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When Conor Gillaspie returns, who goes?

Young White Sox position players pose a difficult -- but welcome -- problem for Robin Ventura to solve

Gregory Shamus

Unlike Chris Sale, who isn't on a firm timetable and won't be until he is so stop asking stupid questions with your stupid mouth-holes, Conor Gillaspie's ETA from the disabled list seemed to be quite established:

Conor Gillaspie begins a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte Sunday in Buffalo and will play two more games with the Knights at home on Monday and Tuesday. The plan is for Gillaspie to return to the White Sox for Wednesday's game at U.S. Cellular Field against the Cubs, barring any setbacks.

Well, it's Wednesday, and Gillaspie appeared to be healthy with Charlotte, starting three games in a row, going 2-for-12 with a homer and flashing some excellent glovework. The Sox could only run out one left-handed batter against Edwin Jackson on Tuesday thanks to Adam Dunn's calf bruise and National League rules, so you'd think Robin Ventura would want him in the lineup ASAP.

But it's not particularly clear who will be removed from the roster to make room for him. Every player who could be kicked down to Charlotte has a case to remain with the Sox, although some are more compelling than others.

For instance, under most circumstances, Marcus Semien would be the most obvious swap. It's position for position, he can still refine some parts of his approach in Charlotte, and the Sox could push back his free agency by a year with a month and a half in the minors, if they thought that needed to be a priority now.

But he has his uses as a liberally deployed bench player -- backing up three positions, providing a right-handed counterpart for Gillaspie, and enough speed for pinch-running duties, too. And although his overall numbers aren't where anybody wants them to be, he's gained some fans for treading water while handling multiple positions and lineup spots, as well as his steely resolve in the late innings.

Robin Ventura didn't put him on the clock yet:

"There is stuff to work on, but that's part of it growing into being a player," Ventura said. "When you're up here and you're learning, there will be mistakes, struggles. … But he has come through at the end of games, so that's a bright spot."

And other coaches think he can continue his development in the big leagues regardless of struggles or role changes:

Third-base coach Joe McEwing said Semien could be better off facing "the best pitchers in the world" four or five days a week instead of Class AAA pitching every day. [...]

"His maturity level is a positive,’’ hitting coach Todd Steverson said.

"He can handle [playing part-time]. He’s already had a consistent amount of at-bats where he understands his swing. He maintains his swing well. It’s not like he’s a wild 21-year-old trying to understand what he’s all about. He has a good idea what he’s doing up there.’’

Over at RotoGraphs, Eno Sarris says Semien's found his way into a strikeout rut because he doesn't swing enough.

Generally, he swings and reaches and makes contact at a league average rate. Generally, that produces a league-average strikeout rate with decent power. But Semien himself doesn’t swing. By not swinging, he’s getting into deeper counts. We can assume from his strikeout rate that he’s making the wrong decision late in counts.

This seems to jibe with Steverson's opinion that he has a good idea of what he's doing -- or at least what he wants to do. Pitchers probably aren't cooperating enough to allow Semien's vision to come to life, but Sarris says that if Semien compensates towards league-average levels, he has plenty to gain.

The problem -- if you can call it that, because depth is ultimately a plus -- is that if Semien stays, another young player would have to go. Running down the list of theoretically expendable position players...

Leury Garcia

Case for staying: He backs up three infield positions, and can theoretically serve as a fifth outfielder, too. He's hit surprisingly well (.267/.333/.367) with an irregular 35 plate appearances, and has stolen four bases in five attempts. He isn't considered everyday-player material, so he doesn't need everyday at-bats to continue his development.

Case for going: His defensive tools are obvious, but his execution is sometimes lacking. He's played just 39 innings in center, so calling him a fifth outfielder could be overselling it. He's so versatile that Ventura often keeps him in an emergency case instead of playing him. Regression could hit him hard.

Jordan Danks

Case for staying: He's the one outfielder who makes difficult plays look easy, and he can play all three positions. He's due for some positive regression, perhaps starting with the ninth-inning double that raised his average to .098. He can run off the bench. He still deserves a long MLB look somewhere.

Case for going: He's hitting .098. He'll have to go when Adam Eaton returns, anyway. The Sox can use a lefty on the bench, but it's less useful as an outfielder. He has options, much to his chagrin.

Moises Sierra

Case for staying: He's out of options, which is how he ended up in Chicago in the first place. His performance last season would be useful (.290/.369/.458). He stole 13 bases in the minors last year, so he has some bench speed. He moved Dayan Viciedo to left field when he started on Tuesday. He's due for some positive regression, perhaps starting with his 4-for-4 game against the Cubs.

Case for going: Just because the Sox claimed him doesn't mean other teams would, if they tried going the DFA route. That perfect night at the plate raised his average all the way up to .154. He's not a center fielder, so it'd be all Alejandro De Aza and Garcia until Eaton gets back. And, like, he just got here, so most of his stuff is probably still in boxes.