Picking up where we left off on Tuesday, when we surveyed the first half of the 40 players most responsible for making the 2019 season more enjoyable for White Sox fans …
No. 20: Adam Engel
Like it or not, Engel is going to get reps in center field as the only plus option out there, especially if Leury Garcia injuries are inevitable. He’ll have value stealing some outs, as both Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs had him on the positive side of 0 WAR despite offering next to nothing with the bat. What makes him irritating is that he only needs to hit .250/.300/.350 to get out of “rounding error replacement-level” territory, but we’ve been saying that for years. OK, maybe not in those exact words.
No. 19: Zack Collins
He’s going to be playing some first base at Charlotte, and with Jose Abreu entering his last arbitration year and Yonder Alonso a potential buyout candidate, the Sox can be happy if he unlocks his bat, even if he has to leave his catcher’s mitt behind. However it happens, it’d sure be nice to get something out of a first-round pick.
No. 18: Daniel Palka
The raw power is still something to behold, and it appears to be coming around after a 450-foot homer and a laser of a double to center during the two games in Arizona. He offers no defensive value and has to overcome the acquisitions of Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso cutting into his positions from the same side of the plate, but he can get a head start on Jay, and maybe force Engel out of the picture, if Palka is too good to hold back when Jay gets back. The latter scenario requires a little help and improved health from the guy two spots ahead.
No. 17: Jose Rondon
With a major jump in his power complementing sound defense around the infield, Rondon is two-thirds of the way toward being a big-league regular. His hit tool and/or plate discipline hold(s) him back. He posted sub-.300 OBPs at both Charlotte and Chicago last year due to a combination of those flaws. Hey, he’d never hit more than seven homers in a season before exploding for 24 between the two levels last year. Perhaps there’s an unprecedented jump in another column waiting for him in his age-25 season.
No. 16: Leury Garcia
Garcia would’ve spared fans the Engel headaches had he not been undermined by a series of injuries over the last two seasons. He’s really the only other credible option in center field — especially if Jay’s hip issues persist — and the .271/.310/.401 line he’s posted over the last two seasons would be a godsend. Alas, he’s only been able to top out at 87 games those last two years, which is my biggest reservation. He’s doing what he can to power into regular action, starting with a .431/.456/.647 in spring training.
No. 15: Yolmer Sanchez
Entering his age-27 season, it seems pretty clear that Sanchez is a first-division utility infielder who can handle a starting job for a month at a time, but 600 plate appearances overextends him. The White Sox will move him to second to see if his production looks any better there, but if his second-half production bleeds over into the first half of this year, I wouldn’t mind seeing Rondon cut in to those starts.
No. 14: Yonder Alonso
I don’t have high hopes for Alonso, but if he can somehow summon his All-Star first half from two years ago, he’ll give the White Sox some flexibility in addressing first base through 2020.
No. 13: Jace Fry
Fry confused the hell out of hitters during the first half of the 2018 season. Over the second half, he had bouts of mortality, although he still overmatched lefties. He’s going to own the team’s high-leverage work from that side out of the gate, and he should be able to handle it.
No. 12: Ivan Nova
The White Sox traded for him because they wanted a strike-thrower who could hold runners as a counterbalance for Lucas Giolito’s worst tendencies. He’s lived up to the billing so far, going 19 spring training innings without a walk. The White Sox are trying to give him a slider/cutter to improve his effectiveness against lefties, although one didn’t take when he was with Pittsburgh.
No. 11: Welington Castillo
Castillo made White Sox history in his first year, becoming the franchise’s first active player to get suspended for 80 games for violating baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement. Around the suspension, Castillo was an ordinary hitter and subpar receiver, which is par for the course with Sox catchers. He’ll get another year to save face for everybody, and his chances aren’t great. I’d rank him lower if he weren’t primarily responsible for making life easier for the young pitchers.
No. 10: Kelvin Herrera
No. 9: Alex Colome
These guys made a lot more sense when it looked like the White Sox were intent on pushing their projected win total into the high-70s, after which bullpen luck can go a long way. I’d call them the vestige of the failed Manny Machado pursuit were it not for Machado’s actual friends and family on the roster.
At any rate, they’ll still give Rick Renteria some veteran high-leverage relievers he can trust for an inning at a time, which should make the White Sox more watchable for the next year or two. Colome seems poised for a smoother start to his Sox career.
No. 8: Dylan Cease
With Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning both out of action due to Tommy John surgery, Cease has no company when it comes to pitching prospects who can make a real dent in this year’s rotation. Getting a second 100-inning season under his belt (with reaffirming numbers in Triple-A) is bigger than any MLB accomplishments in 2019, although it seems like the White Sox will be guiding him toward a six-month season, and not one that ends on Labor Day.
No. 7: Carlos Rodon
Rodon finally had an offseason and spring training that required zero rehab or mysterious absences. The White Sox think that’ll help him recover his strikeout rate, which took a big dent without corresponding improvement in his walk rate in 2018. It’s hard to give a surgically repaired shoulder the benefit of the doubt, even with less invasive procedures like the one Rodon had. The power of his fastball-slider combo is what makes him special, so he needs to get that sizzle back to be a real difference-maker over the course of a long season.
