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2016 Charlotte Knights Season Preview

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Top prospect
Top prospect
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Starting Pitchers

It's not real prospect-y but there's plenty of adequate options for spot starts and, perhaps, for more extended assignments. Erik Johnson once again failed to capitalize on an opportunity to grab hold of a roster spot. While he's had plenty of success in the minors, it simply hasn't translated to the majors. The twin banes of too many walks and too many home runs have sunk him and it's becoming a real question whether the bullpen might be the better role for him. Given that he can be optioned, he may have the inside track on early season fill-in assignments if he shakes off his spring training problems and throws well here. But there's pressure from all sides and if he gets another starting chance, it's probably his last.

A lot of that pressure will be from Johnson's rotation mates, all of whom also have major league experience. Spot starts are ordinarily unplanned and, outside of Jacob Turner, the White Sox have done a good job hedging that risk with their depth at AAA. Miguel Gonzalez is the newest addition and the most competent. His three seasons of batted ball witchcraft abruptly ended in 2015 pumpkindom. The soon-to-be 32-year-old was exposed as the back-end starter he truly is. He doesn't get enough strikeouts and doesn't keep the ball on the ground. He gives up too many walks and too many of his flyballs reach the seats. Still, none of those have gotten so bad as to suggest that he can't be a marginally above replacement level starter.

Chris Beck will be doing some on-the-job recovery from offseason elbow surgery but will likely be at full strength in a month. Unfortunately, "full strength" probably won't be too major league-y. Scott Carroll is about as replacement level-y as they come. Turner rounds things out.

Relievers

Unusually, familiar names are largely absent from the pen. The story is familiar, however, with hard throwers who have trouble with command. Daniel Webb is the only notable with White Sox experience and he's well on his way to being no longer notable. Tommy Kahnle and Phillippe Aumont are new faces from the right side, with the former having more MLB success than the latter. From the left side, once-prospect  Matt Purke looks to salvage his career.

Position Players

I've buried the lede by not mentioning Tim Anderson until now. He is the headliner and An Actual Prospect. He's here to sharpen the rough edges around his game -- defense and plate discipline, most notably -- but the 22-year-old is really just biding his time. And whether his time comes next month, midseasonish or in September, barring disaster, we'll see him in Chicago in 2016.

The infield has familiar faces. Former Actual Prospect Matt Davidson kinda-sorta resurrected his career with his spring training performance that showed some semblance of contact skills. He absolutely needs to carry that into the regular season to stop from terminally falling down into the pit of past prospects. Carlos Sanchez and Leury Garcia reprise their roles as switch-hitting middle infield / utility depth. And Travis Ishikawa is once again playing left-handed first base depth with the similarly (mal)skilled Danny Hayes as understudy.

40-man roster inhabitant Kevan Smith and journeyman, though oddly younger, Hector Sanchez will share the catching duties while providing scant assurance as depth.

The outfield has another 40-man rosteree in Daniel Fields, whose most notable attribute is being a left-handed hitter. Jason Coats is very left-fielderish but can somehow fake it in the other two spots. He may not even have one average tool but he's a sorta interesting case study in having all just below-average tools. Jacob May will be manning center and he has some actual above-average tools -- or, dare I say, skills -- in addition to being a switch-hitter. He really does need some reps in AAA but could play his way into the major league outfield conversation as the season wears on.