Newly acquired third baseman Conor Gillaspie had better continue to impress Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura. If Gillaspie doesn’t, the White Sox may be forced to open the season with Brent Morel as the primary backup at third.
Nothing against Morel, but Gillaspie is better suited for the White Sox 25-man roster.
First off, Gillaspie is a left-handed hitter who can make contact and drives the gaps—each an area of need for the Sox.
If the first five games are an indication, he can provide an immediate impact and has already caught Ventura's eye.
He had two hits—including a triple—and drove in four runs during the White Sox' 14-8 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he ripped a two-run line-drive home run on a belt-high fastball after replacing Morel.
Granted, spring training is barely underway, but Gillaspie is hitting the ball hard and building on an impressive minor league resume.
In two seasons for the San Francisco Giants Triple-A affiliate, he compiled a.289/.368/.420 slash line en route to 40 doubles, 25 home runs and 110 RBI. While he underwhelmed during two short stints in the big leagues, there is no doubt that he has a live bat.
Morel, on the other hand, has looked a bit uncomfortable at the plate while trying to work his way back from a back injury. Overall, he has three hits in 11 at-bats while appearing in all five spring training games.
To be fair, Morel’s career stat line at Triple-A Charlotte is very similar to Gillaspie’s, but he has proven that he cannot hit major league pitching—even when healthy.
Second, Gillespie allows Ventura to utilize Jeff Keppinger at more than one position. And that is why the former first-round pick was brought in.
According to the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales, “Gillaspie was acquired to compete as a left-handed run producer as well as allow Ventura to move Keppinger to other spots around the infield.”
While Morel can play third, he cannot play first, which is something that Gillaspie can do. With Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko both on the team, that may not seem like a glaring need, but it is.
Konerko has missed time the past few seasons, and if he goes down again, the options for the White Sox are limited. Having Gillaspie around is another level of insurance that Morel cannot provide.
Finally, the difference between Gillaspie and Morel defensively is not great enough to justify giving a roster spot to a right-handed hitter who has proven incapable of delivering offense on a regular basis.
Gillaspie owns a somewhat mediocre .940 career fielding percentage in the minor leagues but is more than capable with the glove at the hot corner. Granted, he is not as slick with the leather as Morel is, but he will not kick the ball around either.
To Morel’s credit, he does not appear to be suffering any ill effects from the back problems that have plagued him the past two seasons.
Defense does not trump offense, however. Not on this year’s team, at least.
The White Sox need to be able to generate runs and have lineup versatility.
Gillaspie provides both.
Even if Morel shines the rest of spring training, Gillaspie should open the season on the South Side.
*Statistics provided by BaseballReference.com