The Chicago White Sox had a disappointing season last year with a 76-86 record. But a positive last season was the opportunity to see up and coming prospects for the White Sox. Chicago brought up outfielder Trayce Thompson, who was able to show off his speed and his bat. While he’s no longer with the Sox, based on Thompson’s performance, the Sox were able to use Thompson in the trade to receive third baseman Todd Frazier this season. Potential starting pitcher Erik Johnson was able to come up to the majors to gain some experience prior to his first potential starting season. Johnson pitched in four games and went 3-1 with a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings. But arguably the most exciting player the Chicago White Sox brought up was infielder Tyler Saladino. Saladino batted .335 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 68 games played for the south siders.
While mainly sticking at third in the 2015 season, shortstop is the only available position for Saladino to play now that the Sox acquired Frazier in the offseason. But Chicago made some moves once again over the offseason and acquired veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Now that the battle of shortstop has begun and both players have played well over spring training. So who’s starting April 4 in Oakland?
As stated before, Saladino played in only 68 games in 2015 for the Chicago White Sox. That’s not too many games to gain a solid look at any player, let alone Saladino. But he did pretty well for a disorientated Sox team at the end of the year, arguably playing well enough for Chicago to let go of eight-year White Sox veteran shortstop Alexei Ramirez. Hitting at .225 with 33 runs scored for the ChiSox, his hitting may be a little sub-par at first glance, but Saladino’s fielding is phenomenal. In the 60 games he played at third base, Saladino only committed five errors the entire year. And with defense being a joke for the south side the last couple of years, Saladino will only help make their defense into a serious threat to help win some games. During spring training, Saladino is batting .286 with an OBP of .375 so far, along with no errors committed in the 49 innings played in the field. Saladino has proven that he can play well in spring training so far. But the consistency of getting on base and fielding will be the x-factor for Saladino to play.
But on the other side of the battle for shortstop is Jimmy Rollins. Rollins has 16 years of experience and over 2,000 games played. A career .265 hitter, Rollins has slipped just a tad in the last two seasons, batting .243 in 2014 and .224 in 2015. But his experience is potentially the most valuable thing for the White Sox. Having played in six different postseasons, Rollins knows what it takes to get to October baseball. He also won NL MVP in 2007 which was right before the Philadelphia Phillies World Series championship in 2008. Rollins is showing right now that age is but a number in spring training. Hitting .324 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, Rollins has performed well at the plate. While he’s doing it at the plate, Rollins is turning right around and doing it in the field. Playing in 58 innings in the field, he also has not committed an error this spring training.
With the experience that Rollins brings and the proof that he can get the job done, Rollins should be starting at shortstop at the beginning of the season for the Chicago White Sox. While Saladino and Rollins match up almost perfectly in the field, it’s Rollins’ bat that gives him the edge to start this season. That’s not a knock against Saladino; He has performed extremely well and actually strengthens the White Sox. Having a player like Saladino on the bench brings the Sox a safety net. If another player is struggling either at the plate or in the field, Saladino can come in at a moment’s notice and help the team win. With the whole Adam LaRoche noise going on, as well and the mystery of LaRoche’s 2016 season, Saladino can fill in the designated hitter role if someone is underperforming, or even give Rollins a rest, as Rollins is 37 this season. Either way you can’t go wrong with starting either of these guys. Rollins has a little more pop in his bat right now and Saladino can help the White Sox out when someone is slipping.