Playing Pepper 2018: Chicago White Sox

In 2009, before my second full season of blogging the Cardinals, I reached out to other bloggers to other teams to get insights on their clubs.  This year, instead of going through the teams alphabetically, we’ll approach it a little differently, spending a week with each division.  For the tenth straight season, get ready for the upcoming MLB season by playing a little pepper.  

Chicago White Sox
67-95, fourth in AL Central
Website | Twitter

Last year’s Pepper

There a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to the White Sox.  I mean, they are from Chicago, which isn’t good.  But they are the rivals of the Cubs, which is.  Then they went out and snatched Luis Robert from out of the Cardinals’ clutches, which is not good (especially according to Kyle Reis, who still mourns the loss of Lou Bob).  No matter what you think about the Sox, though, they should be interesting to watch over the next few years.  We’ve got some great bloggers to fill us in on just what we should be watching for in 2018.

Writer Site Twitter
Josh Nelson Sox Machine soxmachine_josh
The staff Southside Showdown SoxShowdown

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? Did the club improve over the winter?

Josh: The offseason went as expected. Chicago wasn’t in the market to make significant additions but Rick Hahn made two smart moves that will help make the team better in 2018: signing Welington Castillo, and trading for relievers Joakim Soria/Luis Avilan. Castillo will provide more offense from the catching position, and Soria/Avilan will help handle high leverage situations. The significant additions (should) come next year.

Showdown: The White Sox did not make much of an attempt to improve in the short term over the winter, but that is not a bad thing. Their only major league acquisitions were signing catcher Wellington Castillo and trading for relievers Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. What they didn’t do is sign aging veterans like Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Mike Moustakas, who would have taken at bats away from some of their younger, big league ready players who may or may not be part of their future like Nicky Delmonico and Yolmer Sanchez. This year will serve as a year to get top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech a taste of the majors and to see what they have in their inexperienced roster. (Jack Soble)

C70: What’s the most interesting roster “battle” that may happen in spring training?

Josh: Thanks to Carson Fulmer‘s poor spring, the fifth starting pitching spot is available. Hector Santiago was a non-roster invitee that had a chance of making the team serving as a swingman out of the bullpen. From what we have seen from Fulmer, where he has allowed more home runs (7) than striking out batters (5), Santiago could be the White Sox fifth starter to start 2018. Once Carlos Rodon returns from injury, or Michael Kopech is ready for a promotion, then Santiago can move to the bullpen. We’ll see how Renteria handles this role as it was assumed Fulmer would get first crack starting games in Chicago. That seems like a long shot of happening now.

Showdown: At this point in the spring, the White Sox 25-man roster is all but finalized despite no official announcement being made. The last “battle” would be the center field job between Adam Engel and Ryan Cordell, but despite Cordell having a great spring, the coaching staff is in love with Engel, who hasn’t had a bad spring himself. I’m betting on the incumbent, and that pretty much does it for roster sports come Opening Day on the Southside of Chicago. (Patrick Flowers)

C70: What’s one thing people may overlook (either positively or negatively) about this team?

Josh: Jose Abreu is the best first baseman in the American League. ZiPS projects Abreu to have the highest WAR total for first baseman in the American League with another 30+ home run / 100+ RBI season.

Showdown: I think people overlook the possibility this White Sox lineup could actually be really good. You have Yoan Moncada leading off, and indications are he could be a very good leadoff hitter. We don’t know what peak Moncada looks like yet, but he’s been getting on base and hitting extremely well this spring. Following him you have Jose Abreu, who is going to be good for 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Avisail Garcia, while probably not going to hit .333 again this year, could still be a strong .280 hitter this year. Wellington Castillo was one of the best hitting catchers in baseball last year, and could do it again. Tim Anderson, while a question mark because of his sophomore slump, figures to bounce back and could become a serious weapon in the lineup. Nicky Delmonico has shown he can be an above average hitter in a small sample size. If he is healthy and plays up to his apparently very high potential he could be an under the radar key contributor. Adam Engel and Yolmer Sanchez are the two biggest question marks. Even Yolmer Sanchez could hit .260 at the bottom of the lineup and be an above average contributor. Adam Engel could represent the only real “hole” in the lineup, but if he hits like he has during this spring could be really good. DH is a question mark, but we could see Matt Davidson make a jump in his second full year. Don’t sleep on this Sox lineup.  (David Wildman)

C70: Who is the one key player, the guy that must have a good year for the White Sox to do well?

