2018 White Sox Season Preview

Last season wasn’t a great one on the field for the South Siders—they finished 67-95, fourth in the division, and said goodbye to arguably their most talented pitcher in Jose Quintana, as well as two of their best field players, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera, in mid-season trades.  That being said, we also got a glimpse of the bright future the team is shooting for—top prospects Yoan Moncada, Lucsas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez all cracked the Show last year, showcasing some of the immense talent that gives them team one of the nest farm systems in the game.  While this season figures to be much the same in terms of game results, we may see some more of their fellow prospects reach the majors, and if the performances of Giolito and Lopez so far are anything to go by, a lot of games could be exciting to watch.  So, on that note, here is my overview of the 2018 Chicago White Sox:

Outfield:

LF- Nicky Delmonico

CF- Adam Engel

RF- Avisail Garcia

Out of the three projected starters from last year, only one of them, Garcia, is expected to start the season with the bug club.  The 26 year-old finally managed to put things together at the plate after a couple seasons’ worth of on- and off-the-field struggles, hitting for an excellent .330 average, bashing 18 homers, and establishing himself as a good compliment to Jose Abreu in the middle of the order.  A lot of the team’s offense will figure to come from those two, and Garcia is going to have to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke, but rather a sign of better things to come.

The other two outfielders are significantly less experienced—both made their MLB debuts just last season.  Delmonico is probably the better of the two—he hit .262 in 43 games with the club, getting playing time in left and at third base.  That flexibility will make him a valuable commodity on this year’s squad, especially if he is able to maintain the level of performance with the bat (and his glove) that he did last year.  Engel’s a bit of a defensive whiz, but didn’t offer much else last year; that being said, he had a great spring training, which is good because there’s really nobody else that could really challenge him for a spot at this point.  He’ll need to continue hitting as well as he has in the spring, though, to prevent guys like Charlie Tilson or Leury Garcia stealing some of his playing time.

Infield:

3B- Yolmer Sanchez

SS- Tim Anderson

2B- Yoan Moncada

1B- Jose Abreu

C- Welington Castillo

DH- Matt Davidson

The left side of the infield is made up of guys that I think have underwhelmed a little bit the past couple seasons, though for different reasons.  Sanchez hasn’t gotten a ton of playing time the past few seasons, with guys like Moncada, Todd Frazier, and Brett Lawrie blocking his path to playing time.  This has prevented him from really ever getting into a rhythm at the plate.  Based on this team set-up, I see him as the starting third baseman for now; however, he could shift into a back-up role if one of the team’s top outfield prospects make the bigs, as I think the team holds Nicky Delmonico in higher regard than Sanchez, and his primary position is third, not left field.  Anderson, meanwhile, has been the team’s everyday shortstop for a good part of the last two years and has all the athletic tools to be a star.  However, he’s had an inconsistent glove and some exceptionally poor plate discipline.  There’s no real challenge behind him in the system yet, but he needs to continue on his current level of performance—he’s been on fire to open the season—because if he doesn’t, with the rumors surrounding Manny Machado this past off-season, if I were Rick Hahn, I’d be acquiring him to replace Anderson and not Sanchez/Delmonico.

The right side of the infield has among the greatest star potential out of every pairing in the league.  Moncada was obviously the crown jewel of the Chris Sale trade, and while he struggled a bit with the bat in his time in the majors last season, he’s only 22, and has shown many a burst of power, or speed, that made him one of the game’s best prospects last year.  Abreu, meanwhile, is the steady veteran presence on the team—the slugger didn’t quite bounce back to the highs of his rookie year, but hitting 30 dingers while batting over .300 isn’t too shabby.  His role as a cog in the middle of the order is crucial; so, too is his status as one of the older, longer-tenured players on a team loaded with up-and-comers.

The other two projected starters, Castillo and Davidson, don’t really fit into either of the main tropes on this year’s team, seasoned veterans and youngsters.  Castillo started hot in his career with the Cubs but tailed off a bit while still remaining an adequate catcher.  His presence will be ideal for some of the inexperienced arms that will take the hill for the team this year, and he’ll offer a better bat than any of the team’s backstops from last year.  Davidson, meanwhile, was highly regarded after being acquired from Arizona in 2013, but didn’t get extensive playing time until last season, when he flashed some of the power that made him one of the team’s top prospects at the time he was brought in.  He might not be able to provide much more than that power and provide Abreu with a couple days off at first, but certainly has the ability to build off of last season’s burst of power.

Bench:

C- Omar Narvaez

IF- Tyler Saladino

UT- Leury Garcia

Narvaez was the one of the main men behind the plate last season, but figures to be the back-up this year with the addition of Castillo.  In all honesty, the role suits him pretty well—he isn’t super great with the bat, but he can have his moments, and is an excellent defender and pitch framer, both of which are valuable commodities in catchers nowadays.  He’ll be a nice piece to keep around.

