As Chicago thaws out from a snowy winter, 1,800 miles away, pitchers and catchers have officially reported for the Chicago White Sox. This means that the season of watching Twitter for videos of players hitting off of tees and playing catch with each other is upon us.
More importantly, this marks the first spring training for the Sox since the talent acquisition stage of the rebuild essentially ended for the Sox. With the fourth overall pick in the draft still to come, and money to play with, the Sox are by no means done adding, but the painful addition through subtraction has finished for the Sox.
This fact has resulted in a completely different energy surrounding Sox camp this year. Instead of answering questions about who will be the next player traded, or how the locker room will respond to an overhaul in leadership, questions abound about who will be the next future star to come to the Southside, and whether the White Sox could even potentially compete for a playoff spot. Yoan Moncada‘s arrival last year was met with pandemonium, celebration and a little bit of anxiety. It represented the beginning of what was a new era in White Sox baseball, an era of sustained success led by young, personable stars hungry to make a name for themselves, and win championships on 35th and Shields.
Strong September’s from all of the White Sox prospects that reached the majors last year, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and of course, Yoan Moncada, left Sox fans dreaming about what could be, as well as who will be next.
This year’s camp features a slew of young prospects that many fans are excited to see somewhere other than Twitter. Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Jake Burger, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning, Zack Collins and Luis Robert are just some of the names Sox fans will be excited to see this spring. Every name on that list hopes to play a role in the future for the Sox, some more so than others. They aren’t the only young talent who will spend some time in big league camp this year. Jordan Guerrero, Tyler Danish, and Jordan Stephens will all be in camp this year as well.
The biggest name left off of that list is Eloy Jimenez, who is not in camp with the team because he is already on the 40 man roster for the White Sox. Jimenez’s absence is nothing to despair about. His time will likely come at some point in 2018, and in the mean time Sox camp will still provide an exciting glimpse into an incredibly bright future for the team.
There is an argument to be made for either Luis Robert or Michael Kopech as to who is the biggest prospect name at Sox camp this year. While Robert will undoubtedly play a huge role for the Sox moving forward, Kopech is the player who’s progress who will be the most interesting to track. Kopech pitched for the Sox in spring training last year, but his progression over the course of his season in Double-A Birmingham and his brief stop in Charlotte last year make him one of the most exciting unknowns for the fans entering spring training.
Kopech showed an ability to control his overpowering fastball and worked on some devastating breaking pitches, which led to him being un-hittable at times in the minor leagues. Kopech could potentially surprise everyone and force his way onto the opening day roster for the Sox. Albeit unlikely, it is something worth watching for.
While Kopech may be the biggest name to watch in camp, Luis Robert will likely make himself hard to look past. At White Sox hitters camp in January, videos of Robert hitting off of tees and taking batting practice were passed around between eager Sox fans. His bat speed, raw power, and monstrous build jumped off the screen and gave Sox fans even more to be excited for. Robert will hope to display his other tools during spring training. He is considered a five-tool prospect, and everyone will be watching for for all those tools during spring training. Although he will not make the opening day roster, and his time may not come until next year, all eyes will still be on Luis Robert.
Robert and Kopech are hardly the only names Sox fans will be watching for during camp. Jake Burger, Zack Collins, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease will all be worth watching as well. Dylan Cease, by all accounts has made huge strides this offseason. Despite being the forgotten piece of the Jose Quintana trade that also brought over Eloy Jimenez, Cease could still be an important member of the White Sox rotation in the future. His progress this spring will be worth watching.
Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning will both be looking to show that 2017 was not an accident for them. Both young pitchers are coming off huge years where they established themselves as top pitching prospects in a Sox system that features a huge amount of arm talent. Neither pitcher will make the opening day roster, but their experience in spring training could provide an interesting idea of when they may be major league ready.
Finally a pair of former first round picks will join the Sox at spring training this year. Zack Collins and Jake Burger will both look to leave an impression this spring. Collins has slimmed down significantly since last season, and has also worked extensively with the coaching staff to even out his swing and unlock the natural power he has along with an elite eye. Collins will be looking to cement his spot as catcher of the future for the Sox.
Burger, the 2017 first round pick for the White Sox, struggled in his brief stint in professional baseball last year after being drafted. Despite that, everyone in the organization is still high on the third baseman. Burger will be looking to show he is capable of remaining at third base, and that his struggles in 2017 were just an adjustment to the rigors of professional baseball.
Even though many of the prospects at Sox camp will not be on the roster when the White Sox open the season March 29 in Kansas City, this year’s White Sox camp will be one of the most interesting and exciting in years. This year’s camp could potentially see the rotation of the future take further shape, it could see top prospects at major positions get their first taste of major league pitching. Their responses to the increased competition will be key.
Soon the laid back, easy going feeling surrounding the Sox will turn into stress and anxiety as winning becomes the expectation, not just a pleasant surprise. In the mean time Sox fans, keep an eye on camp and the spring training games this year as the bright future of the Sox will be on display in Arizona. Although not all of the top prospects will be present, there is still plenty of talent present for Sox fans to follow as they dream of warm August days, and, if everything goes according to plan, chilly October nights.