With Chicago White Sox spring training set to begin Feb. 15 when pitchers and catchers report in Glendale, Ariz., we’re taking an early look around the diamond.
Anybody who asks will get the same response: The White Sox do not believe their logjam of lumbering power-hitting first baseman will be an issue for anybody involved.
Perhaps everybody involved will go in with the right idea on how to deal with the situation, but plenty of questions remain when it comes to how the situation will work. How will Paul Konerko adjust to far less at-bats this season? How will Adam Dunn ever get into any kind of groove when his plate appearances are sporadic?
At this point, everybody is impressed with the raw talent shown by new first baseman Jose Abreu. The reality, though, is the early glimpse at Abreu's ability came in a couple of batting-practice sessions in Arizona. Much more will be known once he faces live pitching, although his ability compares favorably to that of fellow Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, both of whom have fared well on the big-league level.
In the final year of his contract, Dunn can't be pleased with a situation where he can't prove himself before heading into free agency. And the White Sox will probably miss out on the best season Dunn could have delivered them. The facts are that Dunn's failure to meet expectations forced the White Sox to look to the future and when Abreu was available this offseason they elected to pounce.
Gordon Beckham continues his effort to live up to expectations. His latest setback was a slew of injuries last season from a broken bone in his hand to leg issues late in the year. With free agency on the horizon in 2016, Beckham has a lot to prove.
There is no way to sugar-coat it, Alexei Ramirez was a major disappointment last season. His goal was to improve his run-producing numbers but his home run and RBI numbers were the lowest of his six seasons. And instead of developing into a Gold Glove-caliber defender, Ramirez has been far off that lofty status. He seems more than capable of improvement in that department.
The battle at third base should be the most spirited in camp this spring. Newcomer Matt Davidson will get every chance to prove himself, but Marcus Semien and Conor Gillaspie won't make it easy on the former highly-rated prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. The White Sox will not hesitate to send Davidson down for more seasoning if his strikeout totals are high and his defense looks less-than polished.
OUTLOOK: Changes always brings about a bit of the unknown, especially on defense. It has the potential to work out just fine up the middle if Beckham and Ramirez can play to their capabilities. Abreu's defense is reportedly middle-of-the pack when compared to others in the major leagues, but the White Sox quickly disputed that assessment. If Dunn is at DH against right-handers and Konerko hits against lefties, that could bode well for Dunn's playing time. While all indications are that manager Robin Ventura goes with his hottest hand, the guess here is that Konerko sees more time in his farewell season.