With just two weeks separating us and the potential start to the 2020 Major League Baseball season, the White Sox are into their third day of intrasquad scrimmages at Guaranteed Rate Field, and something interesting is becoming a trend.
White Sox phenom rookie Luis Robert will hit second for the ‘home team’ today, making it three consecutive days with La Pantera in that spot. The home team has a major-league look to it, with most of the regulars settling into spots that will likely be their home to start things on July 24, so it’s fair to beg the question as to whether or not Rick Renteria is beginning to warm up to the idea of Robert hitting near the top of the order out of the gates.
The No. 2 spot in the lineup is in all likelihood the place where Renteria will slot star third-baseman Yoan Moncada when he’s healthy.
That’s the thing though, no one knows when that will be. Moncada is yet to report to a summer camp workout, and while nothing public has been announced, a brief game of ‘connect the dots’, would lead you to believe that Moncada was one of the two positive COVID-19 tests that the White Sox received during the intake screening process.
White Sox ace Lucas Giolito said earlier this week that Moncada will be back, “soon,” but who knows if that’s as literal as we’d hope.
After Luis Robert signed a long-term extension during the offseason, it was all but assured that he will — like Eloy Jimenez, the year prior — open the season with the major league club.
The question then became, where does Robert fit into Rick Renteria’s lineup construction, with most assuming that 2019 MLB batting champion Tim Anderson, and slugging third baseman Yoan Moncada would occupy the top two spots in the batting order, Robert would be relegated to the bottom of the lineup card to start.
I’ve long contested that Robert, who I believe has all the tools to hit in the leadoff spot, should just start where he’ll likely end up eventually. But with Moncada still missing from camp, and Renteria penciling Robert in at No. 2 with consistency now, could we see this to start the season in two weeks?
Even if Moncada receives the green light to rejoin the team between now and then, how many reps and live at-bats will he need to get going for the regular season, one in which a hot start is at an all-time level of importance?
You’d have to imagine that Renteria and his staff are at least half planning on how they’ll handle their lineup without Moncada ready for opening day, evidenced by their experimentation at Moncada’s third-base position.
Today’s away team lineup features 2019 first-rounder Andrew Vaughn at third, and Thursday’s road squad featured Yermin Mercedes at third base. While it’s wholly possible that they just need guys to get in at-bats at a position not currently occupied by a regular at the moment, the idea of guys like Mercedes and Vaughn — with their tantalizing hitting profiles — getting looks at third base in the event that Moncada isn’t an option on July 24 is very interesting.
It’s equally interesting that Renteria appears to be flirting with the idea of Luis Robert hitting near the top of the lineup rather than the other side of that coin.
Feature Photo: Chicago Tribune