New Faces Ready To Make an Impact for the White Sox

The White Sox quietly transformed their roster this winter in an effort to improve the defense, add consistency, and build for the future.

Dominic Fletcher of the Chicago White Sox poses for a portrait during Photo Day at Camelback Ranch.
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 21: Dominic Fletcher #7 of the Chicago White Sox poses for a portrait during Photo Day at Camelback Ranch on February 21, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

This winter, the focus in Chicago has been on adding players who are defensively sound and who will bring a level of professionalism and consistency to the roster. This was accomplished in part through free agency, but largely via a few fascinating trades made throughout the offseason.

The first big trade of the winter was a unique one, as Chicago sent Aaron Bummer to Atlanta in exchange for five players, many of whom already had MLB experience or were on the 40-man roster. The trade brought back several pieces who are expected to receive playing time with the White Sox in 2024.

Four of the players acquired in that deal will open the season either in Chicago or with Triple-A Charlotte. Michael Soroka, the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up, is likely to make the rotation for the White Sox, while utility man Nicky Lopez is the favorite to start at second base, at least to begin the season.

Michael Soroka Is in Good Spirits This Spring

In good spirits, Soroka made his second start of the spring this week and talked in-depth about his progression and pitching after the game. He threw three successful innings, allowing one run while striking out five batters; he tossed two innings in his start last week.

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Soroka was frustrated by his shaky command and stuff not fully working in his first inning of work but felt good about how it developed throughout the game. He was pleased with the rest of his outing.

Soroka talked about the difference between his two fastballs and how they can help play off each other when he’s able to locate them consistently. He further discussed how his changeup is key for him and how it can unlock other elements of his game.

“That’s going to be a pitch that is so good when I can get it to the right spot. It’s one of the harder pitches to command…It’s such a feel pitch, it’s hard to get it to the right spot…throw it to righties as well so it can play off the two-seam inside,” said Soroka about his changeup being the pitch he’s focused on this spring.

He’s working hard on sequencing and learning to work with both new White Sox catchers, Max Stassi and Martín Maldonado.

“We are talking a lot about the mix between the four and the two-seam because both can be very good. Sometimes they’re not both there right away, there are days where one is better than the other and then it might flop in the sixth inning. That’s how things go sometimes with having both…We did a good job [playing them off each other] today,” Soroka explained about his two fastballs and working on sequencing with the catchers.

After finishing second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2019, Soroka has struggled to stay healthy over the past handful of seasons. He struggled last year when he was on the field, too. However, the talent is more than apparent, and if he can tap into even a portion of his best self, he’s going to be a rotation piece for the Sox.

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Braden Shewmake Is Working To Increase His Versatility

Braden Shewmake, a former first-round pick of the Braves, is currently in a camp battle for a backup infield role, as the team has a variety of options to fill that spot. Meanwhile, Jared Shuster is set to open the season in Triple-A but could be an option to make starts or pitch multi-inning spurts out of the bullpen later in the season.

Shewmake, in contention for a bench spot, is seemingly fitting in well with the organization. He noted that it helps to have people you know around, as he is joined by the three other former Braves; he also played with Andrew Vaughn earlier in his life.

While trying to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster, the natural shortstop is working at three infield positions to increase his versatility and his chances of making the squad. He told me, “Third base is the one I’ve played the least, but I’m trying to get as many reps there as possible. Trying to get comfortable there, I feel really comfortable up the middle.”

Shewmake made a few swing adjustments this winter and is working on patiently implementing those in game situations this spring. He was impressive in 2023 against offspeed pitches and is working on getting on fastballs more this spring. The infielder said he is “trying to get back on the fastball” and working on “being able to do damage on and then being able to hit mistake offspeed pitches.”

It seems like Shewmake has a good shot to be the backup infielder on the roster, and added versatility will only help his case further.

Erick Fedde Is Settling in With the White Sox

The team’s primary splash in free agency was bringing Erick Fedde back to MLB after he dominated in the KBO in 2023. The veteran right-hander took the mound on Friday for the second time in Spring Training. He felt much better about his latest outing compared to his first Cactus League start.

