GLENDALE, Ariz. — Thousands of ground balls, hundreds of pitchers’ fielding practices, numerous daily meetings and 29 Cactus League games later, the White Sox are done with spring training, ready to embark on Year 3 of the organization’s rebuild.
Exhibition games against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Monday night and Tuesday afternoon need to be checked off before Opening Day on Thursday in Kansas City.
But spring training is over, to which every player shouts, “Hurrah!”
Here’s what’s worth shouting about, both good and bad, about spring training 2019 for manager Rick Renteria’s Sox.
What was bad
1 Manny Machado signed with the Padres on Feb. 21. After a buildup that began in November, stoked by the organization’s public pursuit of the player, the Sox swung and missed at a golden opportunity to kick their long-term plan into high gear. But their unwillingness to commit to 10 guaranteed years and $300 million spelled defeat in the Machado sweepstakes, while raising skepticism about their desire to spend what it takes to convert on top-tier free agents in the future.
2 Dane Dunning underwent Tommy John surgery March 18, following top pitching prospect Michael Kopech (who would’ve been one of the big stories of the spring) on the surgeon’s table in the latest of a long line of major injuries to top prospects. A year ago, the 80th-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, was trending toward a spot in the 2019 rotation, somewhere behind Kopech.
3 Prospects Luis Basabe (broken hamate bone), Luis Robert (thumb) and Seby Zavala (quadriceps) had much less serious health issues but setbacks nonetheless. On the major-league side, outfielders Daniel Palka (hamstring) and Jon Jay (hip) and right-hander Ian Hamilton (shoulder) missed significant chunks of time with injuries. The team’s home-run leader in 2018, Palka batted .152 with no home runs and missed out on playing time in the outfield, where he needs work.
4 Right-handers Lucas Giolito and Nate Jones got lit up. The No. 4 starter in the rotation, Giolito (8.84 spring ERA) came to camp with a new arm swing but followed a year of leading the American League in walks and earned runs with even worse results, giving up 27 hits and eight walks in 18„ innings. Jones hasn’t pitched on consecutive days and needed a scoreless inning (with hard contact) against the Angels in his last outing to lower his spring ERA to 12.71. The 33-year-old allowed 12 hits and four walks in 5‰ innings of relief.
5 Their record. Wins and losses don’t mean too much in the spring, but Renteria made winning a point of emphasis in the aftermath of 95- and 100-loss seasons, and the team posted a 10-17-2 mark, the second-worst in the Cactus League.
What was good
1 Super prospect Eloy Jimenez signed a six-year, $43 million contract Saturday, the most money awarded a player with no major-league experience. It again demonstrated the Sox’ plan to lock up young players for the long term, and Jimenez celebrated the record deal by going 5-for-7 with a walk and homer in his next two games.
2 While making the transition from second base to third base without incident, Yoan Moncada’s extra offseason work at the plate seemed to pay off with a .354 average (17-for-48 with three homers, four doubles, a triple and 11 walks) and 1.117 OPS. What’s more, he hit well from both sides of the plate.
3 Tim Anderson (.294), Jose Abreu (.317, four homers, 17 RBI), James McCann (.333) and Leury Garcia (.440, 1.115 OPS) all posted good offensive numbers. Yonder Alonso hit .215 but ranked among Cactus leaders with five homers, three to the opposite field.
4 Danny Mendick, the infielder with the ‘‘Hey, Mom, I played against Mike Trout today!’’ quote, was that under-the-radar minor-leaguer who made a name for himself. He led the Sox with 23 games played and returns to the minors with a .333/.452/.636 slash line, two homers, four doubles and 10 RBI in his pocket. Only Abreu and Alonso (13) had more RBI.
5 Robert, the prized 21-year-old center-field prospect, went 5-for-13 with two triples, a double and a game-winning homer in the ninth inning, then hurt his troublesome thumb on a slide in a minor-league game the next day. In minor-league camp, he continued to impress after recovering. Other prospects who stood out: right-handers Ryan Burr (who made the team), Jimmy Lambert and Jose Ruiz, infielders Nick Madrigal and Laz Rivera and outfielder Blake Rutherford.