Spring Training is finally here, although certain rules are different from years past. At times, it feels more like little league baseball with the usage of mercy rules and shortened games. While certain differences are glaring, the same dazzling sun still shines bright, like every team’s aspirations of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy in the fall.
At the conclusion of Catcus and Grapefruit League action, all teams will be tied for first once again.
Another similarity to Spring Training sessions of years past is an abundance of new or unfamiliar faces to the clubhouse. Each year brings together a mix of players at different stages of their baseball journeys. Some have lengthy careers and massive contracts in their future, while others are fighting to stay in the game however possible.
The White Sox are no exception, as they feature several intriguing non-roster invitees at Camelback Ranch this spring. Some names are familiar, such as top prospect Andrew Vaughn. Others are new to the organization completely. Here are a few of the notable non-roster invitees that could potentially make some noise this spring.
Lucroy is a seasoned veteran backstop who brings depth and experience to a young White Sox organization. The two-time All-Star catcher has 11 years of major league experience, most notably with the Milwaukee Brewers. His best season came in 2014 when he hit 53 doubles to go along with a 131 OPS+. He also finished fourth in NL MVP voting that season.
Time has caught up with Lucroy, however, as his offensive numbers have declined over the past few seasons. He only appeared in one game with the Red Sox last season, so he hasn’t been on the field much as well. If Lucroy proves he can bounce back offensively this spring, he could emerge as a potential backup to Yasmani Grandal, particularly if Zack Collins struggles. Regardless, he is a good security blanket in case of injury.
The 24-year-old right-hander enters his first season outside of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Vargas first joined the D’Backs when he was 16 and had been with them since. He spent parts of the 2016 and 2017 seasons with the local Kane County Cougars when they were affiliated with Arizona. He played in AA during 2019, starting all 17 of his appearances and accumulating a 3.78 ERA and 70 strikeouts across 85.2 innings.
The White Sox claimed Vargas off waivers on November 20th, 2020. While he provides a bit of organizational depth and could flourish with a change of scenery, he doesn’t figure to get any major league innings this season. Look for him to start with AAA Charlotte.
Beckham first cracked the major leagues with the Rays, the team that selected him first overall in the 2008 draft. While he hasn’t lived up to his draft hype, he has carved out a respectable career across six seasons in the MLB. After being traded to Baltimore in 2017, he erupted for a 132 OPS+ with ten homers and 26 RBIs across 50 games. This spark wouldn’t last, however, as he managed an 81 OPS+ in 2018.
Beckham most recently played for the Mariners in 2019, where his tenure was an up-and-down experience. He crushed 11 home runs in the first two months of the season followed by a forgettable .452 OPS in June. He did bounce back in July, however, as he produced a .940 OPS with three homers.
His defensive flexibility makes him a valued piece to any organization. He played every position except for pitcher, catcher, centerfield, and right field in 2019. If injuries accumulate for the White Sox, Beckham could be a short-term fix at several different positions if needed.
The towering 6-foot-8 righty hurler spent time within the Padres and Marlins organizations before the White Sox claimed Guerrero off waivers on December 6th, 2019. He made his major league debut with the Padres in 2016, although most of his MLB experience came with Miami. Guerrero went 2-5 with a 5.80 ERA across 112 games between the 2018 and 2019 seasons for the Marlins.
The 30-year-old’s fastball consistently hovers around triple digits, but accuracy has been an issue for him throughout his career. In 2019, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 1.19, which ultimately led to the Marlins cutting ties with him. With an abundance of bullpen options on the South Side, chances are slim-to-none that Guerrero breaks camp with the White Sox. However, the organization must have seen some potential in him when acquiring him off waivers.
Selected in the second round of the 2012 draft by the Rangers, Nick Williams spent his first three and a half professional seasons in the Texas organization. A trade sent him to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the package that landed Cole Hamels in Texas. Williams was regarded by many scouts as the highest-rated prospect in the trade. He eventually made his MLB debut in 2017 after one and a half years in AAA. Across 791 MLB plate appearances in 2017 and 2018, he hit 29 homers and drove in 105 runs. Although he showed some offensive potential, the positives were overshadowed by high strikeout and low walk numbers.
Williams spent a chunk of the 2019 campaign in AAA, as he struck out in more than 38% of his plate major league plate appearances compared to four walks. The Phillies eventually designated him for assignment in August 2020. The Reds quickly acquired him, although he never made it out of their alternate training site. Williams will have something to prove in Glendale this spring and could provide valuable depth for the White Sox outfield in case of injury.
As Spring Training action continues, be on the lookout for these under-the-radar players to make an impact.