GLENDALE, Ariz, — It was a cold and rainy day in Glendale, Arizona but it’s safe to say the weather didn’t portray the mood at the first official day of Spring Training for the Chicago White Sox. The air at Camelback Ranch was filled with optimism and excitement as pitchers, catchers, and some positional players hit the field today.
Fans were lined up outside of the entrance gate an hour before it opened just so they could get a close look at the prospects and current players that will be participating in Spring Training. When I spoke with a variety of fans about what they expect for the team this season, there was a recurrent theme. Fans believe that this team will be much improved from last season and that they have a good opportunity to surprise a lot of people.
The players were just as excited to be there as the fans were. Carson Fulmer, who spent time signing and interacting with fans was asked if he enjoyed his off-season. He responded by saying: “I had a great off-season, but I’m glad to be back here.” It seemed like he was on the same page as the rest of the players as there was nothing but smiles throughout Camelback Ranch.
Some of the pitchers that were in attendance today included: Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, James Shields, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon, Joakim Soria, Thyago Vieira, Miguel Gonzalez, Carson Fulmer, Nate Jones, Luis Avilan, Dylan Covey, Dane Dunning, Ian Clarkin, Juan Minaya, and Michael Ynoa.
Catchers were also scheduled to report today. Along with them there were some positional players that reported early. Some members from this group that were in attendance included: Omar Narvaez, Kevan Smith, Seby Zavala, Zack Collins, Nicky Delmonico, Matt Davidson, Jake Burger, Yolmer Sanchez, Casey Gillaspie, Tyler Saladino, Luis Alexander-Basabe, and Adam Engel.
The first official full squad workout is on Monday, so it was great to see some of the guys get out there early in preparation for the opening game next Friday against the Dodgers. The positional players participated in outfield/infield work and took batting practice while the pitchers played catch and threw bullpen sessions.
Throughout the day I was able to watch the positional players get their work in on the field and in the cage. One major change I noticed involved the batting stance of outfielder Adam Engel. Adam added a leg kick to his batting stance to help with his timing of pitches. Having better timing on pitches has provided Engel with more drive and pop in his swing, which is something he struggled with last season.
Here’s a video of Adam Engel’s new batting stance:
— Sean (@SeanW1754) February 14, 2018
As you can see, that’s a big difference in his swing in comparison to last season. Throughout his batting practice session, he was driving the ball with more power and there was a less frequency of ground balls that he hit. If Engel can continue to do this against live pitching, then we should see some improvement in his hitting statistics.
2017 first-round draft pick Jake Burger was another player I had my eyes on once he hit the batting cage and I was very impressed. Jake showed off his power and smooth swing which is the main reason he was taken at the eleventh spot in the first-round.
Here’s a video of Jake Burger’s batting practice session:
In this video, Jake shows that he has quick hands throughout his swing and he does a great job of fighting off inside pitches. Defensively, his release point at third base was a little off today, but that could very likely be a result of it being the first day of Spring Training. I’m looking forward to seeing what Jake can do this spring. If he continues to produce like he did last season, I believe he will see his name rise up in the prospect rankings.
Matt Davidson was hitting the cover off the ball during his batting practice session, hitting multiple balls over the fence. Yolmer Sanchez showed up today with a little bit of pop in his bat as well. These two will be fun to watch this spring as they battle it out for the starting third base spot.
Overall, it was an exciting day for the White Sox at Spring Training. It was evident that these guys have great chemistry together as they were cracking jokes with each other in the outfield during drills. Hopefully that chemistry can turn into productivity as this team has officially closed the door on the 2017 season and welcomed in the 2018 season.