While most of the White Sox’s offseason has focused on players they could trade away, they acquired outfielder Dominic Fletcher from the D-Backs a few weeks ago. Chicago sent pitching prospect Cristian Mena to Arizona to take a look at Fletcher, so it’s no surprise he goes into camp with a good chance at securing a starting job.
General manager Chris Getz told reporters this evening that Fletcher has the “leg up” in the right field competition (via Vinnie Duber of CHGO Sports). If Fletcher secures the spot in camp, it’d be his first Opening Day job. The Arkansas product made his MLB debut at the end of last April.
Arizona didn’t give Fletcher much of a look in the majors. He appeared in 28 games and turned in a solid .301/.350/.441 showing through his first 102 plate appearances. Fletcher spent the bulk of the year at Triple-A Reno. He hit .291/.399/.500 with 10 homers in 334 trips to the plate. Fletcher kept his strikeouts to a modest 18.6% rate and walked at a strong 12.6% clip.
The 26-year-old has posted above-average offensive production throughout his professional career. He owns a .295/.366/.474 line in parts of four minor league seasons. That has generally come in hitter-friendly settings against younger competition, though, which is part of the reason that many prospect evaluators suggest he’s better suited as a complementary outfield piece than a regular. There are still questions about his pitch selection and raw power upside. Baseball America slotted him as the #20 prospect in the Chicago system after the trade.
Nevertheless, the White Sox are in position to give Fletcher an opportunity to try to outperform those projections. They had the worst right field grouping in MLB a season ago. Chicago received a .219/.271/.344 batting line with below-average defense from the position. Oscar Colás was a reasonably well-regarded prospect but posted a miserable .216/.257/.314 slash through his first 75 MLB games. Gavin Sheets’ .203/.267/.331 mark wasn’t much better. Colás and Sheets each have at least one minor league option remaining, so the Sox could send either player back to Triple-A Charlotte without putting them on waivers.
Aside from Fletcher, Chicago hasn’t done a whole lot to bolster the short-term outfield mix. They acquired Zach DeLoach from the Mariners as part of the Gregory Santos return. He’s on the 40-man roster but has yet to make his MLB debut. DeLoach had a .286/.387/.481 showing in Triple-A a year ago. He connected on 23 homers but also struck out at an alarming 27.8% rate. Kevin Pillar, Rafael Ortega and Brett Phillips are all in camp as non-roster invitees. Pillar, as a right-handed hitter, could have the best path of that trio to an MLB job. Each of Fletcher, DeLoach, Colás and Sheets hit from the left side.
The other two outfield spots at Guaranteed Rate Field are locked in. Luis Robert Jr. is a franchise cornerstone in center field. Left fielder Andrew Benintendi had a rough first season in Chicago but will get a chance at a rebound in year two of a franchise-record $75MM free agent deal.