, Robert, Pollock, Vaughn, Reese, Leury, Engle, and Sheets.
It seems like a pipe dream to me. There are like 1.5 players with a vaguely similar frame playing 2B in the majors.
Muncy and Moustakas being 1 and .5? I think the Sox might be able to make it work, because Tim and Yoan have the range on the left side to shift over some. They would however need to embrace advanced analytical defensive positioning, which I’m not sure they have the capability or manager willingness for.
Yeah, Moose I meant as the .5 because I’m not sure how similar his frame is.
Until Moncada gets back, Burger should be getting the majority of the 3B starts.
Okay, so, is Burger going to get some reps at 2B or what?
He would have to look pretty awful there for the Sox not at least to consider that as an alternative to García or Harrison. He’s looked athletic enough at 3B that I think he could fake it at 2B. If he keeps the OPS above .800, the defensive bar should be so low.
Would it make more sense to just shift Moncada back there if Burger hits in the majors? I know Moncada wasn’t the world’s greatest defensive 2B, but he has to be better there than Burger.
No. By fWAR, Moncada has been the 2nd best 3B in the game since ‘19 behind only Jose Ramirez in large part because he’s excellent there defensively, third behind only defensive maestros Chapman and Arenado in that span. You don’t mess with success and you don’t move your one of your best players off the position he’s best suited to.
Burger apparently went into the offseason training for 2B. I can’t say how he looks there but I broadly agree with the idea that if he keeps hitting, then it’s probably fine to have him at 2B to start most games and have Harrison/Leury as defensive replacements/pinch runners in close games.
I don’t think either Moncada or Burger would be able to stay healthy playing at 2B either.
I don’t think 2B is really any more injury-hazardous (in general) than 3B. You need to twist and turn to throw and run around to get to balls at 2B, but 3B requires a lot of high-effort (leaps, charging the ball, hard throws etc) play as well, if not in exactly the same way. 2B rarely has to deal with guys taking them out while turning double plays these days with the Utley rule on the books.
Moncada I could see the argument for better health & performance at 3B; his athleticism is explosive but not that flexible, unlike say TA. Burger I’m not so sure; he’s definitely quite athletic & flexible in the upper body (evidence being his swing) and his injury history is the Achilles, which I believe is generally more endangered by the sudden movements constantly required at 3B than by the cornerstone’s movement patterns.
I agree with @a-t. Moncada is one of the best defensive 3B. Burger’s bat is not so important than you lose Moncada’s glove. I say give Burger some looks there. If he’s passable, there’s another 2B option and potentially a long-term solution. If he’s terrible, send him down to AAA and let him mash until you can find a trade.
He looked pretty awful when they tried it last year.
He only played 3B last season. Unless you’re talking about his time in AAA? I didn’t see any video of him in AAA, did you? Either way, I wouldn’t expect him to look good there the first chance he got. I’d like to see more than a couple of errors before writing the experiment off.
To be clear: I don’t think they should just install him there indefinitely. But I don’t see the harm in giving him a few starts there in Chicago before Moncada returns. I mean, Leury has been pretty awful defensively and offensively in his starts there. Even if Burger is pretty awful defensively, at least he’s hitting.
Longenhagen focused a little on Burger at the start of his time at 2B in Charlotte last summer:
“I did film analysis of Burger this morning, with a focus on his defense at second base. He hasn’t had a ton of opportunities there since he’s only played four games. He clearly has well-below average range but he can make routine plays and has been fine working around the second base bag turning tailor made double plays. Burger will also occasionally make spectacular, high-effort plays at third base but his footwork on defense is hampered by his lack of athleticism. When he can set himself and uncork a strong throw, his arm is above-average.”
It’s possible his range has increased a little since he went into the offseason apparently looking to work on that, but nobody’s expecting a revelation. You probably don’t want to pencil him in at the cornerstone every day, but careful defensive positioning and analytically-informed starts (based on CHW pitcher/opposing lineup batted ball tendencies) should allow him to be playable compared to both Harrison/Leury and the rest of the league’s 2Bs.
