A great Spring Training doesn’t guarantee success once the games start to count on March 30th. But it is a great way to make a first impression or earn a roster spot. The Chicago White Sox have plenty of players whose stock is going up based on the early Cactus League returns.
Jake Burger has an uphill climb to make the 26-man roster out of camp. Yoan Moncada is entrenched as the team’s starting first baseman.
This means Burger’s best bet is to make the team as a bench player or designated hitter. Oscar Colas’s great start to camp means Eloy Jimenez will likely be handling the bulk of the DH duties. Burger is not a good defender and isn’t as versatile as his fellow infielders, Leury Garcia and Romy Gonzalez.
What he does do is hit, and his production at the plate provides a compelling argument. In 32 at-bats, he has four home runs, six RBIs, and a .898 OPS. This includes a two-homer day against the San Diego Padres.
He currently leads the White Sox in homers this spring, and his round-trippers have not been cheap, either. He is hitting absolute tanks. Combine his spring showing with his small sample size last year, and he makes a compelling case for a roster spot.
Last season he came in clutch. With the White Sox trailing 2-1 in Tampa, he came off the bench as a pinch hitter and hit a 427-foot blast to give the White Sox the lead. On May 29th, he hit a walk-off single to left field in the 12th inning to take down the Cubs. Five days earlier, he hit a three-run shot against the Boston Red Sox that turned out to be the game-winning RBI. He finished the year with a .250 batting average with eight home runs and a .769 OPS in just 168 at-bats.
Ultimately it will come down to his fielding and if the White Sox feel that he can adequately fill in as a depth piece off the bench or as a plug-in-play spot starter. But so far, his stock has shot up.
Oscar Colas entered camp determined to win the starting job in right field. This spring, he has done everything thing the White Sox have asked of him and more.
In his first 21 at-bats, he hit .429 with a .931 OPS. His nine hits were tied for the third most in MLB Training. He has shown the ability to take the ball the other way and hold his own against top-tier pitchers such as Corbin Burnes.
The only thing he was missing was the power he showed in the minor leagues. In 2022 he hit, hitting 23 home runs across three levels. Through his first twelve games, he had just one extra-base hit.
Colas quickly put a stop to that. In the ninth inning, he lifted a home run to deep right field for his first homer in a White Sox uniform.
After hitting his first home run, he told MLB.com, “I wasn’t looking for homers before, It just happened this time, but I’m feeling very comfortable in the batter’s box right now.”
He didn’t wait long to follow up on that performance. The next day he ripped a line drive over the center field fence for his second homer of the spring.
Through 30 at-bats, he has a .400 average, a .633 slugging percentage, and a 1.052 OPS. Obviously, Spring Training numbers don’t translate over to games that count. The competition level will get tougher, and others will adjust once they get a good scouting report on him. However, it’s hard not to get excited about what he is doing.
Rick Hahn was banking on his No.2 overall prospect to be the starting right fielder. So far, Colas has given the club no reason to send him back down to Triple-A. He has earned the Opening Day assignment in right field.
Lucas Giolito’s stock took a hit after last season. Giolito posted a 4.90 ERA, which was 1.37 points higher than his 3.53 mark in 2021. His 61 walks were almost the most he had had since 2018 when he led the MLB with 90. He was once considered the staff’s ace, and now he has to pitch for a new contract.
He arrived in Glendale determined to change the narrative. The 28-year-old showed up to Spring Training looking leaner, stronger, and healthier. Giolito cut 35 pounds from a year ago, weighing in at 245 pounds upon his arrival in Glendale.
This comes one year after bulking up to 280 lbs one year before. The Santa Monica natives ERA ballooned with his weight. It was the first time he had an ERA north of four in the past four seasons.
Not only did he cut weight during the offseason, but he also tinkered with his delivery. The apex of his leg kick is taller, while his landing foot is more extended and widened out on his landing.
“Getting my mechanics back to a nice fluid state, getting everything on time and firing correctly,” Giolito told reporters. “The combination of all that stuff just worked really hard in the offseason and feel like I’m in a much better and more prepared spot, currently.”
“My pitchers are in a lot better spot than last year, but in general, my body just feels better, Gioltio explained.” I feel like I can go out and get after it with all my pitches.”
In his first start, he allowed two runs in two innings against the Dodgers and served up a home run. In his second start against the Cubs, he looked much sharper. He tossed three innings of one-run ball and tallied six strikeouts.
More importantly, he looks comfortable with the new pitch clock rule. He established a good rhythm and worked quickly.
“Liked how the ball was coming out. I liked the pace,” Giolito said. “Overall solid.”
He has the stuff to be a Cy Young-caliber starter in this league. Plus, he has already proven he can pitch at this level and be successful. All signs are pointing to a bounce-back season for Giolito.