Nobody wants to relive the 2022 campaign for the Chicago White Sox and luckily, we don’t have to. A season that started after a prolonged lockout with Tony La Russa at the helm and sky-high expectations ended with a whimper and an all too familiar 81-81 record culminating in a second place finish in the American league Central.
There will be a bilingual, analytically inclined, modern baseball thinker running the team from the dugout. That’s a significant change for the organization, but roster decisions that are coming over the next few months likely matter the most in the end.
THE OFFSEASON BEGINS
The Houston Astros have been crowned as World Series champions, the general manager meetings are taking place in Las Vegas, qualifying offers will soon be extended and players have elected for free agency. As always, this is an important offseason for the White Sox. The roster gymnastics have already started and there will be more on the horizon.
The roster currently stands at 36 members after some early movement. Outfielder Adam Haseley was outrighted and removed from the 40-man roster while righty reliever Kyle Crick was reinstated from the 60-day IL and removed as well.
José Abreu, Elvis Andrus, Johnny Cueto and Vince Velasquez have elected free agency. Infielder Josh Harrison had his option declined by the club and outfielder A.J. Pollock won’t return to Chicago in 2023 either after declining his $13 million player option in lieu of a $5 million buyout (updated).
The Rule 5 draft will take place on Dec. 7, the final day of baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego. The draft returns after a one-year hiatus due to the lockout last year. The meetings haven’t occurred in person since 2019. The White Sox will be in the 15th position this year.
The 40-man roster for the Rule 5 draft must be finalized by 6 p.m. on Nov. 15. In past years, the White Sox had some difficult decisions to make. This remains true, but with contention being the primary focus of the big league club, maneuvering should be somewhat manageable.
In the major league phase of the draft, any player who isn’t on a club’s 40-man roster and is also approaching his fourth or fifth season in an organization can be selected by another club for $100,000 paid to the holding club. Players signed at the age of 18 or younger have five years in an organization before becoming eligible. Players who are signed at the age of 19 or older have four years with their respective clubs. There is also a minor league phase where unprotected players not on a minor league reserve roster can be selected under the same service time restrictions. Unlike the rule in which drafted players must be kept on a big league roster or returned for $50,000, the minor league phase has no such requirement.
Last year, the White Sox didn’t participate in the big league phase, but they selected infielder Moises Castillo from the St. Louis Cardinals during the minor league portion. The 23-year-old posted a 107 wRC+ in Winston-Salem with the Dash but struggled in a 63-game sample in Birmingham. He did play pretty well in the Arizona Fall League, however. Castillo hit .347/.429/.510 with six walks, eight strikeouts and 13 RBI over the course of 14 games.
Here is a look at the current 40-man roster for the Pale Hose, which sits at 36 players. The roster includes 21 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders and seven (kind of) outfielders. We can’t predict future trades or transactions that may occur, so we’re working from the current organizational depth chart. The following players require protection or are already on the 40-man roster but aren’t necessarily 26-man roster players who will be penciled into the 2023 plans.
- Tanner Banks (LHP)
- Jason Bilous (RHP)
- Matt Foster (RHP)
- Davis Martin (RHP)
- Nicholas Padilla (RHP)
- José Ruiz (RHP)
- Bennett Sousa (LHP)
- Jonathan Stiever (RHP)
- Carlos Pérez (C)
- Seby Zavala (C)
- Jake Burger (3B)
- Romy Gonzalez (U)
- Danny Mendick (U)
- Lenyn Sosa (SS)
- Adam Engel (OF)
- Mark Payton (OF)
Jason Bilous is a former day three draft pick who was added to the 40-man roster last off-season. He’s in Charlotte serving as pitching depth but he had a rough year in Triple-A. His spot doesn’t appear to be safe by any means.
Jonathan Stiever has some big league experience but missed most of 2022 recovering from a torn lat muscle. The 25-year-old threw three innings for the Knights at the end of the year but his future role in question even if his roster spot likely isn’t. Davis Martin is a contender for the big league rotation after posting a 4.28 FIP over the course of 63 innings in Chicago at the age of 25. What he accomplished in 2022 serves as a breakout season.
Lefties Tanner Banks and Bennett Sousa made their big league debuts out of the bullpen last season but there are some southpaws ahead of them on the major league depth chart currently. Righties Kyle Crick, Matt Foster and José Ruiz pitched for the White Sox as well. Banks posted a 3.57 FIP in 53 innings and was a pleasant surprise for the White Sox. Sousa struggled in 20.1 innings however.
Crick was fairly effective prior to being lost for the season with an injury. Foster threw 45 innings. José Ruiz is an interesting case too. The 28-year-old right hander pitched in 63 contests, posting a 4.43 FIP in just over 60 innings. He likely gets tendered a contract but he remains out of minor league options. Righty Nicholas Padilla pitched in Triple-A after being claimed off waivers from the Cubs late in the season.
