White Sox Hoping Young Guns Make Impact
The Chicago White Sox young season has already gotten underway, and there are plenty of fresh, young faces on the field this year. The team includes four rookies breaking their first major league camp to make the 25-man roster. Let’s take a look at these young players and see what they can do to help the White Sox in their 2012 campaign: Eduardo Escobar- Utility infielder: Escobar is one of the youngest players on the team, turning 23 years old in January. He was signed out of Venezuela by the White Sox in 2006, and spent the last few seasons slowly developing his tools in the farm system. Last year he impressed enough in Class AAA Charlotte (posting a .266 average with 24 doubles) to get a call-up in September 2011. This year he was battling with Dallas McPherson and Dan Johnson for the utility infielder spot, and while the early favorite was Johnson, Escobar sneaked in and impressed Robin Ventura and his crew enough to make the team. While his primary position is shortstop, he’s also played third base and he appeared exclusively at second base during this past year’s Winter League. He may not make an immediate impact, but he may provide a needed spark off the bench in tight situations and give most of the infield some much-needed rest. Hector Santiago- Closer/Relief Pitcher: Santiago would definitely qualify as the biggest surprise in spring training. With a bullpen having three open spots up for grabs, Santiago was only one of a long list of pitchers who were fighting to secure a job, much less the closer’s role which everyone believed would go to Matt Thornton or fellow rookie Addison Reed. Even Santiago was surprised when he found out he was being considered for the closing role. The numbers don’t lie, though. In ten spring training games, Santiago posted a 0.82 ERA with 13 strike outs. Add to that his 5+ innings of scoreless pitching last September after being called up, and we can see why Ventura expects a lot from him. Santiago notched his first career save over the Texas Rangers Saturday night and his second over Cleveland on Monday. Addison Reed- Relief Pitcher: Although Reed was pegged by many to get the coveted closer’s role, the young right-hander is ready to show off his stuff in the set-up role. Last season he rose up the ranks almost as fast as Chris Sale did a year before. He started in the Advance Rookie league in Winston-Salem, then rocketed through the rest of the minors until he found himself pitching in Chicago for six games last September. It seemed the White Sox were unsure of what to do with Reed, i.e. they could leave him as a starter or convert him into a closer. Instead, they settled on him in a set-up role, especially with many young starting pitchers like Nestor Molina and Dylan Axelrod waiting in the wings down in Charlotte. Nate Jones- Relief Pitcher: In an unexpected move, 26-year-old hurler and former fifth-round Sox draft pick Nate Jones made his first major league roster following spring training. Jones’ name was at the bottom of the list for the bullpen contenders this season, many fans not even knowing who he was prior to the start of the spring. However, he showed that he still had something to prove despite being a bit on the older side. In 11.2 innings this spring, Jones had a 1.54 ERA with a spectacular 19 batters fanned. His fastball can hit in the 98-99 MPH zone, and last season he added a nasty slider to his game. Apparently general manager Kenny Williams claims to have had faith in him all along to make the team this year, but it’s doubtful anyone could’ve predicted the phenomenal spring he had. He made his major-league debut against the Rangers in the opening series for a scoreless inning, which will hopefully be the first of many such outings. This is a guest post by Nick LaBanca from MidwayMadness.com. Midway Madness is a site dedicated to Chicago sports. It is written by Chicago sports fans, for Chicago sports fans. Nick LaBanca is a Columbia College graduate who grew up in Chicago and is an avid Chicago Bulls and White Sox fan. Wanna read more from Nick? Click here.