The most essential 2019 White Sox: Nos. 40-21

Once again, I’m back with an ultimately fruitless endeavor that serves as a device to issue brief observations that more or less pin where a player is entering the season.

With this keyword of “essential,” I’m ranking players whose seasons will more or less determine your satisfaction with the 2019 season, adjusted for expectations.

Here’s one way to think about it: What does as big year look like for them? Applying that question to three different pitchers results in three different level of impact:

  • Jordan Stephens: Earns a multi-month audition.
  • Manny Banuelos: Sticks around as a long reliever and looks like a credible back-end starting possibility, too.
  • Lucas Giolito: Becomes a dependable No. 3 starter.

So Stephens is ranked in the 30s, Banuelos in the 20s, and Giolito … well, you’ll see.

A few observations about last year’s twopart list:

*Once again, I bailed myself out by expanding the list to 41 to include Jose Rondon. Nicky Delmonico went from No. 41 on the 2017 list to No. 9 on last year’s list. Rondon doesn’t have as much helium, but he’s interesting.

*The White Sox shouldn’t be nearly as dependent on journeymen to replenish their bullpen. Jose Ruiz and Ian Hamilton are a big step above Rob Scahill, Bruce Rondon and Jeanmar Gomez.

*Michael Kopech is missed, because there are so many players who have to restore hope on an individual level.

The list only includes players who seem likely to get playing time with the 2019 White Sox, so I didn’t feel comfortable pinning a number on …

Honorable mention: Luis Robert.

Robert seems poised for a major breakout if his body — specifically this thumb — doesn’t break down. That said, he’ll have to climb at least two levels to get to the majors, and the White Sox resisted calling up Eloy Jimenez when they had every opportunity to do so last season. A 110-game season would be a grind enough for him, so Robert seems more like a June 2020 call-up candidate to me. This was a point of debate on the podcast, with Josh predicting Robert will be called up this year.

My bold prediction was that Tyler Johnson would make his debut, but if we apply the “big year” test to him, a “big year” might not get him past Charlotte if the Sox are already loaded with righties. Applying that standard as judiciously as possible, the list starts with:

No. 40: Micker Adolfo.

Adolfo is all the way back here mainly because I’m not counting on him cracking the roster. Recovery from Tommy John surgery and jumping to Double-A should prove challenge enough. However, he’s on the 40-man roster and using his second option year, so I could see the White Sox testing him in September should he maintain his trajectory around the missed time.

(I also considered Zach Thompson for the last spot. Man, the Sox have a lot of righties worth a look.)

No. 39: Danny Mendick

If Mendick can replicate his Birmingham performance against more polished upper-level pitching at Charlotte, he’ll provide fine infield insurance should an infielder get injured, or if the Sox are forced to risk Jose Rondon to waivers.

No. 38: Jordan Stephens

He opens the season as the seventh starter, and with the shaky recent health records of Carlos Rodon and Ervin Santana in this rotation, there’s a chance seven starters are needed early. However, if the rotation holds together long enough and Dylan Cease continues his rise, Stephens seems better suited for relief.

No. 37: Nicky Delmonico

Delmonico’s back in Charlotte, and the writing was on the wall after the Sox acquired two other left-handed hitters who play his positions better, but I enjoyed the idea of Delmonico walking around with a clipboard and seeing how long he could last being somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. As I mentioned on the podcast, if 2017 wasn’t entirely a juiced-ball mirage, he could return to the fold as a decent 26th man, providing some left-handed pop and patience while being able to stand in a couple different positions. If 2018 is closer to his form going forward, he’s a poor man’s Mark Teahen. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him in Chicago, but he’s already aced Charlotte, so that won’t tell us much.

No. 36: Aaron Bummer

It seems like he’s lost his mojo to Caleb Frare, but given the nature of left-handed relievers, their roles could easily be reversed in a month.

No. 35: Kodi Medeiros

It’d be nice if the White Sox’ best trade chit turned into a player the White Sox could use as a spot starter, but everything about Medeiros’ profile suggests he’s going to be a lefty-oriented reliever. Still, the Sox will be able to exhaust his potential in that regard, given that 2019 is his first full year in the system.

