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The first two rounds of cuts have mostly reassigned White Sox prospects to their expected homes. Eloy Jimenez says he’s ready for the majors now, but he’ll bide his time in Double-A camp, biding time between service-time thresholds by answering smaller questions. “Is his knee going to be a recurring issue?” is one. “Will he find adequate Latin food in Alabama?” is another.
A few big-name prospects remain in big-league camp — Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning, Seby Zavala — but Rick Hahn has already stated that Kopech will start the year in Charlotte, and it’s not like Dunning and Zavala are any more ready. Luis Robert hasn’t officially been cut, either, but he’s shut down for the rest of spring with a thumb injury. His locker is between Jose Abreu’s and Yoan Moncada’s, though, so he may ride out the bulk of big league camp for Cuban continuity. (Tyler Kepner of the New York Times wrote a nice article about that.)
Non-roster invitees make up the bulk of roster excess at this stage, and a number of them still have something to play for. The White Sox opened two 40-man roster spots this spring after outrighting Dylan Covey and releasing Willy Garcia. Both of them could be used on a pitcher before Opening Day, depending on the statuses of players healthy (Carson Fulmer) and iffy (Gregory Infante).
Here’s one stab at a pecking order among the NRIs 10 days before the White Sox leave Arizona, and 13 days before they open the regular season in Kansas City.
1. Hector Santiago
4 G, 1 GS, 10 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 10 K
Santiago had a great shot to break camp with the White Sox from the moment he signed a minor-league deal. He fit a 25-man roster need whether the Sox needed a fifth starter, a lefty reliever or a man who can do both. Rick Renteria doesn’t want to give up on Fulmer in the rotation to start the season …
Renteria emphasized that Fulmer proved a lot to them down the stretch last year. Said Fulmer sat down with Coop yesterday and today, Sox are hoping he turns it around over his two remaining scheduled spring starts
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) March 15, 2018
… but Santiago is starting on the same day as Fulmer for a reason.
2. Xavier Cedeno
7 G, 6.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 9 K
If Santiago starts the season in the rotation, the White Sox will probably want to give Renteria a lefty option in the bullpen besides Luis Avilan. It could be Aaron Bummer, whose peripherals (12 strikeouts, one walk over seven innings) outweigh the results (he’s been scored upon in three of seven outings).
If the Sox want Bummer to get the high-minors reps he lacks, then Cedeno could be in position to step in. He’s had an uneven spring, getting touched up in three consecutive spring outings before rebounding with a couple of scoreless outings.
Given that Cedeno missed just about all of 2017 with a forearm injury, he’s allowed to look a little rusty. His track record in LOOGY work gives him some benefit of the doubt, and he’s throwing strikes and getting lefties out this spring.
3. Robbie Ross
3 G, 3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K
Ross was a late addition to spring training, joining the team in early March on a minor-league contract after a back injury limited him to just eight appearances with the Red Sox last year. He’d been a durable left-handed reliever before that, averaging 52 appearances and 64 innings over the previous five years between Texas and Boston.
He’s transformed from a fastball-slider guy to one who throws breaking stuff half the time. Some of that may stem from losing two miles per hour with the injury, but flipping secondary pitches is a trend in baseball, and the White Sox are fine with relievers who don’t lean on their fastball.
Ross, Cedeno and Bummer are all getting regular reps at this point in the spring, so this could be a battle that goes into the final days of Cactus League play.
4. Rob Scahill
6 G, 8.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 9 K
A sore shoulder delayed Infante’s start to spring training, and one has sidelined Jeanmar Gomez, too. If the former isn’t able to pitch past his inflammation in time, Renteria may need a righty in his bullpen. Scahill is doing the best job of the bunch when it comes to throwing strikes and getting through innings, although he’s been touched up in his last two outings.
5. Jeanmar Gomez
5 G, 7.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K
Gomez had been the front-runner before missing the last week with the sore shoulder. Rick Renteria said it was “nothing of concern” on Sunday, but Gomez hasn’t pitched since March 7, and he isn’t included in the schedule over the remainder of the week.
6. Bruce Rondon
3 G, 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 5 K
Rondon has only allowed a solo homer in his three outings, but he hasn’t pitched since March 8 and isn’t on the schedule through Sunday, which doesn’t scream “immediate plans.”
7. Chris Volstad
6 G, 9.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K
A tip of hat to the veteran Volstad, who looks destined to reprise his role as “Charlotte rotation ballast” for a third straight season, but is posting a helluva line in the interim. He’s still on the pitching schedule.
8. Jacob May
.318/.423/.409, 1 3B, 3 BB, 7 K over 26 PA; 6-for-6 SB.
May didn’t survive getting thrown in the deep end to start his MLB career in 2017, and an unimpressive subsequent showing in Charlotte led to further indignities (no September call-up, getting outrighted). Still, he can be factor on a depth chart that has Adam Engel atop it. May has shown better plate discipline and is making better use of his wheels this spring, including this catch on Friday night.
May’s never performed that well in Charlotte, so he’ll have something to prove assuming he heads back to Triple-A. The same can be said for Engel, though, and who knows what Ryan Cordell and Charlie Tilson can truly offer, so there’s a path for May to fight his way back up the depth chart when his namesake month rolls around.