Josh: Depends on your definition of “well”? If “well” means a winning record, I’ll say Lucas Giolito because I feel he has the most potential to have a very good year starting games for the White Sox and lead a rotation that will be fluid in members during 2018.

If your definition of “well” is making you believe the White Sox will be destined for greater things soon, that is Yoan Moncada. If Moncada can generate a 4+ WAR season that will get fans to really believe this team is ready to turn the corner with Eloy Jimenez, Kopech, Alec Hansen, and Luis Robert waiting in the wings.

Showdown: You could argue for any one of the young pitchers, or Yoan Moncada. You might suggest Avi Garcia needs to repeat his successful year. While all these things might be true, the most important success comes from the middle of the diamond. Tim Anderson had a tough 2017 season, due to a personal event that took a lot of his time and energy from him. He rebounded late in the season and looked like a solid contributor for the rebuild. Getting the news that your best friend was murdered isn’t easy for anyone, and Anderson admitted it got to him too much throughout the season. However, his play picked up when he started seeing a therapist, and Anderson believes that is no coincidence. Anderson won’t suddenly walk at a league average rate, but he should have a solid average and be a threat on the base paths. Additionally, he won’t set the world on fire with his defense, but he can be at the very least, an average shortstop defensively. He has always struggled out of the gate, so if he has another slow start, don’t give up on him. (Griffin Meadors)

C70: What’s your projection for 2018? Where does the team wind up overall?

Josh: 73-89, 4th place in AL Central.

Showdown: Ultimately, the White Sox are still in “non-compete” mode in 2018, if for no other reason than they’re not looking to add to the major league roster solely to compete. As is, the lineup may be a sleeper, but the pitching staff will bog the team down in the standings. Lucas Giolito looks like a stud this spring, following up his impressive end of 2017, and Reynaldo Lopez isn’t far behind him. Outside of Giolito and Lopez, the rotation really falls off of the table with James Shields who is a shell of himself and Miguel Gonzalez in his second stint with the White Sox not really intimidating any opposing lineups. The fifth spot in the rotation will go to the veteran Hector Santiago, who has been mildly impressive this spring, or former first round draft selection Carson Fulmer, who has an ERA just shy of 20.00 in four starts this spring. I can see this team, as is, winning anywhere from 72-78 games in 2018. (Patrick Flowers)

C70: What’s one question I should have asked and what’s the answer to it?

Josh: Who on the White Sox can help my fantasy baseball team? If you are in the late rounds and want to pick up a bat that could surprise, Nicky Delmonico is your man.

Showdown: One question that should have been asked about a team like the White Sox is: will we see any of the top prospects make it to the Major Leagues level this year aside from the usual September call-ups? The two that I believe have a very good chance to get called up before September this year are right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech and outfielder Eloy Jimenez. In my opinion, I think we will see Michael Kopech much earlier than people might anticipate. He’s starting the season in Triple-A for the Charlotte Knights and if he cruises through his first five or so starts, then I think he will get the call shortly after. This would give Michael Kopech an estimated May/June call-up date. Eloy Jimenez on the other hand will be starting this season in Double-A for the Birmingham Barons. Eloy saw limited action this spring due to a knee injury, but he made the most of his time when he got the chance. In 7 plate appearances, Eloy had a .571 avg with 2 HR, 3 RBI, and a 2.381 OPS. He was able to quickly advance through the Sox minor league system last season and I imagine that will be the case again this season. He’s only seen 18 games of experience in AA for his career, so he should get a lot of work there this season and then he will be briefly called-up to Triple-A for a couple of months before getting called-up to the Majors. Estimated call-up date for Eloy Jimenez: late June or the middle of July, so right around the All Star break. 

My thanks to everyone for dropping some Chicago knowledge on us.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the prospect haul from the last couple of years begins to pay off!

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NL Central Standings

TeamWLPct.GB
Brewers9667.589 -
Cubs9568.5831.0
Cardinals8874.5437.5
Pirates8279.50913.0
Reds6795.41428.5

Last updated: 10/01/2018

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