Saladino is probably capable of starting over Moncada, and, I believe, is close to being on par with Anderson, but the other two are more highly-touted, so he’ll have to make do with being the first guy off the bench.  I still expect him to get in 80-100 games somehow, and his flexibility will be helpful to a team that doesn’t have much in the way of middle infielders in the pipeline.

Garcia’s main positions are second and center, but can play virtually anywhere; that being said, I expect him to see most of his time in the outfield.  He might not last long in Chicago if Rick Hahn feels the team’s young outfielders are ready for the big time, but until that happens, he’ll be the reserve outfielder.

Rotation:

Carlos Rodon- LHP

James Shields- RHP

Miguel Gonzalez- RHP

Lucas Giolito- RHP

Hector Santiago- LHP

I know that Shields is was the Opening Day starter, but I feel that Rodon will be the real ace of the team this year—the lanky lefty struggled mightily with injuries last year, with those problems carrying over into the start of this season.  However, if he can find a way to consistently control his pitches, he has the potential to be a high-end starter for years to come, especially with a pitch as excellent as his slider.  Shields will, probably, be unable to pitch up to the standard that his salary would normally require, but his ability to eat some innings will be nice for a team that doesn’t seem to have as deep of a bullpen as it did last year.

The back end of my ideal rotation features two veterans and one young gun.  Gonzalez, who was traded away last season but returned for another stint with the club, is, like Shields, a good innings-eater.  His ceiling is lower than the former Ray’s, but his floor is higher, and should be a solid option throughout the year, assuming he doesn’t get traded again.  Giolito, meanwhile, had a pretty good spring, especially in hitting a good velocity with his fastball, and should be provided ample opportunity to work on honing his off-speed pitches, particularly his nasty but inconsistent curveball, to grow into the immense potential that made him the centerpiece of the Adam Eaton deal.  Lastly, I know that Carson Fulmer and Reynaldo Lopez figure to play roles in the rotation going forward, but I believe that Santiago deserves the last spot for a couple reasons.  None of the trio had particularly good springs, but I feel Santiago was sharper as he got into better game shape, and having another lefty in the rotation instead of straight righties behind Rodon would help provide a little bit of balance.  That said, if Lopez or Fulmer are performing well enough to warrant more starts while not stalling their development, I’m all for it.

Bullpen:

Carson Fulmer- RHP

Luis Avilan- LHP

Danny Farquhar- RHP

Gregory Infante- RHP

Nate Jones- RHP

Aaron Bummer- LHP

Juan Minaya- RHP

Joakim Soria- RHP (closer)

The team’s bullpen was what kept it hovering around contention in the first half of the season, and it netted them a couple of good prospects once it was dismantled in July.  This year’s edition is not quite as strong, nor quite as deep, but it does have some exceptional players.  I think that a long reliever/spot starter role is the best role for Fulmer at this point in his career, so he’ll slot in here.  Aaron Bummer can also fill a similar role throwing from the left side.

Moving towards the back of the ‘pen, Farquhar and Minaya have perhaps the greatest potential to be the Tommy Kahnle’s of this season, while Avilan provides Rick Renteria with a lefty specialist for shorter appearances that Bummer wouldn’t be useful in.  Nate Jones and Gregory Infante make up what I believe to be one of the more underrated set-up duos in the game, and while they may not be pitching in a lot of situations where the team holds a lead, they’ll be exceptional nonetheless.  Jones, in particular, could catch eyes come mid-season and could snag a decent prospect.  The primary closer is penciled in to be Soria, who was traded to the team from the rival Royals this past season.  He wasn’t super effective in the past two seasons, so while I expect him to get most of the chances to close, expect Jones to get some chances, as well.

Possible Call-Ups:

OF- Eloy Jimenez

OF- Micker Adolfo

Reynaldo Lopez- RHP

Thyago Vieira- RHP

Jimenez is certainly the team’s top prospect now that Moncada should be locked into a full-time role; I’m putting him here, though, because of the sheer amount of prospect talent that this club has.  The DR native, who was the centerpiece of the Jose Quintana trade, has been wowing scouts for month with his incredible power and athleticism; I think the team would love to maintain his service-time so that they can maintain control over him for another year, but if he continues to rake in the minors, they might not have a choice in calling him up.

Adolfo is another big, athletic outfielder from the DR that has the potential to break into the line-up at some point this year.  Adolfo’s been in the team’s system for a while—he was signed back in 2013 as a 16 year-old, and his struggles with the bat, and with injuries, have kept him down the team’s prospect list.  That being said, he reportedly looked pretty solid this winter before hurting his elbow, and getting him some playing time at a higher level could be important to the team in determining if he will be an important part of their long-term future.

