There are a lot of people who are very excited about February 14, 2017. In both Phoenix and Florida, many Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers will be reporting for action, including White Sox pitchers and catchers at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ. Many fans are commemorating the start of baseball season with eloquent bouquets of roses or exotic chocolates. Frankly, I think that’s a little bit overboard. Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball too… oh, you say those gifts are related to Valentine’s Day? Well, Valentine’s Day pales in comparison to the unofficial start of baseball season. Many of us, including myself, have Sox Spring Fever. You should too, and there are a few exciting storylines to follow this spring.
The White Sox have drafted some great young talent in recent years, many of which will be on display in camp this year. On the Major League side, Tim Anderson will experience his first Spring Training as the Sox incumbent shortstop. Anderson is an electric player, whose speed and defense are both game changers. The ball jumps of his bat and he could become, especially with improved plate discipline, one of the league’s great shortstops. Exciting Minor Leaguers in camp will include White Sox 2016 first round draft pick Zack Collins, 2nd pick Zack Burdi, 2015 first round draft pick Carson Fulmer, and pitching prospect Spencer Adams. Collins, in his first camp, should get plenty of game action. Look for him to prove that he is competent behind the plate and show his left-handed power at the plate. Burdi will be trying to win a bullpen spot on the opening day roster. While that seems highly unlikely, Burdi should get plenty of chances to flash his 100 mph fastball against big league competition this spring. Fulmer will look to prove the adjustments he made as a starter toward the end of 2016 will carry over into 2017, and make him a potentially dominant starter in the future. Adams, in his first big league camp, will look to leave a good impression on the Major League staff.
Trade Acquired Top 100 Talent
All eyes will be on the Sox trade acquisitions this spring, with the majority being in Major League Camp: Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez. This group, all among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects, will attract a great deal of attention for their work this spring, and there will be a lot to watch. Yoan Moncada, who will likely begin the season at AAA Charlotte, will hit some mammoth batting practice home runs, and hopefully have a nice spring at the plate. Giolito, Kopech, and Lopez will finally begin to formally work with Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. It will be especially interesting to watch Giolito, as Cooper works with him to revert to his old pitching mechanics, erasing the changes made to his delivery by the Nationals last season. Similarly for Lopez and Kopech, look for Cooper to simplify aspects of their deliveries to breed consistency and to better command their electric stuff.
Veterans with Incentive
Veterans Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera, Derek Holland, and Miguel Gonzalez all have great incentive to have strong 2017 seasons. Frazier, Cabrera, and Gonzalez will look to improve on their 2016 performances as free agency looms after 2017. For Frazier, similar power output and defensive contributions with an improved batting average could land him a contract nearing $20 MM average annual value (AAV) after the season. For Cabrera, another strong offensive performance in his age 32-season should land him another lucrative 3 year deal in free agency. Gonzalez, who was picked up by the Sox last year after being non-tendered by Baltimore, turned in a very solid season in 2016. With another consistently solid performance in 2017, Gonzalez will put himself in position for a very nice contract extension or free agent deal. For Brett Lawrie and Derek Holland, the storyline is slightly different. Lawrie, once a very well regarded prospect, will look to shake the “injury-prone” label in 2017, his second with the Sox. If he can stay healthy, coupled with making some adjustments at the plate, Lawrie could also receive a nice payday going into free agency. Holland has suffered from a lot of injury recently as well. He hopes that working with Don Cooper will improve his durability and consistency, and that Sox head trainer Herm Schneider will work his magic to help keep him healthy.
So then, there is no shortage of exciting storylines as Spring Training begins this week and as the 2017 season approaches. The combination of veteran contributions with a refreshing and intriguing group of prospects on display will be more than enough reason to pay close attention this spring. It’s enough that I’m stricken with Sox Spring Fever, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. See you at Camelback Ranch. -DV
Photo: Nick Panico, nickpanico.net