Analysis

White Sox: What to Watch for in Spring Opener

The time has come. After a long winter full of trades and new storylines the White Sox will take to the field today with a handful of question marks and a season of intrigue ahead.

This morning I woke up, threw off my Jose Abreu giveaway blanket, ran down to the kitchen, tore off the top sheet of my Seinfeld Quote of the Day tearable desktop calendar, and stared at the date. February 25. Spring opening day. For guys like me who really only have patience for one sport (patience being the key word, baseball can get pretty boring) this is an important date. Today marks the beginning of 136 straight days of baseball before the All-Star break. I waited through an awful Bears season, Bulls meltdown after Bulls meltdown, but baseball is back. My MLB.TV subscription is renewed, my windows are cracked open, and I’ll be popping up a fresh bowl of popcorn shortly. Here’s a couple things I’ll be watching for in today’s Sox spring opener.

Carson Fulmer as a Starter

Carson Fulmer‘s development this spring will be a good indicator of his role with the team moving forward. The 23-year-old right-hander will either earn a spot in the starting rotation out of camp or be put in the bullpen as a long reliever. Obviously with today being the first game of spring training he won’t be on the mound for too long but getting a quick peek at his command and confidence will be nice to get things started.

The starting rotation looks to be something along the lines of Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, and James Shields as locks with Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland in the mix as well. Depending on how Fulmer looks in his spring starts we may see him in the back end of the rotation come April.

Peter Bourjos in Center Field

With the injury to Charlie Tilson the center field spot is up for grabs. 29-year-old Peter Bourjos seems to be the most likely candidate to fill the position if Tilson doesn’t return healthy enough to compete for the job. Bourjos’ speed is a weapon on both offense and defense, and speed isn’t something the Sox have seen too much of in recent years. I’ll again note the fact that Todd Frazier led the team in stolen bases in 2016.

Bourjos has hit in every slot in the batting order in his career but has the most at-bats in the nine hole. Today’s lineup card does indeed see him hitting ninth with Tim Anderson in the leadoff spot. That 1-2 speed punch will be fun to watch should it continue into the season. If Bourjos wants the position he needs to be out there acting like it’s already his. That will be evident from the first pitch while he’s on defense.

Avi in the Outfield

Avisail Garcia is a mysterious player, and I’ve gone on record saying this in the past. Once touted as the next Miguel Cabrera, Avi is built like a guy who should be hitting the ball 450 feet every at-bat but he ends up hitting weak line drives and grounders. In past seasons I would have been mad to see him get a starting spot but this year? Why not.

While I am expecting the White Sox to be better than people are giving them credit for, I am in no way expecting them to make the playoffs or be all that competitive. This season will be a project. Rick Renteria has stated that the DH spot will rotate around this year depending on what players need, and Avisail Garcia has said that he didn’t feel like he fit as the regular DH and feels more comfortable as an outfielder. Might as well see what Avi can do during this rebuilding season. Maybe he’ll be a surprise. I’ll be keeping an eye on his comfort in the outfield in today’s game.

The 2017 White Sox will be fun to watch and today kicks off the adventure. Clayton Kershaw‘s first pitch will be delivered around 2:05 Central time.

Popcorn’s ready.

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