There isn’t really a whole lot of news to talk about today so I’m going to spare you with the rambling intro I usually do at the start of these things. Today we’re going to take a look at the Chicago White Sox, whom I don’t expect much out of considering they’re all in on their rebuild. So without further ado, we’re in Day 7 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Chicago White Sox.
Record: 67-95, 35 games behind Cleveland Indians, 18 games behind Minnesota Twins for second Wild Card spot
Notable Offseason Additions: SP Hector Santiago, RP Bruce Rondon, RP Joakim Soria, SP Miguel Gonzalez, C Welington Castillo, RP Luis Avilan
Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Derek Holland, RP Jake Petricka, 2B Alen Hanson, RP Al Albuquerque, LF Cody Asche, SP Mike Pelfrey, RP Zach Putnam, C Geovany Soto
Best Offensive Player: 1B Jose Abreu
Best Pitcher: James Shields
C-Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith
3B-Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino (DH)
SS-Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez
CF-Adam Engel, Leury Garcia
SP-James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon, Miguel Gonzalez, Carson Fulmer, Reynaldo Lopez, Hector Santiago
Bullpen-Joakim Soria (CP), Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Danny Farquhar, Luis Avilan, Gregory Infante, Aaron Bummer, Bruce Rondon
Manager-Rick Renteria (2nd Season with White Sox)
Hitting Coach-Todd Steverson
Pitching Coach-Don Cooper
1st Base Coach-Daryl Boston
3rd Base Coach-Nick Capra
Bench Coach-Joe McEwing
The White Sox may have arguably the thinnest Major League roster in the American League at the moment. Aside from Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, there isn’t really anybody on the team that will keep opposing managers up at night and even in Garcia’s case, we’re not sure if his big 2017 season was a fluke or not. Here’s how the White Sox are projected to look in 2018.
1. Tim Anderson-SS
2. Yoan Moncada-2B
3. Jose Abreu-1B
4. Avisail Garcia-RF
5. Welington Castillo-C
6. Matt Davidson-3B
7. Nicky Delmonico-LF
8. Tyler Saladino-DH
9. Adam Engel-CF
The only guy in that lineup who really instills fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers is Abreu. Last season he was particularly dangerous as he hit .304 with 33 home runs, 102 RBI, 95 runs scored, slugged .552, and was worth 4.1 WAR. He’s driven in at least 100 runs in all 4 of his Major League seasons and is an imposing threat in the batter’s box at 6’3 255 pounds. Avisail Garcia had a breakout season in 2017, as he hit .330 with 18 home runs, 80 RBI, slugged .506, and was worth 4.2 WAR. However those numbers could be a bit fluky. Garcia hit .392 on balls in play which suggests that he got lucky at times because a number that high is unsustainable. Plus he had a very low walk rate of 5.9% suggesting that he may not see the plate as well as others or simply lacks the patience. Plus it was his first season where he was worth more than 1 WAR, as he had actually had a negative WAR in each of his first 3 seasons. Perhaps he has turned a corner, but I suspect Garcia may be in for a hefty decline in 2018. But the main story surrounding this White Sox team, like the Braves, is their extremely loaded prospect pool. Arguably the best member of that pool, Yoan Moncada, whom the White Sox acquired from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade, is expected to open as the everyday second baseman and Chicago is expecting big things out of him. He’s been compared to Robinson Cano and that’s quite a tall order for a guy who is a career .229 hitter in 62 games at the Major League level. There isn’t a whole lot of Major League experience with Moncada, however what we have seen is a second baseman with a good amount of pop, good speed, and a good stick when he manages to put the ball in play. Moncada had a .325 average on balls in play last season however he only hit .231 and a big reason for that is he struck out 32% of the time he came up to bat, which would have ranked 4th in the Majors had he had enough at bats to qualify. He struck out at an even higher rate than Aaron Judge and Mark Reynolds, who have gained reputations for being big power bats that strike out a lot. He NEEDS to bring that number way down if he hopes to maximize on his potential. A guy he might want to take a look at is Javy Baez of the Cubs, who came up in a similar fashion. He boasted tremendous power for a middle infielder but he struck out at an alarming rate. In his first taste of the Majors in 2014, Baez struck out 41% of the time. However since then, he has brought that number down every season until 2017 and his production has been better for it. He got his strikeout rate as low as 24% (which still isn’t great but it’s at least respectable) in 2016 and in that season, he hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBI en route to helping the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. So if Moncada can follow the improvements made by the other Chicago second baseman, he would become a huge asset for the White Sox.
