New kids on the block had a strong showing at full squads

New club, new me: Nomar Mazara is all smiles as he heads out to the field in his first day with the White Sox. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


Today was the first opportunity for White Sox fans to get a look at the more complete package of what the team will be putting out on the field this season. Everyone has officially reported, and after a later-than-usual start, the team took the field for standard batting practice and fielding drills. The only difference today was that major league players were grouped together and the prospects worked separately on a different field.


One of the biggest positional story lines heading into the regular season concerns second base. The White Sox have done a great job of upgrading the roster this offseason, but second base is still a hole while we wait patiently for Nick Madrigal to take over after the first month or so of the season. Madrigal has spent time working in the field with the regular big leaguers, but today he was sent off with the other prospects when the team broke off into fielding drills. Leury García and Danny Mendick took turns fielding grounders at second base with the rest of the guys to start the day. García would end up staying put at second base, but Mendick shifted around and got some reps in at shortstop and third base as well. Could this be a sign of the job being either García’s or Mendick’s to lose? Time will tell, but it’s worth noting that those two got the first set of reps with the full squad present in Glendale this afternoon.


After spending the past few days working behind the scenes, Yoán Moncada went back to work with the rest of the team today and he looked like one of the best of the bunch. During fielding drills, he made on error by letting a ball get through his legs, but aside from that, he was fantastic in the field. He handled nearly every grounder with ease and all of his throws across the diamond and to second base were right where they needed to be. After fielding drills were finished, Moncada took batting practice, where he continued to shine. All of his work came from the left side of the plate, and he demolished the ball all afternoon.


Speaking of everyone being present, Nomar Mazara hit the field today for his first official workout with the team. I did not have a chance to watch him in the field, but I did sit through his full rounds of batting practice, where he put on a show. He put together better rounds than everyone besides Moncada. Mazara’s hitting session consisted of mainly line drives and deep fly balls; granted it’s only batting practice, but you can see the power potential in his bat.

For a while, it seemed like the White Sox might explore external platoon options with Mazara because he’s had a rough time with left-handed pitching. However, with everyone being in Glendale, it seems like the White Sox are going to roll with what they have. There has been mentions of the team having confidence in what Mazara brings to the table and that he will get the bulk of the playing time in right field. The club’s new hitting coach, Frank Menechino, watched Mazara closely this afternoon as he was hitting and frequently gave him praise throughout his session. Mazara is a bit of a project, thus there’s still some potential that can be unlocked there. It seems like the White Sox are going to give him every opportunity to break out and reach that potential this season.


In addition to Mazara, White Sox fans also got to see Edwin Encarnación for the first time this afternoon. Before swinging the bat, he participated in fielding drills at first base. He made a handful of errors and you could tell he is still getting some of the dust off his glove, but he was fine at that position for the most part. Encarnación participated in live batting practice against pitchers and also regular batting practice with coaches pitching to him. His session went just about how you would expect: He showed easy power and drove the ball to all fields. It didn’t seem like Encarnación was going at full speed, but he still managed to put together some loud sessions.


Now that the full squad is finally together, we are getting closer to seeing what the finished product will be. There are still some holes to fill, but soon that will no longer be the case. Cactus League games are coming up fast, and it will be interesting to see who can carry the momentum from camp into game action and who will win roster spot battles. The team is back together, the players are having fun, and we are just a few days away from seeing all the hard work they put in all offseason on display as the spring training season opens.

Welcome to the La Pantera party!

It’s go time: Luis Robert arrived at Camelback Ranch today, ready to get his 2020 season started. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


We are one day away from position players officially having to report to spring training. Luckily for the White Sox, most  are already in Arizona, and have been for a few weeks, and the team is just waiting on a few more guys before they have the full squad together.

Today, Luis Robert arrived at Camelback Ranch, and White Sox fans got a first look at their Opening Day center fielder.

If you follow Robert on social media, you know he’s put in a ton of work this offseason. It seemed like he was not familiar with a day off, as he was constantly posting workout or BP videos. This afternoon, Robert took batting practice, and then shagged fly balls in center field while other players were hitting. He looked like a guy who came prepared, and with the way he was swinging the bat you would’ve thought that this was not his first official workout and that he has been at spring training for a month already.

In center field this afternoon, Robert was equally as impressive as he was in the batter’s box. He was not taking it easy on his first day, going full speed in the outfield and covering a lot of ground to make a hard play look routine. After he was done in the field, Robert practiced foot first slides (please continue to do that and protect that thumb, Luis!) before he called it a day.