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Fedde was satisfied with his start, as he settled in after a shaky appearance start with the Sox. He worked three innings of one-run ball and forced five groundballs in his outing.

The veteran talked about how strong the defense behind him has been this spring and how that changes the game for a pitcher. When asked if defense impacts his mindset, Fedde said “Unfortunately, I’d like to say no, but sometimes you chase strikeouts when you probably shouldn’t and it puts you in bad counts. When there’s confidence and it’s not a thought, now you’re focused more on pitching.”

The White Sox emphasized defense with their offseason acquisitions, which should only help Fedde in his return to MLB this year. He’s slotted in as the No. 2 starter behind Dylan Cease and will be counted upon to deliver strong innings this season.

Dominic Fletcher Could Stabilize Right Field

Two other trades of note came later in the offseason in an attempt to solve the positional hole in right field that has plagued the White Sox organization for years.

In an effort to fill that position, the organization parted ways with highly-regarded pitching prospect Cristian Mena in exchange for outfield prospect Dominic Fletcher. Having made his debut with Arizona in 2023, Fletcher appears on track to be the starting right fielder for the White Sox to begin the 2024 season.

Last year, Fletcher appeared in 28 games for the Diamondbacks and posted a .791 OPS while playing strong defense at all three outfield positions. He’s best known for his defense, speed, and contact skills, which fits the bill of what the team was targeting this winter.

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Fletcher spent last spring competing with Team Italy during the World Baseball Classic. He explained to me the value of playing competitive baseball early in the spring. “It teaches you how to compete and take that into the season,” he explained. “That’s something I wanted to bring into Spring Training.”

This spring, Fletcher is focused on getting back to where he was last year at the plate. He feels that his ability to hustle, take extra bases, and play good defense is going to be a part of what makes him valuable to the team. As the presumptive starting right fielder, he’ll have a shot to earn a regular role moving forward before any of the other outfield options get a crack.

Deloach, Berroa Have a Shot To Play in Chicago in 2024

The next move was an example of cashing in at the time the organization decided was right. The White Sox capitalized on Gregory Santos’ breakout campaign by sending him to Seattle in exchange for two prospects and a draft pick. Both players acquired should also have a shot to play in Chicago this season.

Outfielder Zach DeLoach hit 23 home runs in Triple-A last season, while relief pitcher Prelander Berroa made his debut in Seattle but primarily dominated in Double-A. It doesn’t seem like either will break camp with the team, but both are working hard to establish themselves with their new club this spring.

Zach DeLoach Is Making Adjustments at the Plate

In a practice field scrimmage game against the Dodgers, DeLoach impressed while facing star pitcher Tyler Glasnow. He ripped a double off Glasnow and then proceeded to hit another line drive knock later in the game.

I was able to chat with him after the scrimmage, and he talked about his mindset against a pitcher of Glasnow’s caliber. DeLoach said, “He was getting ahead early, so I was ready to go on that first pitch.”

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In terms of the adjustments he’s been working on at the plate since joining the organization, DeLoach said, “Last year I had the tendency to fly balls out a little too much. Just trying to work on hitting low, hard line drives in the cage and in BP…Today I hit two hard line drives so hopefully it’s showing.”

He’ll need to work on his whiff and chase rates, especially this season, but DeLoach has the power to make an impact in the future. He’s likely to begin the year in Charlotte but could receive a call-up fairly early in the year due to either injuries or underperformance on the MLB roster.

Prelander Berroa Needs To Work on His Command

Berroa is an intriguing bullpen arm because the stuff is clearly present. His issue is his command, which has been up and down throughout spring. He was excellent against the Dodgers after getting hit hard by Texas last week.

His 14.1% walk rate will have to come down in order to benefit the White Sox roster, but he did strike out 36.6% of hitters in Double-A last season. With an excellent fastball and slider, Berroa could become a key piece of the White Sox bullpen in the near future.

The White Sox have a very different roster this season, but the new faces are prepared to help elevate the team. Whether it results in a ton of wins or not, there will be a new brand of baseball being played on the South Side of Chicago, and the new faces are ready for it.