I think Lopez, the “less-regarded” of the two righties sent over from Washington last season, has a ceiling above his fellow former National, Giolito, and close to that of the team’s other fireballing prospect, Michael Kopech.  He had five quality starts in his eight times on the bump with the big club last season, and certainly has the talent to be a back-end starter this season, as evidenced by his solid start against the Blue Jays.  That being said, I think that another year of seasoning in AAA would be good for him, especially in helping him establish confidence in his off-speed pitches.

Vieira obviously didn’t start the season with the Sox—he’s got an incredible fastball, but it doesn’t have the consistency, or the complimentary pitchers, that other hard-throwing relievers like Craig Kimbrel have hung their hats on.  That being said, the Brazilian, who was acquired from Seattle in exchange for international bonus pool money, has some intriguing potential.  If he can establish some control, and a second pitch, he could prove to be a valuable asset in the heart of the ‘pen for the next couple years—or a possible trade chip as soon as this July.

Top Prospects:

3B- Jake Burger

OF- Luis Robert

Michael Kopech- RHP

Burger tore his Achilles in a spring game in mid-March, so we won’t be seeing any of him this season.  However, the team’s first round pick from last year reminds me a lot of a better version of former White and Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis.  Burger is a bigger player, but he’s got a lot of pop, and in his brief spring appearances seemed to showcase some good discipline at the plate for a younger guy.  Third base is one of the major holes in the big club right now, and I think Burger has the ability to fill that role for the team for years to come.

Robert is one of the best of the club’s immense stash of exceptional outfield prospects.  The 20 year-old Cuban, signed last season, is a tall, lanky specimen; he doesn’t quite have the power of Jimenez, but he’s still got it, and has shown himself to be a better fielder and baserunner than his countryman.  If he can continue to improve his ability to get the bat on the ball after he returns from injury—he’s out for around the next month and a half or so with a thumb injury—he could be a star.

Kopech is probably the most easily recognizable pitching prospect in the organization—partly because of his flowing locks and hard fastball, and partly due to his reality star girlfriend.  Despite the possible off-field distractions that the righty has faced (and is currently facing), he has the stuff to be a true top-end starter.  Like most young hurlers, he needs to continue to develop his off-speed stuff, but he already has a pro-level fastball to build on for the future.

Possible Surprises:

OF- Blake Rutherford

OF- Charlie Tilson

Robbie Ross Jr.- LHP

Dylan Covey- RHP

Rutherford was the centerpiece of the deal that sent David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees.  He isn’t as flashy as many of his fellow prospects, but he’s a pretty solid contact hitter and has solid fundamentals in every aspect of his game.  He might not make it above AA ball this year, but he might also go on a tear that sees him streak through the minors and earn a September call-up.

Tilson’s injury issues last year were a huge drag on the New Trier graduate’s development—he was considered the frontrunner for the center field job last year, yet was one of the first cuts in spring training this year.  If he is able to work back to full strength and utilize the athletic gifts that caused his unlikely rise to the border of the bigs, he has a pretty good shot of getting playing time ahead of some bigger prospects so the team can preserve their service time.

Ross was a solid reliever for the Red Sox in 2015 in 2016, but struggled mightily last season while being bogged down by back issues.  Solid lefty relievers are a dime a dozen, so if Ross is able to regain his mojo, and one of the younger specialists that are currently projected to make the team struggle, Ross could end up appearing in 30-40 games.

To say that Covey had a rough 2017 would be an understatement; in his first year in the majors, the former first round pick (taken one pick after Chris Sale, coincidentally) didn’t win a game and had an ERA over 7.  That being said, there’s a reason he got to the big club—he doesn’t have any one out pitch, but he can control his arsenal relatively well, something which the team clearly holds in high regard, or else they wouldn’t have tried to stick with him throughout his struggles.  I doubt that he gets a lot of action this year, but could be a good back-end starter by the time summer rolls around.

Season Prediction:

Projected Order

2B    Moncada

LF     Delmonico

1B    Abreu

RF    Garcia

C      Castillo

DH   Davidson

SS     Anderson

3B     Sanchez

CF     Engel

The Sox are not going to be good again this year.  They don’t have as many tradeable pieces as last year’s squad, which is indicative of the level of major league talent they currently possess.  That being said, the summer could be fun—we may end up seeing guys like Shields, Gonzalez, Garcia, and Davidson shopped around as the year goes on.  We’re also very likely to see at least a couple of the big guns from the system come up to get their first taste of the Show.  That won’t prevent the team from providing a generally poor product—they should be one of the two worst teams in the American League, along with the rival Tigers—but environment around the whole organization is positive, and if you can look past what are sure to be some icky looking results in the win-loss column, this could end up being a fun and rewarding year for many fans of the South Side squad.

Please note that this roster reflects my preference for the team; the current roster may have players in the minors that are in the majors, and vice versa, and players that I have penciled in on my ideal roster my currently be on the DL.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s