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Changes in store for White Sox in second half

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Trades, promotions could make White Sox depth chart drastically different a month from now

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Oakland Athletics
Passing the torch?
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The second half of the season opens on Friday, and so does a period of great change. With the trade deadline 2 ½ weeks away and a few August waiver-trade candidates in the fold, the White Sox front office should be quite busy over the next month.

Here are my guesses for what the everyday diamond might look like when the smoke clears.

Catcher

Now: Kevan Smith/Omar Narvaez
Then: Smith/Narvaez

The playing-time split has been tilted slightly in Smith’s favor since he replaced Geovany Soto, which is a victory for Smith considering the White Sox removed him from the 40-man roster over the winter. I imagine it’ll continue to be divided between the two, as they both have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Smith is the better receiver and can hit the ball over the outfielders, but Narvaez has the superior batting eye and has thrown out seven times as many runners over the same amount of chances.

Speaking of Soto, he could return for late-season action in September, since no other third-catcher candidate has distinguished himself.

First base

Now: Jose Abreu
End of August: Abreu

So far, so boring. Under most circumstances, one could deal a first baseman on pace for 30-100 and posting a line of .299/.349/.522, and under team control for two more seasons. I have the sense the White Sox have no interest in doing so, at least until Yoan Moncada has become a brand name.

Second base

Now: Yolmer Sanchez
End of August: Yoan Moncada

It’s a shame that Sanchez couldn’t have hit .265/.328/.398 over either of his previous two trials, because that’s a good line for a glove-first infielder. As it stands, he’s hit just .212/.297/.323 over his last 30 games, which is the kind of ebb that makes it easier to swap him with the White Sox’ No. 1 prospect without anybody feeling that bad about it. It’s best for Sanchez’s future to establish versatility, although I look at the Angels’ third-worst production at second base and think a trade makes a lot of sense for everybody.

Third base

Now: Todd Frazier
End of August: Matt Davidson

Frazier is hitting .250/.380/.543 since the start of June (142 PA), and .250 might be the best he can do wit his pop-out frequency. The Red Sox and Yankees still look like Frazier destinations -- Red Sox because they need a third baseman unless Tzu-Wei Lin is for real, and the Yankees are weak on both corners. A trade opens up the position for Davidson, whose strikeout rate as a third baseman (29.3 percent) is playable compared to his work as a DH (48.7). That could be classic small sample size misdirection, since he’s struck out in eight of 19 plate appearances as a first baseman.

Most likely, Rick Renteria will want to find somebody who can relieve Davidson during his downswings, which would give Sanchez or Tyler Saladino plenty of playing time. The question is whether Saladino will be healthy enough to take on such a role. He didn’t move from Charlotte to Birmingham to continue his rehab stint during the International League’s All-Star break, which means either 1) he’s ready to return, or 2) he’s still experiencing back problems.

Shortstop

Now: Tim Anderson
End of August: Tim Anderson

He’s under contract through 2022, at the very least.

Right field

Now: Avisail Garcia
End of August: Avisail Garcia

Like Sanchez, Garcia’s development into an All-Star outfielder would have been much more helpful a year or two ago. As it stands, he’s thrust himself into an awkward place — not enough team control to make him an automatic part of a rebuild, too shaky a track record to extend him, and trying to sell him hard probably smells desperate. He also ended his first half on a banged-up 1-for-30 slide to add even more to the short-term mystery. I’m comfortable letting it play out all the way through the end of the season in order to better understand what he actually is.

Center field

Now: Adam Engel
End of August: Leury Garcia

This assumes that Garcia is able to return even somewhat smoothly from a sprained finger. He last played on June 15 and has yet to begin a rehab stint, and considering this season came out of nowhere, nothing is a given. The pre-injury Leury is the obvious starter in center field considering he’s maintained an .800+ OPS for 24 of his last 28 games. That performance gave the Sox middle-of-the-pack production in center field, which was a revelation considering they entered the season with baseball’s worst projection there, Jacob May went 2-for-36 and Charlie Tilson might be in an iron lung.

If Garcia remains out of action, Adam Engel’s glove will probably allow him time to work out his swing-and-miss issues at the plate.

Left field

Now: Melky Cabrera
End of August: Fourth Outfielder Jamboree

Cabrera’s 2017 (.286/.332/.416) is nearly identical to his career line (.286/.336/.417), so teams in need of an adequate outfield bat or useful bench presence should have an idea of what they’re getting. He’s played in 84 of 87 games, so we lack a real concpept of post-Melky life.

If the best-case scenario for center field shakes out — Garcia’s healthy and Engel is relatively productive — you’ll probably some of Garcia in left, as Engel is the superior defender. If Engel can’t tread water and Garcia mans center, this would also be a way to give Alen Hanson at-bats. This would also be a way to give Willy Garcia at-bats, although he was dormant in Chicago for so long that I’d like to see him stick in Charlotte for a while and resume actual development.

For players who are closer to being a finished product, Rymer Liriano is hitting .289/.382/.474 with a respectable 22.6 percent strikeout rate since the start of June. That could be a random hot stretch, but if it’s a sign that he played through the repercussions from last year’s concussion, he might be a better candidate for bench work than Willy. Liriano is two baseball years older than Garcia and already had one unsuccessful cup of coffee with San Diego in 2014.

Left field also looks like the future for Nicky Delmonico, because playmaking has been a problem at third (14 errors in 63 games). He just turned 25 on Wednesday, and he’s hitting .274/.360/.462 while maintaining the slashed strikeout rate (16.3 percent), so the Sox might want to see how whether his left-handed bat can play while rotating between three corner spots and DH. Speaking of which...

Designated hitter

Now: Matt Davidson, mostly
End of August: Left field leftovers

I’ll take a look at pitchers tomorrow. Nate Jones will not be a part of it: