Spring training is on hold while owners and locked-out players try to hammer out a labor agreement that would open summer camps around the majors to get prepared for the regular season. For the White Sox, Opening Day is March 31 against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.
For baseball-starved fans, some teams opened minicamps for top prospects to media at their spring-training complexes this week. The Sox are not, but they are allowing peeks into what’s going on via pictures, videos and Zoom interviews, starting with assistant general manager and director of player development Chris Getz on Tuesday.
“Today was a good day,” Getz said.
Of course, it was. There was baseball, somewhere, and while Luis Robert, Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu were nowhere to be seen, some 60 prospects in Sox colors were hitting and throwing baseballs under the watchful eye of Sox staff, including manager Tony La Russa.
“These guys are hungry to prepare for their seasons,” Getz said.
Fans are hungry for news about major-league players preparing for their seasons, but until the gates are unlocked for players on the 40-man roster, they’ll have to settle for a little less.
Only a few years ago, while the Sox were in the midst of their rebuild, prospect news carried the day. The Sox had one of the top-rated farm systems with Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito and Nick Madrigal.
That supply of prospects, acquired in trades, drafts and international signings, has been tapped and was used to field two consecutive postseason teams. Today, the pipeline is trickling, and the Sox’ farm system is ranked last by Baseball America and other publications.
“The ultimate goal here is to supplement our major-league club,” Getz said. “We were very fortunate to have players step up last year, whether it be Gavin Sheets, Jake Burger, Romy González, obviously Andrew Vaughn with perhaps a little bit higher profile. Even Seby Zavala and Zack Collins, Ryan Burr, Yermin Mercedes. Not all of those guys were high-profile in the sense of the top of these rankings, but they certainly were able to contribute on our major-league club with the injuries that we had, with the adversity that we were faced with. And that’s the ultimate goal when you’re managing the minor-league system, is being able to provide players for your major-league club when the need arises.”
The Sox have no top-100 prospects after boasting five or six at a time after the rebuild began. Their top prospects, in order, according to MLB Pipeline, are shortstop Colson Montgomery, outfielder Yoelqui Cespedes, Burger at third, third baseman Wes Kath and right-hander Jared Kelley. Baseball America includes right-hander Norge Vera and shortstop Jose Rodriguez in their top five. Highly regarded Cuban outfielder Oscar Colas, who is expected to arrive at the facility in Arizona next week — he has trained at the Sox’ Dominican academy since signing in January — will probably fit into the next top-five ranking.
“The system is a little bit different than perhaps it was in the last couple of years, but we’ve got some really young talent that has some ceiling,” Getz said. “The expectations don’t change. The standards don’t change in regard to how we teach the game and the demands we put on our players. We believe in our development. We believe in our instructors.”
NOTE: The Sox’ requirement for all employees to be up to date on COVID-19 boosters, which extends to minor-league players, has gone seamlessly, Chris Getz said.
“For the health and safety of our staff and our players and also just to be productive and not have distractions and miss time . . . just to be able to go out there and focus on playing baseball,” Getz said. “Once I was able to convey that message to both players and staff, it really hasn’t been much of a conversation. It really hasn’t.”