Spending last summer in Schaumburg, Ill., was never on 25-year-old first baseman Gavin Sheets‘ early radar.
All the same, Sheets not being at the Frontier League facility turned out to be a big disappointment.
After Covid wiped out 2020 minor league season, major league teams huddled their top prospects at alternate training sites. The White Sox settled on Schaumburg, a quick commute from Guaranteed Rate Field.
Sheets did not receive an invite, and he used it as motivation.
“It was a tough year,” said Sheets, a 2017 second-rounder out of Wake Forest. “It was tough mentally, tough physically to lose a year of development, but a lot of good came from it that I didn’t see at the time.”
Sheets made the most of the down time. A natural first baseman, he worked with a trainer, shed more than a dozen pounds and reported to spring training at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds.
He also brought an outfielder’s mitt to camp.
Looking to make a better impression by being a more versatile player, Sheets shaped up his body, increased his speed and showed he can play left field.
In one Cactus League game, Sheets made a standout running catch in the gap that impressed White So ace Lucas Giolito.
“That was amazing,” Giolito said. “He bailed me out right there. I love to see our younger guys, our prospects making strides on both sides, offense and defense. He looked great out there, looked like a natural left fielder”
Sheets has always had a steady bat and sharp eye at the plate. The son of former major leaguer Larry Sheets, Gavin showed he can hit for power in 2019, launching 16 home runs in 126 games for Double-A Birmingham.
Ticketed for Triple-A Charlotte this season, Sheets made an instant impression on manager White Sox Tony La Russa, who called him a “smart, high-IQ” player, and the major league staff this spring.
“Sheets really made a lot of adjustments,” Chicago hitting coach Frank Menechino said. “He really caught my eye coming in and changing his load and being early and soft. It really looks good.”
— The White Sox signed righthanded reliever Vincenzo Aiello to a minor league deal. He was 11-5, 2.90 with 13 saves over three minor league seasons with the Marlins.
— After going 0-for-10 in four games with the White Sox, outfielder Nick Williams was designated for assignment.