Danny Mendick was excellent in 31 games last season but he missed most of the season after suffering a torn ACL. The 29-year-old should factor into the infield plans going forward after posting a 125 wRC+ but he needs to be tendered a contract first. Romy Gonzalez flashed a bit in his second season in an injury riddled campaign but he did sputter down the stretch in Chicago.
With an injury-plagued season for starter Yasmani Grandal, the catching depth was deployed on the South Side. After being removed from the 40-man prior to the season, Seby Zavala went to work on his game in Charlotte. The 29-year-old ended up playing 61 games with the White Sox where he posted a 111 wRC+ leading to a solid 1.9 fWAR on the season. 26-year-old Venezuelan backstop Carlos Pérez could be in the mix as well after playing seven big league games and smashing 21 homers in Triple-A.
The most interesting player to watch that is on the 40-man — but not quite a lock for Chicago — might be Lenyn Sosa. The 22-year-old Venezuelan infielder really turned himself into one of the best prospects in the White Sox’s system. He was called up in 2022 and he played in parts of 11 games in the big leagues. Sosa posted a 142 wRC+ while smacking 14 homers with the Barons in Double-A. With the Knights in Triple-A, the infielder struggled at times but ended the season with a wRC+ of 118 after hitting nine more homers. Sosa should be one of the leading candidates to win the second base job out of spring training.
LIKELY TO BE ADDED
- Bryan Ramos
- José Rodriguez
The White Sox will assuredly add Bryan Ramos and José Rodriguez to their 40-man roster prior to Nov. 18. Both are among the top prospects in the organization’s farm system and exposing either of them to the Rule 5 draft in December would be foolish at this juncture. Ramos is a 20-year-old Cuban who won’t turn 21 until next season starts. He’s a top five prospect in the system and the third baseman showed pretty prodigious raw power in 2022. The 6-2, 190 pounder hits and throws right handed and he launched 22 homers in Winston-Salem and Birmingham last year. The infielder hit .270/.350/.471 with a 122 wRC+. He struggled in Birmingham during a 21-game sample to close the year but he should begin the season with the Barons in 2023.
Rodriguez is a 21-year-old Dominican shortstop who has always displayed a pretty aggressive offensive style but it’s always worked for him. The 5-foot-11-inch, 175-pounder really struggled in his first season in Birmingham but he torched the league to close out his season prior to breaking the hamate bone in his wrist. He finished with a 103 wRC+ and hit .280 with 11 homers over the course of 104 games played in Double-A. Rodriguez doesn’t strike out a lot and he stole 40 bases as well. As a member of big league spring training last year, the franchise is known to regard him highly. He could go back to the Southern League to start 2023 but he could be a big league option by year’s end regardless.
NAMES TO MONITOR
- Moises Castillo (INF)
- Declan Cronin (RHP)
- Johan Dominguez (RHP)
- Caleb Freeman (RHP)
- Kade McClure (RHP)
- Luis Mieses (OF)
- Tyler Osik (C)
- Sammy Peralta (LHP)
- Andrew Perez (LHP)
- Lane Ramsey (RHP)
- Zach Remillard (INF)
- Yolbert Sánchez (INF)
- Luke Shilling (RHP)
- Yoelvin Silven (RHP)
Ramos and Rodriguez won’t likely be ready to contribute for the White Sox in 2023 but their inclusion on the 40-man roster will be a likely example of the roster gymnastics that major league clubs must employ this time of year. While these two players are the most likely to be protected, the White Sox have surprised in the past and there are other potential options to keep an eye on.
Cuban infielder Yolbert Sánchez and Dominican outfielder Luis Mieses are definitely prospects, but they aren’t as likely to be selected this December. Moises Castillo just had a fairly successful campaign in the Arizona Fall League as well but he also seems like an unlikely departure. On the pitching side of things, the front office has surprised with roster moves in regards to Rule 5 protection in the past. There could be a surprise or two this year as well if the past is any indication. Righties Declan Cronin, Caleb Freeman, Kade McClure and Luke Shilling are the names to keep an eye as well as southpaw Sammy Peralta.
Cronin and Peralta were on full display in the Arizona Fall League recently. Cronin doesn’t rack up the strikeouts, but the 25-year-old posted a 3.52 ERA in 23 innings in Triple-A last season. Peralta is a 24-year-old left-hander who posted a 3.70 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched in Double-A before finishing his season in Charlotte. McClure is a former 6th rounder out of Louisville that thrived in his move to the bullpen last season. The 6-7 righty posted a 2.92 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 11 walks in 37 innings pitched for the Knights.
Freeman and Shilling have been two of the best reliever prospects in the system at times. Freeman is a 24-year-old with a high leverage ceiling but the 6-1, 195 pound righty was hurt a lot in 2022 and returned to post a 5.33 FIP to close the year. Speaking of injuries, Shilling has dealt with them as well. He also has a high leverage ceiling but he had some struggles in his return from Tommy John surgery to close out the year. Either guy could be selected in the Rule Five Draft and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise.