About a week and a half ago, I went to the first game of White Sox spring training against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, the facility the two teams share in Glendale, Arizona.
I wanted to a short blog of observations I made of players, as well as about my experience in general. The Sox did lose 13-5, so bear that in mind with the ratio of positive to negative things I had to say about the game…
White Sox Player Observations
Tim Anderson: Hit a three-run homer for the majority of the Sox offense. This is going to be an important season for him. His .276 OBP from last year isn’t gonna cut it, but he did hit 17 HRs which is phenomenal both for a middle infielder and a guy his size. He’s gotta work on his plate discipline (he struck out 162 times last season in 146 games), but more importantly his defense has got to be better. He committed 28 errors last season, good for a Total Fielding Runs Above Average of -13. He also had a fielding percentage of .952. If you’re a shortstop and 1 out of every 20 ground balls hit to you isn’t resulting in an out, that’s a problem. If Anderson doesn’t improve this season, the team may look to the farm system or free agency (Manny Machado wants to play shortstop…) for a replacement in the rebuild.
Yolmer Sanchez: He looked really comfortable defensively at third base, which will be important in helping him hold the starting job there. On the offensive side of things he may not have the power Matt Davidson does but he’s better at the simple task of getting on base and his OPS is still better than Davidson’s despite the 26 homers Davidson hit last year. Third base is really up for grabs going forward for the Sox. There’s not a clear marquee prospect lined up for that position, thus there’s an opportunity this year for someone like Sanchez to prove he deserves a chance there longer term.
A not so glamorous moment involving Anderson and Sanchez was when they and Yoan Moncada somehow managed to screw up a pickle, when after a few throws back and forth a throw from Moncada to Sanchez hit the Dodgers’ Justin Turner in the back. Speaking of which…
Yoan Moncada: Yes this was the first game of spring training, but man did Moncada look awful at the plate. It wasn’t just the first game, in four games played he has one hit, good for a .091 batting average. Obviously, this is just spring training so this probably isn’t worth worrying about too much. It clearly hasn’t dented his confidence, as he’s reportedly requested to bat lead-off. You’ve gotta love that kind of attitude in a young player, and perhaps the biggest test for the former #1 prospect this year will be dealing with/not being crushed by expectation. We have to give him time.
Eloy Jimenez: Eloy without a doubt has the arm to play right field. As much as I hope Avi Garcia sticks around to see the rebuild reach its conclusion, it’s reassuring to see that Eloy has the tools to play the position. Even better, if Eloy’s eventual spot is in left field then his arm will be a phenomenal defensive weapon. He gets plenty of hype for his power, but this team needs all the defensive help it can get (third worst in errors committed, second worst in fielding percentage last season).
Avi Garcia: Robbed a home run at one point, which is really just an excuse for me to talk about how excited I am for Avi in 2018. Last year was by far his best season for the Sox, and if he can add a little more power he could put himself in the MVP conversation. As the prospects develop, the Sox need players like Avi to carry the load and lead by example. In many ways this team is offensively being built around him, so his success will be strongly linked to the team’s success.
The White Sox Bullpen: Simply put, it was pretty awful. Tyler Danish and Brian Clark got beat up pretty badly. Michael Ynoa, who from just watching him warm up in the bullpen you can see his great potential, was throwing everything over the middle of the plate and was punished accordingly. I have high hopes for Luis Avilan and Joakim Soria, who the Sox acquired from the Royals, basically because I think the bullpen is the area that needs the greatest improvement and those two will be key to that.
- Trayce Thompson had a rough day, making errors on back-to-back plays at one point. He is certainly not as good at baseball as his brother is at basketball.
- There were sooooooo many Dodger fans there. Now, given that it’s a few hour drive from LA rather than a few hour flight from Chicago, I understand, but there was maybe 100 Sox fans there and a couple thousand Dodgers fans. This was most apparent when, after Tim Anderson hit his home run, the Sox fans started cheering to which the Dodgers fans responded by loudly booing and heckling any nearby cheering Sox fans. It’s spring training, come on…
- It was weirdly cold for Arizona. It was was in the mid 50s and windy at the game, and you could tell who of the fans hadn’t checked the weather before packing and just assumed it would be hot in Arizona. Let’s just say the stadium sold a lot of sweatshirts during the game.
- Gila River Arena, where the Arizona Coyotes play, is the Tropicana Field of the NHL. I realize this is unrelated to baseball, but I thought it was worth mentioning. I understand why the Coyotes don’t like playing there. However, when you’re terrible and away fans from Calgary are outnumbering you 5 to 1 you don’t have a lot of leverage. Moreover, I don’t understand why them and the Suns (who play in the middle of downtown Phoenix) don’t share a stadium. Neither team can fill seats, why would you not at least share a stadium in order to cut costs for you both? These teams might be getting what they deserve (but I digress).
I’m really glad I had the chance to check out Spring Training, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it has gotten me so excited for real baseball in about a month. Given the current state of the Blackhawks and Bulls, it can’t come soon enough.