You can't say that White Sox camp has been drama-free this spring, but there hasn't been much drama regarding the on-field decisions surrounding those final few roster spots. That's what happens when your off-season is spent signing bench players.
The Sox entered camp with only two available spots to be won; the final bat off the bench (who because the Sox already have 5 outfielders should also probably be an infielder) and the final bullpen spot(s), both of which appear to have been wrapped up.
Realistically, Jayson Nix had his spot wrapped up by simply showing up. Anyone who saw Brent Lillibridge get completely overmatched last year could have told you that. So the easy conclusion drawn by anyone following closely is that the only real decision has come down to whether to take 7 bullpen pitchers or one last outfielder; or Sergio Santos vs. Alejandro De Aza.
Recently, De Aza received some love from FanGraphs (it exists), and I couldn't help but remember a similar sentiment expressed about Jerry Owens. (Though I seem to recall a more full-throated endorsement when he first landed in Seattle. Maybe that was on USSM.)
Owens has been the focus of scorn and derision from White Sox fans who had to endure Ozzie Guillen’s attempts to make him an everyday player, which he simply isn’t cut out for. However, as a fourth outfielder, Owens is actually a useful player. His defense is a real positive at all three spots and he’s a very good base stealer. He doesn’t have any power, but he’s an excellent contact hitter who is willing to draw a walk from time to time, so he won’t kill you at the plate. For a team with a lumbering corner outfielder who could use a pinch runner/defensive caddy, Owens is a good use of a roster spot. These aren’t the only four interesting players on the list – they’re just the four I wanted to talk about today. Teams looking for value will be perusing this list very carefully, looking for guys who offer a bit of potential and come at no real cost.
De Aza may well turn out to be a useful player -- maybe even a 2.2 win player as FanGraphs says, though I doubt it -- but it seems more likely that he's just like the various Owens clones floating around the league, a 4th outfielder with speedy "upside." That wouldn't be so bad if the Sox didn't have three 4th outfielders on the roster already (with two of them defying their talent-relative-titles by being penciled into the starting lineup on any given day). The fact that the drop-off from Juan Pierre to De Aza is projected to be so small speaks volumes about the White Sox mis-allocation of resources. It's not that the Sox are paying $8.5M to Pierre because he's the most cost effective way to add a speedy .680 OPS to the roster, they're paying him more than the league minimum that would be shoveled De Aza's way because Pierre figures to have less volatility in his production over the next two years. The Sox know what they'll be getting.
All of which is a roundabout way of me giving Ozzie a full-throated endorsement to go with seven pitchers. I've seen all of about 10 pitches from Santos this spring, and I don't need to see any more. He's got a big fastball and a functional breaking ball. The Sox will lose him if he doesn't make the roster. And even though he hasn't quite demonstrated major league control as of yet, that fastball and his limited time on a professional mound would seem to make him an ideal candidate for camp Cooper's learn-on-the-fly approach.
Tyler Flowers knows he has to work on his bat, cuz you know there's a key offensive position yet to be claimed
"The only thing I feel holding me back is my offense," Flowers said. "I struggled in camp, but I've made some adjustments working with [hitting coach Greg Walker] and I feel a lot better, like I'm back in it."Great. Walk'll fix 'em.
A brief trip down to the Minor Leagues looks to have been "the perfect solution" for Mark Teahen's Spring Training woes with the bat, which is why the Sox are "counting on his defense." Ugh.