No. 6: Tim Anderson
Anderson gives Sanchez a run for his money when it comes to talking a good game, but he has a ways to go to back it up. The defense came around last year, so he’s solved half of the questions. It’s also easy to forget about his 20-20 season last year because of all the wild hacks that limited him to a .240 average and a .281 OBP. There’s a really cool player here if his selectivity improves just enough to bring the hit tool back into focus. Walks will never happen.
No. 5: Lucas Giolito
Giolito is taking the extremely scenic route toward fulfilling the Gavin Floyd comp I slapped on him. Nobody is more cognizant of the issues that contributed to his league-worst 6.13 ERA and walk total, but the question with Giolito is whether any changes he makes stick for more than two or three starts at a time. Getting a reliable mid-rotation starter is still possible when the reconstruction is over, and with Kopech and Dunning’s injuries making them bigger question marks than before, Giolito’s resurgence is a lot more necessary than it used to be.
No. 4: Jose Abreu
Abreu appears to have made it through the spring without contracting the contract extension bug that swept through MLB clubhouses. It’s hard to tell whether that speaks more to the comfort between the two parties, skepticism about Abreu’s decline phase, or just plain uncertainty about what the club wants to do with first base after the season. The tough part is that a big year for Abreu — which I feel pretty good about — isn’t going to answer all of these issues by itself. If 2019 indeed marks the end of the Abreu era, hopefully he spends the year reinforcing the point that none of this was his fault.
No. 3: Reynaldo Lopez
Entering last season, it looked like the White Sox might’ve turned Adam Eaton into three reliable pitchers. Coming into 2019, Lopez is carrying the whole deal by himself. He looked like he came into his own at the end of last season, getting more swings and misses with his slider and powering his way out of jams with better velocity retention on his fastball. Some of that was feasting on awful lineups, but the AL Central is still terrible, so he can bum-slay away.
No. 2: Yoan Moncada
Moncada’s strikeout rate at Charlotte foreshadowed a rocky adjustment to MLB pitching, and he spent a lot of the 2018 season behind in the count. The good news? He was still an average player, and there are so many ways he can reasonably improve: a little more discipline with breaking balls, better responses to two-strike fastballs, a smoother swing from the right side, more reliable defense as a third baseman. It’s unfair to expect him to conquer all of these issues, but any combination of them should mean better times ahead for everybody. His .358/.469/.642 line in spring raises hopes a little, more so for the extra-base hits against left-handed pitching.
No. 1: Eloy Jimenez
Rick Hahn likes to say the rebuild doesn’t come down to one guy, but Eloy Jimenez is pretty much that one guy. The White Sox guaranteed him a record $43 million before his first plate appearance, which reflects both how confident they are in Jimenez, and how much they feared his earning potential.
(The Padres continue to be a thorn in the White Sox’ side, as they stand in contrast by calling up Fernando Tatis Jr. for Opening Day. Tatis isn’t just playing without a contract extension — he hasn’t even spent a day in Triple-A.)
The expectations for Jimenez are immense, and they should be. Any reservations should stem more from his history of nagging injuries than his physical tools, approach or his ability to adjust on the fly. If he stays on the field and hits like he can, he’ll give the White Sox the star attraction they desperately need. Sox fans won’t be able to subsist on Eloy alone, but after two hard years of rebuilding, including three months of intentional talent deprivation, he could be the first player to win Reliever of the Year as a left fielder.
As impressive as it would be for Anderson to have a .240 BA and a .241 OBP, I think you have a typo there Jim.
That was the eye test OBP.
You did declare “walks will never happen.”
Time to show the ability to develop some first division regulars. Seat should be warm for Getz, Champion, Steverson, ‘Coop and Co.
Cooper has a job as long as Kenny is here.
Certainly a long shot.
Their further investment in analytics could shine a light on whether or not the game has passed him by.
Indeed. However, per a Renisdorf-organization custom, the results of that light-shining will be ignored in favor of “loyalty”.
Or a “promotion” to a figurehead position a la Laumann.
Coop and Kenny can both hit the bricks IMO
It rolls off the tongue
I think Rondon is someone who could develop into a starter on a good team. What positions these guys ultimately wind up when the Sox are supposed to be good is too much of a jumbled mess for my liking.
it would be very impressive if eloy wins reliever of the year as a left fielder
If you can view the photos, this is some good insight about MLB pitchers average metrics by pitch.
It’s pretty brutal when you realize that White Sox first rounders from 2015-2017 have yielded:
– a starting pitcher who we’re praying could maybe be a reliever
– a catcher who we’re praying could maybe be a first baseman
– a third baseman who we’re praying could maybe be
Who has shown why successful teams no longer use high draft picks on College Closers.
26th overall isn’t that high. The expected production flattens out dramatically by the middle of the first round.
Also, all pitchers are likely to get hurt. See Dunning, Dane taken 3 picks later. Burdi’s elite closer ceiling made him comparable in value. And there was potential for him to contribute in the majors quickly like Finnegan.
Plus, HS pitchers are also a poor bet and teams are still using a lot of first round picks on them. So it’s not like staying on trend is necessarily a good idea.
The particularly ugly part of that is that in the case of the first two, there are a fair number of people who thought that said guys were a reliever and not-a-catcher at the time of the draft.
And thought the third one wasn’t a third baseman
Seems like everybody except WSox knew this before their drafts
Today’s a nice day so far for #5.