For Todd Steverson, the often unloved White Sox hitting coach, the 3 day mini camp in Arizona is a critical time to evaluate the top prospects in the farm system while also creating a rapport between player and coach that often times goes unnoticed by a fan watching the game.
“It gives them a chance to say hi to each other all over again,” Steverson told reporters during last year’s mini camp. “For us, it gets our hands back on them before Spring Training starts. We can get some things knocked out, whether they are mechanical or mental, or anything like that on a level of hitting. It’s always good.” No player is going to drastically change their batting stance or the way they approach the plate during a mini camp. That being said, as Steverson pointed out, any little bit of attention from the coaches helps and many of these players have come from different teams and different hitting coaches. These camps are about getting people on the same page so when spring training starts up next month they can really hit the ground running. During the last few years the mini camps did not really inspire much excitement in White Sox fans. After all, the White Sox were gunning for a championship with a roster full of veterans and all stars so why should a 3 day mini camp in Arizona, where mostly prospects showed up, matter in the short-term? Oh how far we have come. In the past, these mini camps have been good stepping stones for prospects with their eyes on major league debuts. Tim Anderson, now the starting shortstop for the White Sox, attended last year’s mini camp and in 2015 Micah Johnson was at the mini camp and subsequently started the 2015 season at second base for the Sox. So who can we expect to be the next man up?
Steverson has been holding these mini camps since he began his tenure with the White Sox four years ago. Like football fans watching the College National Championship Game last night, looking at the players that may be playing for their team in the next year, the White Sox mini camp in January always features the top prospects in the system. Prospects you can expect to see in black and white sooner rather than later. In attendance this year were Yoan Moncada, Zack Collins (pictured), Charlie Tilson, Kevan Smith, Jacob May, Adam Engel, Trey Michalczewski, Courtney Hawkins, Keon Barnum, Alex Call, Nick Delmonico, Joey DeMichele, Matt Davidson, Dan Hayes, Jameson Fisher, and Keenyn Walker. (Roster compliments of White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin.)
Some of those names should be familiar to you if you have been paying attention to recent moves as a few of these players were not even on the team one year ago today. Yoan Moncada is currently the #1 overall prospect in baseball and was the prize acquisition in the Chris Sale trade. Zack Collins was the Sox first round pick in 2016 and Charlie Tilson was acquired at the 2016 trade deadline from St. Louis for relief pitcher Zach Duke. All in all 8 of the of the White Sox top 30 prospects were present and some of them instantly started turning heads. Moncada went deep over the center field wall batting from the left side during the second day of mini camp and White Sox fans all over the world started salivating. Moncada, through a translator, commented on the trade that brought him to the White Sox and said he was surprised by the trade but appreciates how much the White Sox gave up to get him.Once spring training rolls around fans will be able to personally see Moncada’s bombs in real time and fans can start giving that appreciation right back. Zack Collins has been impressing coaches as well. Scott Merkin was on site at the mini camp and tweeted “Here’s one point taken away from today: Zack Collins and White Sox have no doubt he will be a solid big league catcher. Merkin went on to say “Collins has a quiet, laid-back confidence about him that should play well at this position.” It is not a stretch to say that this mini camp featured the 2018 starting second baseman (Moncada), starting center fielder (Tilson), and starting catcher (Zack Collins).
White Sox fans should be excited about the chatter coming out of the mini camp. Fresh blood in the farm system and no expectations for a 2017 championship means that focus should be placed on the hot shot prospects that have the Sox farm system jumping up every farm system ranking, In some ways, it is weird to see players like Moncada or Lucas Giolito in a Sox uniform after spending several seasons in different organizations. But as they say, good guys wear black.