Chicago White Sox: Could Jeff Keppinger Open the Season as the Second Baseman?
When the Chicago White Sox signed Jeff Keppinger, it looked like they filled the need for a third baseman. With recent developments in Glendale, however, Keppinger could open the season as the White Sox second baseman.
See, Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie have separated themselves from the other White Sox infielders this spring.
And if Gillaspie—who was hitting .333 and has a 1.278 OPS prior to Tuesday's tilt against Team USA—can win a spot on the roster, it could be as the starting third baseman. In turn, that would mean Keppinger gets the Opening Day nod at second and solves two problems.
First off, if Keppinger starts at second base and Gillaspie is the everyday third baseman, the White Sox will end up with another left-handed hitter in the batting order.
Currently, only two lefties—Adam Dunn and Alejandro De Aza—are in the lineup on a regular basis, and the more balance the offense has, the better. As it stands, it may be too easy for opposing managers to stack their rotation against the South Siders.
The left-handed hitting Gillaspie would provide a nice break from the right-handed monotony at the bottom of the order.
It also answers the question of who the fifth infielder would be.
See, if Keppinger starts at second base, Gordon Beckham—who collected three hits on Tuesday—would immediately move into the role of utility infielder.
Nothing against Angel Sanchez, but Beckham would be one of the best reserve infielders in baseball.
Beckham is a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. He was also a college shortstop, and played 102 games at third base during his rookie season.
Yes, it is only spring training—and early on at that—but this is when jobs are won and lost. Gillaspie is playing his way up the depth chart, while Beckham is doing what he has always done.
None of this takes into consideration the Brent Morel experiment. Manager Robin Ventura has played Morel at third, shortstop and at first base during the past week in an effort to see how versatile he is.
Morel is proving that he can play all over the infield. Unfortunately, he is having a hard time at the plate. In 21 at-bats this spring, he has collected four hits and is batting .190.
With limited offensive options as it is, giving a roster spot to an underachieving infielder may not be the best course of action.
What infield position do you see Keppinger playing?
While Keppinger was ostensibly signed to be the third baseman for the White Sox, moving him to second base would not be a stretch. He has played 307 games at the keystone position and is the proud owner of a .989 career fielding percentage.
This may not have been exactly what general manager Rick Hahn envisioned when he traded for Gillaspie, but it is not far off. Mark Gonzales from the Chicago Tribune noted last week that the plan was to give Keppinger the opportunity to play more than one position.
I’m not so sure that a permanent position change was what Hahn had in mind, though.
What Keppinger and Gillaspie are doing at Camelback Ranch is a pleasant surprise.
Moving Keppinger to second base is looking more viable each passing day. Depending on how Gillaspie finishes, it could make the White Sox quite a bit better.
*Statistics courtesy of BaseballReference.com.
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