Given the starting point, this strikes me as an overall positive evaluation from EL—or, at least, it’s positive enough to give it a shot if Burger keeps hitting and Leury/Harrison keep not working well.
I agree. If Burger hits impressively, and they get nothing from Leury/Harrison offensively, the difference in runs produced might make up for the defensive difference. That’s a pretty big ‘if’, 2b isn’t like left field, it’s way more important in terms of the difference a good vs bad fielder makes. If Burger is really sub-par defensively to an extreme, it can’t work. But if he’s just a little bit bad, and hits really well, it might work out.
Jim had the AAA video here in the Minor Keys, and it was horrifying. He looked like an ape trying to tap dance.
I guess Eric Longenhagen disagrees with your assessment.
“… well-below average range but he can make routine plays and has been fine working around the second base bag turning tailor made double plays” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. He could be describing me.
I remember in particular a few fly balls down the line that were…something.
You think you could make routine plays at this level? And does this describe you: “Burger will also occasionally make spectacular, high-effort plays at third base but his footwork on defense is hampered by his lack of athleticism. When he can set himself and uncork a strong throw, his arm is above-average.”
I don’t think anyone expects Burger to receive any “ringing endorsements” about his 2B defense. Thankfully, he wouldn’t need any to be a productive major leaguer at that position.
EL’s report could also be describing Andrew Vaughn in the OF, for what it’s worth.
In fairness it could have been worse; he could have looked like me trying to tap dance.
Today’s game postponed again. Damn it. I need to watch the White Sox playing games. I need my fix.
I know the players would prefer not to play in 40 degree weather and Guardians don’t want to take a bath at the gate, but is it really worth cancelling a second game and having more of a schedule crunch later? Forecast looks dry.
Edit: Hmm, well doubleheader tomorrow.
Triple header tomorrow, starting at 10 CDT.
The schedule makers are beyond dumb to have cold weather teams playing each other constantly in April. A downer on attendance for sure. Am surprised they have played some games, Cub game last night was in the 30’s. Just brutal baseball weather.
There are a lot of teams up North in the AL (NY, WS, Twins, Cleveland, Boston, and Tigers). With a limited amount of teams in warmed weather, it might be difficult to go many days in a row without games up north at any point on the schedule. That’s 6 teams in cold weather vs 9 in warm weather (I excluded Toronto because of Rogers Centre).
But Cubs and Sox both played the Rays – in Chicago, not Tampa. I’m sure Rays will be happy to leave town and not play any more games in this cold sh**!.
At the end of next week all their games will have been in Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago. Then they host the Angels rather than go there. By mid May the warmest city they will have played in will be Boston. That seems like extremely stupid planning to me. And can’t possibly be good for attendance. Not saying all their road games can be in warm places, but mix it up a little bit at least during the coldest weeks of the season since they have to play in warm cities anyway eventually. It’s not just the Sox either.
I am not saying it can’t be better planned, but I am guessing there are other factors to be considered when scheduling. Travel alignment, promotions, etc. Having said that, you bring some good points.
The problem is the warm weather teams don’t want to load up on April and May home games because school is in session and attendance is naturally down.
Next year we’re really going to have problems with the new schedule. That means there will be additional teams coming in for just 1 series. It increases the chances of having to play in terrible conditions because they’re not scheduled to come back.
This. Tampa doesn’t want to open the season playing 20 straight games at home if it means it has to play 20 straight games on the road in July/August.
Especially since teams draw bigger crowds in the summer when school is out.
Including Tampa and its under 10K average attendance?
Anyone know why I can’t see comments unless I’m logged in? I very much prefer reading this site without being logged in (I logged in just to make this comment), but I do enjoy the comments. The story on the main page will say “13 comments” (or whatever), but when I click through, there’s either just a couple comments, or none at all.
That’s weird. I’ve got nothing.
I had the same problem until I logged in.