White Sox pitching is currently an absolute shit show right now. Their ace, James Shields, hasn’t been a quality pitcher since 2014 and hasn’t had an ERA under 5 since 2015. In 21 starts last season, Shields went 5-7 with a 5.23 ERA, a 5.83 FIP, 103 strikeouts, and was worth -0.2 WAR. That’s not even #5 starter numbers and this guy is the favorite to be the Opening Day starter. There was a time when Shields was an ace, his time with the Rays was very good, but those days are long gone and Shields is basically a batting practice pitcher at this point. In fact, had he pitched enough innings to qualify, Shields’ 2.08 Home Runs per 9 innings allowed would’ve topped all of baseball. Lucas Giolito is a guy the White Sox hope can reach his potential as well. Like Moncada, Giolito was at one point the #1 prospect in baseball on another team whom the White Sox acquired in a trade for one of their best players (OF Adam Eaton). He struggled mightily with the Nationals but his first stint with the White Sox showed a lot of promise. He only made 7 starts but in those starts he went 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA (though his FIP was 4.94, the largest differential I’ve ever seen). He didn’t strike out a ton of batters, as his Strikeouts per 9 was just 6.75, but he was helped by the fact that opponents only hit .189 on balls in play against him. If he can continue to show the promise he showed in his brief stint with the White Sox, they may have their future ace on their hands. Carson Fulmer’s another guy they hope will take the next step into ace status. As of right now, I am a bit ashamed to admit, but in the 2015 MLB Draft, I was upset the Red Sox took Andrew Benintendi with the 7th overall pick when Fulmer was still on the board, whom the White Sox snatched up with the very next pick. While Benintendi is a future stud for the Red Sox, Fulmer has yet to leave his mark with the White Sox. In his first stint in 2016, he made 8 relief appearances and pitched to an 8.49 ERA. His second stint in 2017 was much better (can’t do much worse) where he pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 7 appearances and 5 starts. His control has been a big problem in both stints, as he walks over 5 batters per 9 innings. There are a lot of issues currently in the White Sox pitching staff but if their young guys can step up, then things will go a lot more smoothly.
The White Sox bullpen is one of the weaker units in the American League. Joakim Soria is slated to be their closer and along with Nate Jones, he’s probably the only one who is even remotely capable of holding the job. Last year in Kansas City, Soria pitched to a 3.70 ERA (though he had a FIP of 2.23) and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings so he still has something left in the tank despite being 33 years old. Nate Jones is also a capable reliever, as he pitched to a 2.31 ERA last season and struck out over 11 batters per 9 innings. Should Soria struggle in the closer’s role, manager Rick Renteria ought to be more than confident in his next best option in Jones. After those two guys there really isn’t much to write home about.
Overall, I don’t expect the White Sox to sniff .500 at any point this season. Aside from Jose Abreu there aren’t any established Major League studs. The excitement for them, though, is in their prospect pool, which is arguably the best in baseball. To go along with young Major Leaguers Moncada, Giolito, and Fulmer, the White Sox have waiting in the wings guys like OF Eloy Jimenez (acquired in the Jose Quintana trade), OF Blake Rutherford (acquired in the Todd Frazier trade), P Michael Kopech (acquired in the Chris Sale trade), OF Luis Robert, P Alec Hansen, P Dylan Cease, and P Dane Dunning, all of whom rank amongst MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. So the future is bright in the south side of Chicago, but the present leaves much to be desired.
Projected Record: 70-92, 4th in AL Central
That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Cincinnati Reds, who will try and escape the cellar of the NL Central for the first time since 2014. Let me know what you think of the White Sox’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.