Spring training is underway, and heading into the 2021 season, the White Sox roster is pretty much set. There aren’t many position battles or potential surprises on the horizon.
One position battle worth keeping an eye on, however, is the fight for the backup catcher spot.
Yasmani Grandal will obviously be the primary catcher this season, and for the remainder of his time with the White Sox organization. Behind him, Zack Collins and Jonathan Lucroy seem to the two most popular names and logical options as the backup.
For Collins, it’s been a struggle for him to find consistent playing time throughout his major league career. There was a time where he seemed primed to be the primary backstop for the White Sox. However, those times have changed with Grandal coming over to the South Side and the blossoming of James McCann.
Even with McCann signing with the Mets, Collins still finds himself in a battle to grab a roster spot this spring. So far, he is making the most of his opportunity. In his first six spring training games, Collins slashed .333/.455/.667 with one home run, one RBI, two walks, and one strikeout.
It’s an extremely small sample size for Collins, but the early success has to be encouraging for him. In a March 3 game against AL Central rival Kansas City, he collected two hits, one of them a long ball over the center field wall.
On Sunday, Collins contributed again, with a sharp single against Rockies righthander German Marquez. In what was a quiet day for the White Sox offense, Collins found himself continuing to swing a hot bat and making the most of his time in Glendale.
Aside from the positive performance, Collins has also changed his catching stance, getting down on one knee while receiving the ball. Defense has always been a question mark for him, but Collins is working on trying to improve that aspect of his game.
He feels good about his progress so far.
Zack Collins sporting new look behind plate: "I’ve kind of switched my stance, catching on a knee almost all the time. That is different and new for me and it felt good. Had a couple good blocks, throwing feels great, getting nothing but positive feedback. It’s been good so far."— Daryl Van Schouwen (@CST_soxvan) March 4, 2021
Unfortunately for Collins, Jonathan Lucroy is off to a great start this spring as well. In the veteran’s first three games, he has three hits and a walk in four at-bats. Given that Lucroy is more of a seasoned big-leaguer, his veteran presence could give him an edge over Collins in the roster spot battle.
The White Sox are a young, up-and-coming team. Having someone who has been around for a while would be valuable to the ball club. The backup catcher won’t be playing too often, so having an experienced hand available like Lucroy makes sense in that regard.
Collins hasn’t exactly been given a fair chance in his major league career thus far. He’s played sparingly, and has been back-and-forth between the minors and the White Sox. However, he’s doing everything he can to earn the backup catcher spot, and him continuing to work to improve his defense is encouraging.
Time will tell if he wins the job, but you have to like what you’re seeing out of Collins this spring. He will be someone to keep an eye on as we move closer to Opening Day.