Last year, the lockout shortened spring training and reduced the Cactus League schedule. Less work demanded fewer hands, so when the White Sox finally announced their roster of non-roster invitees in mid-March, only 19 of them were needed to get through the month.
Of those 19 NRIs, only three were called upon at any point during the season. That’s not because the Sox didn’t need to dig deep, but more because the most pleasant surprises were guys like Davis Martin and Lenyn Sosa, both of whom came from further off the radar.
That said, the three guys that did make the jump from this list to the 26-man roster all handled themselves reasonably well.
Here’s the updated list of such NRIs. I feel that I should treat them like tax records and erase everything older than seven years, but Jeff Gray keeps me from doing it.
- 2022: Tanner Banks, Kyle Crick, Carlos Pérez
- 2021: Andrew Vaughn, Nick Williams, Ryan Burr, Alex McRae, Mike Wright
- 2020: Codi Heuer, Jonathan Stiever, Drew Anderson, Brady Lail, McRae, Ross Detwiler, Cheslor Cuthbert, Nicky Delmonico, Luis Gonzalez, Nick Madrigal
- 2019: Evan Marshall, Ryan Goins, Matt Skole, Charlie Tilson, Zack Collins, Danny Mendick
- 2018: Chris Beck, Rob Scahill, Chris Volstad, Alfredo Gonzalez, Skole, Michael Kopech
- 2017: Anthony Swarzak, David Holmberg, Aaron Bummer, Jace Fry, Nicky Delmonico, Geovany Soto, Cody Asche
- 2016: Tim Anderson, Tyler Danish, Carson Fulmer, Jason Coats, Matt Purke, Hector Sanchez, Omar Narvaez
- 2015: Soto, Beck, Carlos Rodon, Scott Carroll, Micah Johnson
- 2014: Zach Putnam, Chris Bassitt, Scott Snodgress, Andy Wilkins
- 2013: Erik Johnson, Marcus Semien, Jake Petricka, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Bryan Anderson
- 2012: Brian Bruney, Leyson Septimo, Eric Stults, Hector Gimenez, Ray Olmedo, Jordan Danks, Brian Omogrosso
- 2011: Bruney, Donny Lucy, Jeff Gray (and his journal), Josh Kinney, Shane Lindsay, Dallas McPherson
- 2010: Donny, Erick Threets
Major League Baseball is back to normal this spring, and there’s even more game action to fill thanks to the World Baseball Classic, so the number of White Sox NRIs has swelled to 26. Only nine of those players are coming to the Sox from a different organization, which either suggests faith in the farm system, or an inability to sell fringe free agents on an opportunity.
Baby’s first spring, hitters
Montgomery, who ranked 38th on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 list unveiled Thursday night, is the big draw. I’d consider Double-A a full-season challenge for him, more or less, so it’d be cool if he came away from spring training with a moment or two.
Mieses was the rare Project Birmingham participant who looked ready for the level, although that’s mostly because he deserved to be there anyway. If you don’t buy Yoelqui Céspedes, he’s probably the team’s best outfield prospect after Oscar Colás. Hackenberg has gotten a lot of run between Project Birmingham and the Arizona Fall League, but his performance hasn’t kept up with what the Sox have imagined for him. Castillo had a decent OBP-forward season in his first season in the organization, complete with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League, although the bat seems like it can get knocked out of his hands.
Baby’s first spring, pitchers
It’s a big season for Burke, especially now that he edges closer to major-league consideration with the uncertain status of Mike Clevinger. He’d be a sleeper in a stronger farm system, but there isn’t much pitching depth up top. Thompson continues to separate himself from Andrew Dalquist and Jared Kelley by being the lone prep pick from the 2019-20 drafts to get a look right now.
The other names are far less familiar. Among the righties, Cronin and Ramsey both pitched with Charlotte last year. Cronin maintained decent numbers despite striking out just 36 batters over 51 innings, but he’s getting grounders. Ramsey’s 2022 was delayed by injuries, leaving him with a July of rehab, a decent August at Triple-A, and an ugly September.
Navarro has the most anonymous background. Guys who debut in the DSL at age 20 usually don’t end up doing much, and the fact that he repeated the level in 2019 then lost the 2020 season to the pandemic means he should’ve been written off. Instead, the Sox assigned him to Winston-Salem for 35 terrible games in 2021 (8.45 ERA, 33 walks to 37 strikeouts over 44 innings), and then had him return there at age 24. Things finally started clicking for him in the strikeout department, and he pitched across three levels for the Sox last year, but he still walks/hits way too many guys. He ended up with 50 free bases (41 walks, nine HBP) over 54 innings. I’m really curious what the White Sox see in him, because the one game of Statcast data doesn’t show exceptional velocity or spin.
And then the lefties. Peralta fared well enough in some tough Birmingham/Charlotte bullpen situations, and capped off his season with a fine showing in the AFL (14 strikeouts over 14 innings). His only game of Statcast data shows his sinker being confused for a changeup. The law firm of Fraser Ellard has climbed quickly after the White Sox drafted him out of Liberty in the eighth round of the 2021 draft. He looked like a LOOGY on draft day, and that’s holding up so far, with nearly a 400-point split in OPS between the two (.490 to lefties, .883 to righties).
Right-handed pitching depth
Middleton has seen major-league action in six consecutive seasons, although he peaked in his rookie year with the Angels in 2017. His fastball averaged 97 then; it averages 95 now. He’s tried to lean on a changeup more, but he’s still exceptionally fly-ball prone.
Scholtens has no MLB experience, but not for a lack of trying. He made his Triple-A debut back in 2018, to give you an idea of how he’s been trying to close that last mile. He’d been used almost exclusively as a starter until last season, when he shifted to relief work at the end of June. His peripherals improved dramatically, recording 44 strikeouts against 11 walks over 32 innings out of the bullpen.
