Halfway through Spring Training, the White Sox have a pretty good idea of who will be on the Opening Day roster. One position that seems to be up for grabs however, is center field.
When players reported to Camelback Ranch a few weeks ago, nearly everyone had pegged Adam Engel as the starting center fielder. While he carried a horrendous .166 batting average at the plate last year, he was a defensive wizard in center field, making plays like these almost regularly.
While jaw-dropping catches like this are always a sight to see, Engel’s performance at the plate basically canceled them out. If the White Sox are winning close games late, then I am all for Engel being subbed in as a defensive replacement. But a full-time starter role? I still don’t think he is the best option. Although he has actually had a very respectable spring thus far, including a pair of home runs last night, he has to prove he can hold his own when the games actually matter. If he can’t, then the White Sox have another intriguing option waiting to prove himself. Enter Ryan Cordell.
Cordell was the main piece the White Sox were able to obtain after trading Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline last year. He is a versatile player who is fairly similar to Nicky Delmonico. Last year in Triple-A, Cordell played all 3 outfield spots, and third base. With Delmonico and Avi Garcia locked in as the left and right fielders, Cordell would man center if given the opportunity.
This spring, he has been one of the hottest White Sox hitters. Coming into today he carries a slash line of .360/.500/.560 with 7 walks compared to just 2 strikeouts. He has also batted .284 for his career down in Triple-A, so he shows consistency at the dish. While he is not as polished as Engel is in center (very few are), he is more than capable of holding his own and playing average defense. His production at the plate is what really separates himself from Engel. Rick Renteria could theoretically start Cordell in center, and then sub in Engel if the White Sox get a lead late. He could also start whoever he wants depending on matchups and who is hotter at the time.
At the end of the day, I think both Engel and Cordell will make the Opening Day roster, but if I had to choose right now, Cordell would get the nod to start.