Looks like the cache stored a version of the story that didn’t have any comments, and that’s what it’s serving up. I cleared the cache, so that should fix it.
If you put a question mark at the end of any URL and anything afterward (?adfasdf), it should force the site to load a fresh version of the page regardless of login status.
For what it’s worth, when I just came back to check replies to this comment, when I *wasn’t* signed in, the main page showed 34 comments, but when I clicked, there were only 25. Of course when I logged in I could see them all. So maybe that’s a cache updating thing as well. In any case, I’ll try the question mark thing (I’m assuming I should put it at the very end, so this url would end in “-for-now/?”).
In any case, love the site, weird glitches or not.
Burger will probably be our biggest somewhat expendable trade chip this summer. I want to say here that I don’t want him traded. In the offseason we can deal Moncada for a good haul and then turn 3B over to a much cheaper Burger. Create some payroll flexibility.
Forget that. I have no appetite for going with a worse option at third base just to give Jerry more “payroll flexibility”.
Exactly. Even with Reinsdorf’s net worth being up like 200M since 2020, we still have a below league average 2b after an offseason when several good ones were available. No “payroll flexibility” narratives, this team needs to get better, not worse.
Like who? Escobar? Sure. Frazier would have been a good move if we had made that trade. Semien was never going to happen though. I really don’t blame them either. Especially after seeing what he recieved from Texas. Otherwise (and maybe I’m forgetting someone) I’m struggling to think of anyone else that really moves the needle that was available at 2nd.
personally, i am against the idea of trading away top-15 hitter in baseball
Moncada is a very good player, which means he should command a very good return. If we can use that return and/or payroll space to address another weakness I’d be fine with it.
Burger looks like a solid MLB- ready 3B to me, so his return would also have to be pretty substantial. Honestly I was surprised he didn’t make any Top 100 Prospect lists this offseason. I’d quietly shop them both and see which offer impresses me.
But Moncada gets expensive if his options are picked up. $17.8, 24.8, 25 the next 3 seasons per bref. I wonder how much trade value he really has.
Jim – did you catch the apple + broadcast on Friday? Curious to hear your thoughts? Anyone else like or dislike it?
I thought it was pretty bad. Called our pitching coach Eric Katz. Said the score was 2-0, when it was 3-0. Called Wander Franco’s first hit a “dying quail” when it was hit pretty sharply up the middle. Called another hit by Franco a “rope” when he flared it barely over the 2nd baseman into shallow right off the end of his bat. Just kind of amateur hour. Chris Young was okay as color guy. Then again he played Major League baseball so I’d expect him to know what he’s talking about. Certainly enjoyed the outcome. But it made me really miss Steve, and Jason in a hurry.
Which Chris Young was it?
Ex MLB outfielder, former White Sox, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, etc…
i concur w kelly, it was rough. trio booths like that are almost always rough tbh. the pbp lady sounded like a seasoned & professional announcer, but who doesn’t specialize in baseball/softball… there were some very strange talking points, like when she described adam engel as “one of the biggest prospects leading chicago’s rebuild” lmao. chris young was better than some former MLBers in the booth, knowledgable if traditional, just needs more experience in the booth.
I thought it was terrible. I muted it and went to the radio but then the delay was bugging me so I had to go back to it haha. Sounds like that crew did a Mets game a couple days before ours and Mets fans had a similar dislike of it (at least on twitter).
Interesting. I thought the production value was pretty awesome. I really liked the font and the graphics and they used some of the camera tech from nfl games. The music was also great – little more hype compared to the usual jingles.
I did notice some of the mistakes, but Melanie Newman is the Orioles play by play announcer and I thought she did well. Young was much less interesting. I like Hannah Kaiser from some of her Yahoo content. Some awkward moments between the 3, but I liked it overall. Nice change of pace for me.
On a unrelated note: a worrisome event unfolding.
Certainly seems to be a conflict of interest especially considering the history of gambling and baseball.
Definitely a troubling development. A shame that official gambling is now a part of professional baseball.
Gambling is so irritating.
Burger to RF?