CHISportsNation

The White Sox are one week into spring training and positions that fans thought would take awhile to sort out are already showing clear leaders. Now that position players have arrived at the big league camp, Manager Rick Renteria and General Manager Rick Hahn are starting to show their hand a bit as to who has impressed them.

 

Catcher was a position that was a question mark going into spring training. Omar Narvaez came up from the minors at the end of the season and totaled 117 plate appearances before the season ended. There was some question as to whether or not his job was safe after the Sox gave a minor league contract to former Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto. Add to the mix Zack Collins, the #10 overall pick in the 2016 draft, and the catcher position looked like a tough one to call. Alfredo Gonzalez, Kevan Smith, and Roberto Pena are all in camp hoping to make an impression but Soto and Narvaez have received the bulk of the attention so far from the coaching staff, media, and Sox pitchers.

“I think we are on the same page when it comes to the way he calls a game,” Carlos Rodon said of Narvaez. “Just the way we kind of set up hitters. We always have the same idea. Real good communication, I would say. I like the way he sits back there. Sometimes the way the catcher sits back there kind of appeals to certain pitchers.”  The White Sox are already familiar with Soto from his tenure with the team in 2015 and they hope that he can be a veteran bridge between Narvaez and Collins. Collins has a big league-ready bat but his defense still needs some work. The White Sox do not feel the need to rush his bat to the majors, unlike the Cubs with Kyle Schwarber a few years back. With the Sox not figuring to contend in 2017 they can give Collins time in the minors before he is ready to catch everyday in the majors. Look for Narvaez to be the Opening Day starter with Soto as a veteran backup.

 

The outfield is also starting to take shape one week into spring training. Left field was never a question as Melky Cabrera is returning on the last year of his contract and he had a productive year in 2016 (.296/.345/.455, 15 HRs, 86 RBI). Center field is Charlie Tilson’s to lose, even with the injury he suffered a few days back. Tilson figures to be out of practice of 10 days as he recovers from a foot injury, but luckily for him the coaching staff does not see it as a major injury. With Tilson expected to start in center, right field looked like a position battle waiting to happen. Peter Bourjos, Avisail Garcia, Willy Garcia, Leury Garcia, Jacob May, and Adam Engel are all battling to be the starting right fielder. That group features a good mixture of veterans and young players, but it looks like the White Sox are planning on giving Avisail Garcia another opportunity.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria spoke during camp about getting Garcia comfortable in right field once again, per Scott Merkin of mlb.com. Garcia has always been very vocal that he prefers to play the outfield rather than DH. “My real position is in the outfield. I feel better there,” Garcia said. “I don’t like DH but I don’t have control of that, so I just go to do my job.” It is almost a joke how every player shows up to spring training in the “best shape of their life” but Garcia is very focused on slimming down for the upcoming season. He has dropped 10 pounds in the off season and hopes to lose 10 more by the end of spring training, brining him down to a cozy 248. The White Sox are not ready to give up on the young outfielder because he is still that, young. At 25 years old Garcia still has his prime years ahead of him if he can put it together. He will most likely be the starting right fielder for the White Sox, but expect Bourjos to make the Opening Day roster as a backup outfielder.

 

One player has made his desired position known to the team, although fans should not expect to see him on opening day . Zack Burdi, the #26 pick in the 2016 draft, is confident that he is a closer and not a starter. “I was meant to be in the bullpen in this game. My attitude and the way I approach the day-to-day activities in the game all resonate with the bullpen and being a reliever,” Burdi said. “My attitude is more so like a football attitude. Everything is to play day to day like a reliever. If they wanted me to be a starter, I could find what works for me, my five-day rotation. But I just love the prep and the rehab and just getting your body ready to be ready a day after you throw.”

It is rare that a young pitcher prefers to play in the bullpen. Most pitchers taken out of college were starters in college and hope to start in the big leagues. While most pitchers end up making the move to the bullpen in order to increase their odds of making a team, players like Burdi are a rarity. This should answer any questions Sox fans have had about whether Burdi is the closer of the future. If he had his way, that decision would already be made.

 

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