Inbox: Club's future outfield prospects look bright
Beat reporter Scott Merkin fields questions from White Sox fans
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As Spring Training hits the home stretch, let's take a look at some questions on the minds of White Sox fans.
Is it reasonable to envision Courtney Hawkins, Trace Thompson and Keenyn Walker/Jared Mitchell as the possible future outfield for the White Sox?
-- Andre, Victorville, Calif.
It's actually reasonable to believe their outfield infusion will start very soon, and yes, there is a not-too-distant future when they should all be in the Majors together -- maybe as soon as 2015.
I understand that the White Sox Minor League system doesn't get much, if any, adulation from the astute individuals who analyze such things. But the White Sox have Major League-caliber prospects in the outfield and on the mound, if not exactly depth throughout.
Mitchell has probably had the best Spring Training of anyone in White Sox camp. His athleticism always has been off the charts, and the repetition of activities and his focus on baseball certainly has paid dividends on the field. Remember, Mitchell split time between football and baseball at LSU, lost the 2010 season to injury and played at less than 100 percent in '11. This is really just his second season of baseball, but I still expect to see him in the Majors at some point in '13.
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Walker's raw speed was impressive to watch. Thompson wasn't very successful during Spring Training numbers-wise, but he feels as if he's in a better place offensively than he was one year ago, and that fact stands as far more important than hitting .390 in Arizona. As for Hawkins, reviews for him are as positive as any top Draft pick since possibly Frank Thomas.
I've heard '15 as a possible big league arrival for Hawkins, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was '14. The character of all these young players really impresses me. They are competitive, but get along and understand that one of the others having success doesn't diminish their ability or chance to reach the White Sox.
What trade do you see the White Sox making at the Trade Deadline to upgrade their lineup or rotation?
-- Michael, Charleston, S.C.
It's impossible to say right now, as it depends on the state of the team at the time.
As general manager Rick Hahn mentioned to me last week, the White Sox pro scouts are looking for potential upgrades or improvements for a playoff contender. But the possibility of taking the team in another direction if the level of success isn't what they expected also is being examined.
A left-handed bat has been talked about basically since October, but otherwise, it depends on heath and production, so nothing is certain.
Hey, Scott, who do you think will be the biggest surprise to break camp with the White Sox?
-- Jason, Edmond, Okla.
I'm not sure if there will be any surprises.
Brent Morel certainly is in the mix, and I don't think that was expected before Spring Training began, especially in a utility role. But I still think Conor Gillaspie will make the Opening Day roster, and Morel will go to Triple-A Charlotte to continue proving his back is healthy through daily game action. If John Danks is not ready to start the season and Ramon Troncoso stays with the White Sox, as an example, that would be a bit of a surprise.
So, it's more based on health issues than anything else at this point.
Do you think the White Sox have one of the deepest pitching staff in the Majors?
-- Bob, Lombard, Ill.
One through 12, on paper, the White Sox look to have a high-end staff. But as we discussed in the offseason, there are a lot of ifs.
Can Chris Sale and Jose Quintana build off of last year's great first step into the rotation? Or will the single-season innings highs take their toll? What sort of adjustments can Addison Reed and Nate Jones make after tremendous rookie seasons? How healthy will John Danks be?
Of course, every staff has questions. I really believe this group, maybe even 1 through 15 or 16, stands right near the top of the American League Central. It will be the difference between the White Sox as also-rans or playoff contenders.
Is Paul Konerko going to retire after this season? Is this his last season with the White Sox?
-- Mary, Orland Park, Ill.
I don't know and I really don't know. It's a decision Konerko and his family will make at the end of the season and a decision that won't be addressed by the captain as the season gets going.
It will be interesting to see if reaching 500 career homers becomes a point of interest for a player who never has judged himself by statistics.
Scott, give me your thoughts and stat predictions: Wins, ERA, K-to-BB ratio for the five White Sox starters. Also will Addison Reed make a big step forward? Thanks.
-- John, Chicago
I'm not going to go through every starter, but I will give you the following: I think Sale wins 20 games this season, and Dayan Viciedo, who of course is not a pitcher, has an All-Star caliber year. As for Reed, look for him to be in the 35- to 40-save range.
Are you confident John Danks breaks camp with the team from Arizona?
-- Tracy, Peoria, Ill.
Before Spring Training began, I really thought Danks would open the season on the disabled list. The White Sox understand that the year after surgery probably won't be a 30-start, 200-inning effort for Danks, and they would rather have him strong at the end than at the start, when they can finesse the rotation a bit with three off-days.
Danks has been highly impressive in regard to his comeback and is pitching without pain. He needs to show more results with command and velocity and still has time to do so. Remember, there's no reason to rush Danks. If he returns mid-April or late April, the White Sox can turn to Hector Santiago or Dylan Axelrod at the outset.