Playing Pepper 2019: Chicago White Sox

Every year since 2009, I’ve spent some time before the season starts trying to find out what fanbases are thinking about their team.  It’s so easy to get myopic, especially with Twitter, so it’s a good chance for us (and by us, I mean me) to take a step back and remember there are 29 other Major League Baseball teams.  We’ve got current bloggers, former bloggers that indulge me still, and this year a few media folks chiming in as well.  Get out the bat, ball, and glove: it’s time once again to play some pepper.

Chicago White Sox
62-100, fourth in AL Central
Website | Twitter
Last year’s Pepper

The White Sox had a tough 2018 but there’s nobody that expect that to be the case going forward.  While Chicago didn’t land any of the large free agents they were (reportedly) flirting with, the crop of talent that exists in their minor league system indicates that they won’t be the doormat of the division going forward.  (Of course, right now in this division it’s hard to pick out a doormat. How often do you lose 100 games and not finish last?)  To talk about the future of the Pale Hose, we have Josh Nelson of Sox Machine (@soxmachine_josh) today filling us in on all things White Sox!

C70: What are your thoughts on the offseason? What was good, what was bad, what else should they have done?

Josh: I think I’ve grown numb since Manny Machado signed with San Diego, but since we’re re-opening up this wound, I’ll start by saying this offseason was a colossal failure by the White Sox. Not signing Machado will hurt both in the short and long-term, and there is serious doubt from media and fans alike in the White Sox front office ability to transition from the rebuilding phase.

C70: Which young player will make the biggest impact this season?

Josh: I think it will be Yoan Moncada. He’s making a position change going from second to third base this year, but if he can find a way to put the ball in play more, we’ll see his numbers rise. Moncada’s BABIP in 2018 was .344, average exit velocity was 90.1 mph, and his hard-hit rate was 44.1%. He struggled last year because of a 33% strikeout rate. If Moncada can cut that down 5-10% in 2019, I think we are looking at a 3-4 WAR player in 2019.

C70: What do you think will be the biggest weakness of this team?

Josh: Outfield. The White Sox had the worst outfield in 2018 with a -1.2 WAR according to Fangraphs. Yes, Eloy Jimenez will soon arrive, and that is a big help. The White Sox will still start Adam Engel in center field which is great for defense, but offensively he’s one of the worst hitters in all of MLB. Jon Jay has no power and might not even be a 1 WAR player. I like Daniel Palka as a DH option, but he really struggled in the field last year.

Prospects are on the way to build a better outfield unit, but today, it’s still a pretty grim situation.

C70: What is your general outlook for 2019? Where will they finish in the division?

Josh: Even though this has been a sad look at the White Sox, I think they will improve in the standings and finish third ahead of Kansas City and Detroit. Overall, I think the White Sox will go 70-92 as the eight-win improvement will be on the backs of adding Eloy Jimenez into the lineup, and Yoan Moncada taking a big step forward in his progression.

C70: What’s the biggest question for this team going into the season and what’s the answer to it?

Josh: Will these heralded prospects actually turn into above average major leaguers? I’m sure some will, and some will not. The problem is when you have a front office not effective in luring star players in free agency to join the cause all a team can count on is what they have in the system. Yes, the White Sox have one of the better farm systems in MLB, but it’s not good enough to overcome the Cleveland Indians. At some point, the White Sox front office will need to add from the outside either through free agency or trade.

C70: What do you expect will give you the most joy watching this team on a regular basis this season?

Josh: Watching Eloy Jimenez handle the majors in his rookie season, and hope (pray) that the second full year for Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito go better than last year.

My thanks to Josh for his thoughts about the team we can tolerate from Chicago.  As he says, it’ll be interesting to see if the young players can make the difference they are supposed to make!

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