Left-handed pitching depth
Fisher has one scoreless three-inning appearance for the Mets on his record, which wouldn’t be remarkable if it weren’t everything that happened before it. He went undrafted in 2019, and although the Mariners signed him, he was released during the pandemic, so he finished his MBA and got a job as a commercial lending analyst before the Mariners came calling in 2021. They released him again, he signed a minor-league deal with the Mets, and then pitched well enough to get that emergency look. It’s a cool story even if he doesn’t return to the majors, but maybe it’s not over.
Catchers for those pitchers
Rivero has a pair of 17-game samples over the last two years with the Royals, but he didn’t distinguish himself either time. (He’s 0-for-9 with five strikeouts and a double play in three games against the White Sox). At 24, he’s younger than Carlos Pérez, who will be in his way for the third-catcher job. Skoug, 27, has been knocking around the White Sox organization since 2017, but received his first spring training invite after his best-ever season, hitting .233/.369/.456 over 69 games for Birmingham. He’d never hit better than .192 at any other full-season affiliate for any other sample.
The White Sox have an opportunity for guys who can cover center field, because there’s precious little depth behind Luis Robert. Marisnick has the best track record of the bunch, but Hamilton is just two years removed from being a celebrated specialist on the White Sox. As for Haseley, he’s mostly remembered for taking out Danny Mendick. Reyes has had moments with the Tigers since they selected him in the Rule 5 draft in 2017, but he’s played mostly corner spots the last two years, which makes him less intriguing.
Alberto has been effective in small doses as a utility type if BABIP is on his side, and he made himself more useful to the Dodgers by pitching 10 games for them in 2022. His average fastball is 65 mph, so don’t confuse him for a Matt Davidson type with a real arm. González plays all the infield positions well enough to have accumulated four-plus years of service time for the Guardians, Pirates and Marlins, but his OPS has dropped in five consecutive seasons, all the way down to .485 with the Marlins last year. Remillard, the pride of Cohoes and the Albany Dutchmen, reached minor-league free agency but returned to the White Sox. He hit .280/.373/.400 with the Knights last year while playing every infield position and some left field as well, so minor-league managers like having him around.
Perez posted a string of fine performances on his way up the ladder, but Banks, Bennett Sousa, Anderson Severino all received MLB auditions while Perez struggled with Charlotte in 2022. He went unprotected and unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft, but even if he’s on the wrong end of timing and numbers, he can start auditioning for other teams, since he’ll reach free agency afterward.
Céspedes had a decent season in terms of results for Birmingham in 2022, but the 30-percent strikeout rate, and five strikeouts for every walks, lowers the ceiling on his offensive forecast. With Adam Engel out of the way, he can still make it as a glove-first guy who can cover center, and it’s fun to watch him throw.
Saving the best for last, Colás will be the center of attention in the Cactus League. The White Sox have cleared the path for him, with Pedro Grifol saying that Colás “is going to be given every opportunity to see if he can become our right fielder on a daily basis.” His left-handed bat and potential for above-average defense make him an ideal right fielder on this White Sox roster, but the backup plans are far from ideal if Colás can’t immediately hack it. Godspeed.
I know everyone is like me and, after reading that list, was wondering how Scott Carroll’s Doodle Hat business was doing. It does not seem to be in business any longer.
Can Charlotte fire their affiliate? I mean at some point don’t you need to provide them with 25 real players?
Obviously Ryan Poles does a better job of actually tanking but Hahn is a pro at making it seem like he’s actually going for it while giving his team no chance.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what Katz can do with Burke. He’s had some success previously with a 6’6″ righty who could dial it up to 97 but had some control issues. While I don’t think Burke has the sort of spin on his breaking pitches that can give him a ceiling like Giolito, I do think he has good mid-rotation upside.
Sebastian Rivero looks like exactly the type of credible young catching depth that we needed at the top of our system. Hopefully he shows something and sticks around for awhile.
My money’s on Marisnick to win the 4th outfielder sweepstakes (and I expect to see Reyes at some point, too), but I’d love to see Haseley’s talent reemerge.
As self appointed Sox Machine chairman of the Adam Haseley fan club, welcome aboard.
Just for clarity, are you considering 2019-20 when Haseley put up OPS+’s of 86 and 88 to be the initial Haseley talent emergence?
Yes. He looked like a solid 4th OF and I hope he gets back there. We’re on the non-roster post; I’m not saying he’s gonna be an all-star.
Haseley’s never hit for crap and his defense is no longer an asset. I really don’t think there’s anything to be had there.
You’re off the newsletter and xmas card list! 😀
Me and my big mouth.
As the song goes, is that all there is? Colas is a Godspeed hope for RF. No pressure on him…LOL. 2B is still a hole. Clevinger may not play, so we still need another starter. And there is no depth at all until you reach AA. Why isn’t Hahn/Williams signing one or more of Harrison, Wacha, Greinke, Andrus to one year or MiLB contracts? Sure, we’ve reached the bottom of the FA barrel, but do any of the NRI’s strike you as better players than these guys? This is not how championship caliber teams roll. Rebuilding teams have ST auditions, not champions.
Knowing very little of the “newcomers”, it is obvious that the Sox owners are looking for lightning in a bottle this spring training. The free agent system has loads of experience including Andrus, which the Sox should look for safe and logical choices before the season starts with the same offensive liabilities they had during the magical 81win season of last year.
It’ll be interesting to see what they do Mieses in Spring Training. Last year, it seemed like he spent most of his time at 1B which was a brand new position for him.