On the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox are back at work. Players like Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, and Luis Robert have hit the ground running, honing their crafts and preparing for the MLB season that begins later in the month. Along with optimism there is also concern, as third baseman Yoan Moncada has not been part of this week’s workouts. The team has stayed quiet on the subject, while many analysts have begun speculating about the nature of his absence. When asked by reporters, Edwin Encarnacion had this to say:
Regardless of why Moncada is absent, it makes one wonder how much depth the White Sox have at third base. The team needs to be prepared for the worst, so let’s take a look at some of the possible candidates to fill in for Moncada in his absence.
While the longtime first baseman has never started a game at third, Jose Abreu isn’t unfamiliar with the idea. There was quite a bit of buzz back in 2015 that Abreu could be the long-term answer at third base, but it never came to fruition.
Abreu is far from perfect in the field, but he is a big-bodied player with a high baseball IQ who can be trusted to make the right decision. While he’s far from the ideal option, first base is loaded with depth and can spare their longtime starter. Players like Edwin Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal started multiple games last season at first base. James McCann is able to DH if Abreu is in the field. With reports that Jose is taking reps at third base this past week, it seems like the White Sox are toying with the idea.
In 55 games in the minors, Andrew Vaughn has only committed two errors. Granted all of his defensive statistics are at first base, many in the organization are very high on Vaughn. As any player taken in the first round, the team expects him to be on the roster sooner rather than later. This has been proven with reports that Vaughn has been taking reps at third base this week.
This might be Vaughn’s best shot to get on the field in 2020. As noted earlier, the Sox are loaded at both first base and DH. Given the unprecedented situation with the shortened season, don’t be surprised if Vaughn is kept on as the backup third baseman. It should also be noted that when asked to play third by manager Rick Renteria, Vaughn brought up his days of playing shortstop.
Most people might not know this, but Edwin Encarnacion has the most starts at third base on the roster. He touts 674 appearances and 658 starts covering the hot corner, so it would make the most sense for Edwin to play third for the time being, right? Here’s the kicker: he hasn’t started a game at third base since 2013. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Encarnacion can’t still play significant time in the field, but he’s 37 years old. Avoiding possible injury and keeping Edwin fresh will probably be the best bet. Still, having a player familiar with the position never hurts.
While the aforementioned options are intriguing because they would keep maximal pop in the lineup, the White Sox also have a few utility players at their disposal.
Leury Garcia can seemingly play every position on the diamond. While most of his reps have come in the outfield, the utility man has logged 23 games and 15 starts at the hot corner. Garcia is probably best suited for a bench role that would allow Ricky Renteria to plug him in as a pinch-runner or a late-inning defensive replacement, but he could be an option at third should Moncada miss any time.
Beyond Garcia, Danny Mendick could be another stopgap measure for the White Sox third base situation. He was a September call-up last season, so his MLB sample size is very small. The limited big league action he saw in 2019 did include third base, however. Mendick made three appearances and started two games at third for the South Siders last season. As a short-term placeholder, Mendick could get a shot at the five position.