Robert probably was the most impressive player on the field today, which is easy for him because he is blessed with all those tools and has the body of a Greek god. Even on his “bad” days, Robert can still look better than the average player.


Yasmani Grandal has been around Camelback Ranch for a while, but he’s strictly been working with pitchers and hasn’t done much hitting due to a mild calf strain that will keep him out of the first week of games. Today we got to see him take batting practice, and he got all of his work in from the right side of the plate. As a veteran, you would expect Grandal to be more prepared than some of the other guys (even factoring in his injury), but he still managed to impress. Grandal drove the ball consistently, with easy power. Obviously Grandal’s defense and ability to make pitchers better will make him well worth the money that the White Sox invested in him, but he’s a huge upgrade on offense, too, which was obvious this afternoon.


Another outfielder who had a good day was Adam Engel. He was driving the ball all over the field in batting practice and had some of the best rounds among all participants today. Take that with a grain of salt though, because we have seen this a few times in years past. It seems like Engel always comes prepared and looks good during spring training, but once the season starts we see a completely different player. Engel would be useful as a defensive replacement, but if he wants to have any kind of role beyond that he’s going to have to earn it. He hit well against lefties last season, so there’s the possibility that he can be used in a platoon role. However, 2019 was the first time in his career where Engel showed he can be successful in those situations — again, he will have to earn it if he wants to maintain a platoon role.


Today was another somewhat quiet day at Camelback Ranch, but the sound of Robert’s bat woke up everyone in the Glendale area. Tomorrow marks the first official full squad workout, as everyone on the spring training roster will be in camp. Baseball is finally back, and we will soon get a look at more of the players that Rick Hahn and Co. brought in this offseason. I expect the vibe to be a little more loose moving forward, as some of the players will be reuniting for the first time in months.

Exciting times are on the horizon for the White Sox — and tomorrow will be the true beginning of that.

Camelback Confidential: Beefed-up rookies impress

The Magic Man: Nick Madrigal is getting ready to take over second base in the not-so-distant future. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)


The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. as pitchers, catchers, and the position players who have reported early took the field this afternoon for batting practice and fielding work at the complex.

What was otherwise a quiet day was broken up at times by Eloy Jiménez‘s laugh and infectious personality, echoing throughout the back fields. He was excited to be there, as well as the rest of the guys, all who appeared to be having a good time. But when it came time to work, they were all business as well.

Speaking of being all business, Blake Rutherford participated in today’s workout and there were mentions of him hitting the weight room during the offseason. After seeing Rutherford in person today, I can confirm that he definitely looks like he’s packed on a lot of muscle and overall, he looks really good heading into the spring. He took batting practice this afternoon and had some of the best rounds among all participants. Even though it’s just batting practice — which can make anyone look good — Rutherford was consistently driving the ball, and the ball was exploding off his bat all afternoon.

After struggling in Double-A last season, the clock is ticking with Rutherford and he needs to find a way to make himself stand out if he wants to earn a role in Chicago down the line. Perhaps today was the start of that for him. His launch angle was solid during batting practice, and if he can continue to do that there’s potential for Rutherford to have a major increase in power this season when factoring in his added muscle as well.

Joining Rutherford in the unofficial White Sox offseason weight club was Nick Madrigal, who also came to spring training looking more filled out. Madrigal has talked about strength training being a focus of his since he joined the organization, and he backed that up by displaying a more muscular build at Camelback Ranch today. Madrigal didn’t hit this afternoon, but he did go through fielding drills, where he excelled just as you’d expect. Madrigal went through standard drills that involved fielding grounders and either flipping them to second base or throwing to first base. He was getting some reps with regulars like Tim Anderson and José Abreu. With Anderson and Madrigal working on turning double plays together, fans in attendance got a glimpse into the future.

White Sox 2019 first round selection Andrew Vaughn also took the field today to work on defense with the rest of the guys. For the most part, Vaughn had a good day in the field. He scooped up a glove-side chopper on a tough play that drew praise from the members of the coaching staff. Overall, he held his ground during drills, and his throws to second base were almost completely accurate — you can tell that Vaughn played all over the infield while growing up into the game. This marks Vaughn’s first invite to spring training and while he obviously won’t break camp with the team, it will be interesting to see how he handles playing against guys in the majors or close to it.

You can tell that the players who were at Camelback Ranch today are ready to get the season started. In previous years, the vibe was more loose and fun. Don’t get me wrong: There were still glimpses of that same vibe today. However, it seems like these guys are a little more serious this time around, as they get ready to close the book on the rebuild and grow into a winning team.