White Sox getting to know Ryan Cordell’s unknowns

Injuries elsewhere open up playing time for previously injured fourth-outfield candidate

Between Micker Adolfo’s sprained UCL, Jake Burger’s ruptured Achilles and Eloy Jimenez’s sore knee, the first week of spring training has been a bit of a non-Aaron bummer.

The White Sox carried scores of players into big-league camp, though, which means these absences give oxygen to some players who could use it.

Ryan Cordell is one of them. He’s on the 40-man roster and has a chance to break camp with the big-league club, so he wasn’t likely to be in the first rounds of cuts. Yet he also missed the back half of last season with a fractured back, so he could use early reps to knock off rust and make mistakes while everybody else is doing the same.

Rick Renteria has accommodated that notion by starting Cordell in three of the first five games, and he holds a share of the team lead for most turns in the center field carousel.

  1. Adam Engel
  2. Charlie Tilson
  3. Tilson
  4. Luis Robert
  5. Cordell
  6. Robert
  7. Engel
  8. Leury Garcia
  9. Cordell
  10. Robert

He’s one of the more fascinating players to watch early on, especially relative to his renown. He’s got so much mystery for somebody whose ceiling may be a fourth outfielder.

Physical: He didn’t play for the White Sox after they acquired him from Milwaukee for Anthony Swarzak at the trade deadline, so I didn’t really know what he looked like in the context of other baseball players. The first impression: He’s a big dude for somebody who can supposedly play center.

Defense: Whether Cordell actually can play center is an open question. He has a fair amount of experience there in his minor-league career, but more in an outfield corner, along with some at third base. The early returns have failed to impress, at least based on an extremely unfair 20 frames of baseball:

Cordell ended up sitting on the warning track with his back to the plate because he didn’t have the angle on a drive to the left-center alley. Between the hard ground and the high skies, Arizona isn’t the best place to judge an outfielder. Hell, earlier in the inning, an unsupervised toddler took hold of Nicky Delmonico’s controller and mashed the jump button.

Cordell had company, long story short, and he atoned for his own error later in the game by conquering the sun for a putout.

He’ll probably get plenty of run in center as long as he limits the Dayan Viciedo-like adventures on the warning track. This is a depth chart that resulted in Willy Garcia making more appearances in center field for the White Sox (11) than he did over his last two seasons of Triple-A combined (10). It’s not much stronger this time around, what with Tilson merely trying to stay healthy and Garcia getting reacquainted with the infield. If Engel can’t hike his average over the Mendoza Line, there will be plenty of room for an athletic outfielder who can hit a little.

But does that describe Cordell?

Offense: Cordell hit .284/.349/.506 for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs in 2017, but gravity doesn’t work the same way there. The same can be said at his other stops. Even when you go back to Double-A (Frisco) or High-A (High Desert), he’s played in some of the most hitter-friendly environments in minor-league baseball.

The projection systems take this into account, and they aren’t terribly impressed:

Those lines might be more aligned with his minor-league numbres if he spent Double-A in Birmingham rather than the Texas League, which is the kind of leveling projections try to accomplish. The Cactus League won’t do much for simulating Chicago in April, but Cordell has two singles, two walks and zero strikeouts in eight plate appearances, for whatever that’s worth.

It could be worth a 25-man roster spot if it — his bat-to-ball abilities, his defense, his spine — all holds together. He’s already on the 40-man roster and doesn’t need everyday playing time to aid his development the way Tilson does, so he has a track to breaking camp that others don’t. He won’t summon tweet alerts for his spring PAs the way Adolfo and Burger did, but Renteria is watching him just as closely.

“We’ve seen a lot of his video, but it’s not the same as watching him in person,” Renteria said. “So we’re looking forward to what he can bring to the table. I think the whole organization is excited about it.”

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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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Patrick Nolan


“Hell, earlier in the inning, an unsupervised toddler took hold of Nicky Delmonico’s controller and mashed the jump button.”

Josh Nelson

I’ve watched that video five times now and laugh every single time.

Lurker Laura

Haven’t seen it – link?


It’s embedded above in Jim’s post, just click on it to watch.

Lurker Laura

Ah, yes. With the Cubs player in the foreground, I thought it was a different video. Thanks!

Lurker Laura

Just keep hitting, Nicky. Meanwhile, I will continue my diabolical science experiment to somehow implant Engel’s defensive abilities into your body.

Patrick Nolan

Despite Nicky’s propensity to completely botch an easy one, he actually held his own alright out there last year, so I’m hopeful that he’ll at least be playable. I think he’s a athletic enough — it’s just going to be a matter of ironing out the issues with these reads.

I was really hoping he’d spend the offseason shagging fly balls but yesterday’s debacle is making it look like that wasn’t the case….


High Arizona sky. It wouldn’t bother a good outfielder, but Nicky? I am hopeful that will make him better when it counts.


I can almost hear a “ding” sound like a videogame


lol “Dayan Viciedo-like adventures on the warning track”

Fantastic piece as always Jim. Getting to know more about Cordell and what we can hope for him.


Pinging on Tank like that’s gonna get Ken all riled up. I hope Jim knows what he’s doing.

Trooper Galactus

I think you just said exactly what Jim was trying to do.


Are these the 7 candidates battling it out for ML and AAA OF spots? (4 in ML, 3 starters in AAA)- Delmonico, Avi, Tilson, Cordell, May, Engel, Leury

Josh Nelson

Don’t forget Daniel Palka.


So 4 starters in AAA


But he’s more likely to split time with Gillaspie at 1B/DH and get very little exposure to RF/LF, correct?

As Cirensica

Palka, phonetically speaking, sounds like palca, which is slang for “outta here but like far away”….Palca is a contracted version of the Spanish phrase “pa el carajo” (outta here) only used among Venzuelans.

Not sure why I am saying all this

So yeah…Good article.


Let’s all dance the Daniel Palka! Sorry, best I can do today.


Thanks for the knowledge, All.


Willy Garcia is still hanging around on the 40 man

Reindeer Games

If he changes his plate song to “Big Willie Style” he immediately becomes my favorite player.

lil jimmy

If Leury is in the outfield, then five in the MLB. What Cordell looks like as he walks to the Plate, Alex Rios.

From what I am given to understand, his back injury is not lower back. They are hard to shake and often reoccur. It was upper back, almost neck. It is not expected to be a problem going forward.


Other than being snake-bit by injuries, do we have any reason why Tilson shouldn’t be at the top of the Center Field dog pile? I would certainly rather see him out there than Engel, May or Cordell.