Predicting the Chicago White Sox's 25-Man Roster at the Start of Spring Training

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Predicting the Chicago White Sox's 25-Man Roster at the Start of Spring Training
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Avisail Garcia will open the season as the right fielder.

Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn went to work this offseason.

Hahn signed or traded for a new center fielder, a new first baseman, a new starter, the third baseman of the future and three new relief pitchers. He also brought in Todd Steverson to replace Jeff Manto as the White Sox hitting coach, which could turn out to be a critical hire.

Sure, he gave up a ton to get what he got, but the franchise needed to head in a different direction. So after all the activity this past offseason, who is going to be in uniform for the Opening Day tilt against the Minnesota Twins

Let's cut through it and take a look at projections for the 25-man roster at the beginning of spring training along with each player's ZIPS projections, courtesy of Carson Cistulli over at FanGraphs.

 

Starting lineup

  AVG OPS HR RBI R wOBP zWAR
Adam Eaton .251 .686 6 43 71 .348  1.5
Alexei Ramirez .293 .680 9 56 67 .296  2.1
Avisail Garcia .282 .737 15 59 66 .321  0.9
Jose Abreu .273 .858 26 65 79 .371  2.3
Paul Konerko .260 .721 15 56 46 .317 -0.3
Alejandro De Aza .265 .723 13 56 81 .314  1.7
Conor Gillaspie .252 .698 12 50 56 .302  0.8
Gordon Beckham .254 .687 10 41 60 .301  1.0
Tyler Flowers .205 .661 11 28 31 .292  0.6

 

Let’s start by addressing the hot corner where Conor Gillaspie gets the nod over Matt Davidson. Yes, Hahn traded a top-flight reliever in Addison Reed to acquire the third baseman. That doesn’t mean he’s a shoe-in to make the 25-man roster.

Matter of fact, it is unlikely.

Even though Hahn said “it certainly is possible he breaks with us Opening Day," according to CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes, he should open the season at Triple-A Charlotte because it will allow him to get more work in on defense and stave off both arbitration and free agency for another season. Truth be told, the financial implications of assigning Davidson to the minor leagues far outweigh the defensive ones.

Larry over at South Side Sox summed up how money will impact Davidson’s roster status:

If he is on the Opening Day roster, and remains on it the whole season, he'll have accrued well over a year of service time and be on track to be a free agent after the 2019 season. But, if instead the White Sox have him 'work on some things' at Charlotte until 61 days have passed, he won't and the White Sox will control him until through 2020.

Regarding the rest of the starting lineup, it is set unless Hahn pulls off a last-minute trade involving Alejandro De Aza or Dayan Viciedo. If that happens, expect Jordan Danks to become the fourth outfielder. Jared Mitchell could make a case for consideration, but the White Sox will want to see some sustained results at Double-A or Triple-A before starting his arbitration clock.

Steven Senne/Associated Press

 

Bench

  AVG OPS HR RBI R wOBP zWAR
Adrian Nieto .211 .627 10  40 44  .280  0.6 
Dayan Viciedo .262 .735 19 69 60 .321 0.6
Jeff Keppinger .276 .627 42  45  .299  0.3 
Adam Dunn .205  .738  28  77  61  .322  0.5 

 

The only question regarding the bench is whether or not Adrian Nieto will be on the Opening Day roster. At this point, he gets the nod over Josh Phegley for two reasons.

First, the White Sox are going to see how well Nieto performs in limited regular-season action before offering him back to the Washington Nationals as part of the Rule 5 draft process. The relatively minor cost ($25,000 net loss before salary) associated with cutting him should not preclude the team from taking a wait-and-see approach with the young catcher.

Second, Phegley will benefit greatly from the extended playing time he will receive at Triple-A Charlotte. The former Indiana University-Bloomington standout could still be the catcher of the future, and the White Sox will take the prudent approach by getting him as many minor league at-bats as possible.

Elise Amendola/Associated Press
In addition to splitting time at third base, Jeff Keppinger will be asked to serve as the utility infielder.

 

Starting Rotation

  W-L IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP zWAR
Chris Sale, LHP 16-9 204.3 9.87 2.16 3.17 3.23 5.7
Jose Quintana, LHP 9-7 187.7 7.24 2.78 3.98 3.99 3.4
Erik Johnson, RHP 8-9 129.7 7.56 3.96 4.58 4.72 1.4
John Danks, LHP 6-9 123.0 6.29 2.85 5.12 5.04 0.5
Felipe Paulino, RHP 3-3 61.3 9.25 3.96 4.40 4.51 0.7

 

Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson, John Danks and Felipe Paulino will be the men who take the mound every five days for the White Sox. Now the back end is not set by any means, but pitching coach Don Cooper said Johnson was "penciled in pretty firmly" into the rotation (per ESPN.com's Doug Padilla). Johnson as the No. 3 makes sense. 

After all, someone has to break up the monotony of three straight left-handers, and who better (for the moment) than the home-grown workhorse? Then again, Felipe Paulino could prove that his surgically repaired right arm is fine and take the spot away. Regardless of what happens with the third starter, safe money goes with Danks in the fourth spot.

All that said, there will be a competition in camp for the final two spots in the rotation. As of right now, though, it is hard to imagine Andre Rienzo, Chris Beck, Dylan Axelrod or anyone else taking a spot away from Paulino or Johnson.  

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Jose Quintana has emerged as a legitimate No. 2 starter.

 

Bullpen

  IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP zWAR
Daniel Webb, RHP (Closer) 62.7 7.61 5.60 4.74 4.85 -0.1
Nate Jones, RHP 71.0 9.63 3.80 3.68 3.60  0.8
Matt Lindstrom, RHP 52.7 7.17 3.07 3.76 3.61  0.5
Scott Downs, LHP 37.3 7.48 3.86 3.86 3.78  0.3
Mitchell Boggs, RHP 70.0 6.17 4.63 5.27 5.29 -0.8
Charles Leesman, LHP 107.3 7.13 5.96 6.29 6.12 -1.1
Ronald Belisario, RHP 66.7 7.15 4.18 4.32 4.03  0.2

 

There are two spots/roles that will be determined over the next four weeks.

The most pressing role is who ends up closing games for the White Sox. Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom are the ones garnering the most press, but Daniel Webb is the best fit.

Webb has the arsenal (high-90s fastball and effective off-speed repertoire) for the job, while Jones and Lindstrom both have immense value as setup men and struggle in higher-leverage situations. Jones is not very good with men on base. In 114 games with runners on, he has a .300 batting average against (BAA), an .815 OPS against and has surrendered 84 runs.

In long relief, Charlie Leesman has the edge over Axelrod and Donnie Veal. Veal is too streaky and cannot pitch multiple innings. And even though Axelrod can pitch in long relief, he proved last season to be quite hittable. 

To be sure, there is still quite a bit of time until the regular season begins. Maybe Hahn will find a trade partner for De Aza or Adam Dunn; then again, maybe not. 

More will be revealed. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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