As the Chicago White Sox get set for their final 18 Cactus League games, several players have stood out. Some have seen their stock rise, while others have had their stock fall in advance of what is going to be a transitional season.
And make no mistake, the 2014 campaign will be one of discovery for the White Sox.
Now much of that discovery will be centered on how some newly acquired players fit into manager Robin Ventura’s system, while some will regard how prepared a handful of prospects are to take the next step in their development.
It must be noted here that guys like Adam Eaton and Alejandro De Aza will not be included in this discussion. See, even though Eaton has a 1.230 OPS and De Aza is slugging .471, they are already on the 25-man roster. Stocks don't get much higher than that, do they?
No, they don't, so we will look at players vying for a spot on the White Sox's Opening Day roster or prospects who are all but assured to begin the season at Double-A or Triple-A.
Regardless, the first three weeks of spring training have been revelatory. Let's take a look.
Yes or no: A long-relief man is more important than a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy).
Stock on the Rise
Charlie Leesman and Donnie Veal
In four appearances covering 5.1 innings, Leesman has struck out five batters, walked one and has given up four hits. He did need 44 pitches to make it through two innings against the Kansas City Royals during his third appearance, but he has looked sharp otherwise
Veal, on the other hand, has been dominant.
In four innings, the left-hander has allowed one walk and has a 0.250 WHIP. He’s only recorded two strikeouts so far but has looked quite sharp with his location and delivery. And after last season’s mercurial performance, consistency will be the key for Veal.
One thing to consider here is that Leesman has a 9.5 opposition quality (OQ) while Veal’s OQ is a rather meager 7.6, according to Baseball-Reference. And on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being MLB-caliber hitting, that gives Leesman a slight edge. It will be interesting to see how the rest of spring training plays out for these two.
Since surrendering a two-run home run during his first appearance against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jake Petricka has been untouchable. In his last three outings, he has four strikeouts and has thrown 19 straight pitches for strikes, according to the splits available at WhiteSox.com.
Sure Petricka’s OQ is only 7.7, but he has dominated those hitters and struck out the side against the Seattle Mariners last week. He will likely open the season at Triple-A Charlotte, but if he continues to impress, he may be the first reliever called up if someone underperforms or hits the disabled list.
Carlos Sanchez has been nothing short of fantastic this spring. At the plate, he is hitting .545 and has a 1.182 OPS with two stolen bases and four runs driven in. In the field, he has been fluid at second base and has spent some time at shortstop. That type of versatility will play well into his future at the major league level.
The timing couldn’t be better for Sanchez. On the heels of a disappointing campaign in 2013, he “boosted his status and expectations once again following a strong Winter League effort in Venezuela,” according to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. Couple that showing with his performance to this point, and the sky is the limit for the middle infielder.
On March 6, against the Royals, Micah Johnson went 3-for-5 with a stolen base and two runs scored. Four days later, he ran for Beckham in the sixth inning, hit a single in his only at-bat and scored two runs. It is that type of production that has many excited about his future.
Johnson simply makes the most out of whatever is presented. To top it all off, he has a 9.3 OQ, which means he is doing this damage against the players that matter. On the spring, he is hitting .556 with five hits in nine at-bats.
Matt Davidson has been a disappointment. Truth be told, that is an understatement. In 19 plate appearances, the 22-year-old had two hits (both of them doubles) and one walk, while striking out three times.
To be sure, it wasn’t as though he was supposed to come in and be the best player in camp, but his swing has looked long and almost anything off-speed seems to mystify him. How poor he has looked is quite surprising.
He will need a few at-bats in Triple-A before getting the permanent call to man the hot corner. That was probably the expectation coming into spring training, though.
After batting .308 with an .802 OPS for the White Sox in 19 games last season, a few things were expected out of Marcus Semien this spring. Granted, making the 25-man roster was not one of them, but it was hoped that he would be able to build off the momentum he created last year. So far, he has done everything but.
In 13 at-bats, Semien has done next to nothing (.231/.333/.231) and has looked out of sorts at the plate. His struggles coupled with Davidson’s poor play leave Conor Gillaspie “the only real certainty to be ready for third” when the bell rings this season, per the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan.
Felipe Paulino wasn’t brought in to turn the starting rotation into a World Series-caliber unit. He will, however, be asked to do more than trot out to the mound every five days. Unfortunately, things are not going well for the right-hander so far this spring.
Based on the early results, what is the position most concerning for you?
In two starts covering 4.2 innings, Paulino has allowed seven earned runs, 12 hits and has a 3.000 WHIP. He is averaging a solid 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and has a 9.4 OQ, but he’s getting hit quite hard.
The way things are going, Paulino’s not even guaranteed a roster spot, according to Sullivan. His showing thus far had been quite problematic, and his stock has fallen considerably.
There are concerns outside these three, of course.
At the plate, Jose Abreu (.154/.214/.462) is off to a slow start and all three catchers—Tyler Flowers, Josh Phegley and Adrian Nieto—are hitting below .215. On the mound, Mitchell Boggs has looked pedestrian at times and Matt Lindstrom is battling an oblique injury which has kept the competition for the closer's role largely on hold.
It’s early, though. The roster is far from set.
There is still plenty of time for guys like Paulino, Flowers and Phegley to assuage our concerns.
Then again…maybe not.