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The most essential White Sox of 2016: Nos: 40-21

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Jerry Sands is the 25th man to open the season, but he's 29th in this program

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Sands is your 25th man, and your annual reminder that spring training stats don't carry all that much weight.

Amid a deluge of outstanding offensive springs by fringe White Sox hitters, Sands was a reverse oasis. He hit .188/.245/.396 with 18 strikeouts over 53 plate appearances, and it was front-loaded. He hit two homers on March 20, then went 1-for-16 over the rest of his spring.

But hey, he did break the tie in Friday night's exhibition game in San Diego. Perhaps he's playing with house money now.

As far as late-developing roster situations go, this is far closer to "2012 Lastings Milledge" than "2008 Carlos Quentin." As I'd mentioned here and on the podcast, I thought Ishikawa's lack of options might be an obstacle to his rostering. If he started the season on the 25-man roster and the Sox realized they don't need his abilities around first base, they'd have to work to get him back to Charlotte. If a team claimed him, they'd lose a skill they don't have in the high minors.

I just thought they'd use somebody with options and more flexibility in Ishikawa's stead, because the newfound roster flexibility might create opportunities the White Sox didn't originally foresee, and I don't think Sands has staying power. Robin Ventura had a reason for this initial assignment ...

‘‘He can come off the bench and hit a lefty; he’s had great numbers always against lefties,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘In the past, we haven’t had that great of a look from that side when they bring in a lefty from the bullpen. He does a lot of things we’ve been looking for.’’

... but when you think of the lefties he might pinch-hit for -- Alex Avila means Dioner Navarro comes in, burning two players for one move, Melky Cabrera's splits last year might be an aberration, and Jimmy Rollins is a veteran -- I don't know if the usage will be there.

At any rate, now that the 25-man roster is set, so is my list of the 40 most essential White Sox this season. It's basically the fulcrum discussion with a larger scope. I started it last year with a two-part post, and so I'll just crib the criteria from it:

  1. Amount/importance of expected production
  2. Replaceability (or lack thereof)
  3. Chance of measurable impact (for prospects)

Looking back at last year's list, the disappointments include all but one player from the Nos. 5-14 range. That's a pretty good way to never look like a real contender.

No. 40: Scott Carroll

As long as he's around, he stands a chance of appearing on the MLB roster in some capacity. Fastball!

No. 39: Travis Ishikawa

For the reasons he could've been a reasonable 25th man -- he's left-handed and a good defensive first baseman. Should the Sox need that combo for any stretch, he might be called upon, but if Matt Davidson ends up solving Charlotte, he could get stuck.

No. 38: Jason Coats

With Sands starting the year with the big club, he'll be fighting Daniel Fields for "top minor-league corner outfielder" status. Fields is on the 40-man, but Coats got more run in spring training.

No. 37: Daniel Webb

Given how early he was sent down, I don't think the Sox will be especially eager to call upon him if the need for bullpen help arises, especially if kindred spirits Tommy Kahnle and Phillippe Aumont outproduce him in Charlotte.

No. 36: Kevan Smith
No. 35: Hector Sanchez

Your candidates for third catcher. Sanchez has major league experience and spent all of spring with the big club, but Smith might be able to hit .192/.230/.308 like Sanchez did over his last two seasons with the Giants.

No. 34: Chris Beck

Charlotte's rotation is crowded with similarly qualified pitchers, and Beck still has to build himself up from last year's elbow problems. But he's on the roster, whereas Carroll isn't.

No. 33: Leury Garcia

He might fashion a major-league career yet, but the Sox don't have as great of a need for his versatility this year, what with three multi-position infield guys in front of him, and three outfielders who can play center on the 25-man roster.

No. 32: Latham's Tommy Kahnle

Both Kahnle and Webb have pitched ~100 MLB innings over the last two years, but Kahnle 1) has fared a little better, and 2) hasn't disappointed the White Sox personally yet. He could be the first reliever up, but he'll be kept honest.

No. 31: Matt Davidson

The White Sox don't have a fully entrenched solution at DH yet, so if this spring was somehow not a mirage, he might not need all that big of a break to finally make his White Sox debut.

No. 30: Jacob Turner

He's off the 40-man roster, but he's still making $1.5 million. Mixed signals abound regarding his prospects.

No. 29: Jerry Sands

He's already a factor because he's on the Opening Day roster, and he's probably the backup first baseman on days Abreu isn't playing, but if Avisail Garcia exceeds expectations, there's not a whole lot for him in Chicago.

No. 28: Carlos Sanchez

While Sanchez isn't playing, Sanchez is a Brett Lawrie injury away from getting another good look, and a Brett Lawrie injury isn't all that uncommon. He offers MLB-grade defense, so he's a decent stopgap starter in such a situation.

No. 27: Erik Johnson

After watching him struggle in two Cactus League starts, here's my operating theory: He can't tread water in the majors without his best fastball, and most guys don't have their best fastball at the start of spring training. If it returns to him in Charlotte, he'll handle the competition there and be in line for sixth-starter work. 'Twas ever thus.

No. 26: J.B. Shuck

Even though he's a poor man's Adam Eaton on a roster with Actual Adam Eaton, his job was never in doubt. He became Robin Ventura's favorite pinch hitter by being a contact-oriented tough out in 2015, so he'll probably have to play himself out of that job. It could happen.

No. 25: Tim Anderson

If all goes to plan, Anderson won't have to be in Chicago until September. He could force the issue sooner, but that would be a luxury.

No. 24: Carson Fulmer

If you believe the spring-training hype, he could start receiving starts before the trade deadline. If you think the Sox were touting him more because the competition was unimpressive, he might still be in bullpen plans for a stretch drive.

No. 23: Matt Albers
No. 22: Zach Putnam

The White Sox' fourth and fifth righties in the bullpen. I'd put Albers ahead of Putnam if he'd thrown a little more than 47 innings over the last two seasons combined, but this discussion is a sign of good right-handed depth regardless.

No. 21: Dan Jennings

Here's a sign of worrisome left-handed depth, as everything about Jennings is interchangeable except the arm he uses to throw. Zach Phillips had the best shot of unseating him as the second lefty, but now that he's out of the organization, Jennings doesn't have any natural challengers.