No. 34: Dylan Covey

Covey had a nice spring, and he should serve a purpose on this roster. Alas, he only had enough stuff to get through an order one time as a starter, and he doesn’t seem to miss more bats in short spurts, so it’ll be hard for him to break out of long relief.

No. 33: Jose Ruiz

He posted a decent September showing and carried over his 96-98 mph fastball into the spring, so he’s probably first in line to plug a hole in the bullpen.

No. 32: Caleb Frare

As Bummer shows, the life of a hard-throwing-but-limited lefty can be a limited one. That said, he’s winning right now.

No. 31: Luis Basabe

I probably would’ve had him in the early-20s or late-teens had he not broken his hamate bone early in spring training, but I’m ratcheting down my expectations in the wake of a hand injury. Still, given that he’s using his second option year, it wouldn’t surprise me if the White Sox gave him a trial run in September if he somehow avoided succumbing to the usual power drainage.

No. 30: Ian Hamilton

His spring wasn’t much of one, as a car accident and the resulting stiffness basically foiled his chances of breaking camp with the club. If that’s all that’s wrong, he should play a prominent part in the bullpen by season’s end, assuming he figures out how to throw a slider with the major league baseball.

No. 29: Carson Fulmer

The Driveline-inspired return to his fast-forwarded Vanderbilt delivery didn’t result in dramatically different results in Arizona, but Glendale isn’t the best showcase for curveballs. We’ll get a better idea of what he’s all about after a month in Charlotte. He’s using up his fourth and final option year, so this could be the end of the road if he’s not able to make innings easy on himself, even one at a time. It’d sure be nice to get value out of a first-round pick, though.

No. 28: Ryan Burr

He and Frare are competing for the best player acquired with international bonus money during the Luis Robert penalty box period. Burr gained separation from Thyago Vieira from the right side of this competition after apparently figuring out how to throw a breaking ball with MLB seams. Spring stats can be shady, but 15 strikeouts against zero walks for a relief pitcher seems like a major step in the right direction.

No. 27: James McCann

The hope is that he’ll cut down some runners and come up with some extra-base hits as a backup to Welington Castillo, then move gracefully out of the way when Seby Zavala looks ready for MLB action.

No. 26: Zack Burdi

Burdi says he’s fine, but the White Sox shielded him from all prying eyes during Cactus League play, if you’re among those who think actions speak louder than words. (Update: James Fegan said Burdi is battling a lat strain, and so is Tyler Johnson for that matter.) He has two obstacles ahead of him – finding the high-90s with his fastball again, and being effective enough on back-to-back days, which he hasn’t yet shown as a pro. It’d sure be nice to get value out of a first-round pick, though.

No. 25: Nate Jones

Even if he were throwing 98 mph and breaking bats, Jones’ injury history would be enough to suppress enthusiasm. The reduced spring velocity and loud contact strike me as harbingers.

No. 24: Manny Banuelos

Three years after his only previous cup of coffee, Banuelos opens the season occupying Hector Santiago’s old role as left-handed long reliever/sixth starter. That’s probably his most likely role going forward, but any emergency starts will be a good use of exploring his upside.

No. 23: Seby Zavala

He opens the season as the third catcher, but if his struggles at Charlotte were mostly the result of a wrist issue, he should play his way into backup catcher plans before the season is over.

No. 22: Ervin Santana

James Shields’ White Sox legacy isn’t a rich one, but he did leave 205 innings to fill. Santana and Ivan Nova are here to eat innings as veterans, and you can decide which one will be Shields, and which one will be Miguel Gonzalez.

No. 21: Jon Jay

Jay looks the guy who will hit the IL so Eloy Jimenez can live on Opening Day.

The fact that Jay was inactive for nearly two weeks of spring training either makes this more than an injury of convenience, or everybody is selling the hell out of it. If he misses the minimum amount of time, he’s not a terrible leadoff candidate against right-handed pitching, and he’s the best defensive corner outfielder they have.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I think I’m the high man on Mendick (phrasing). He struggled with AA in 2017 but rebounded with a nice 2018. Looking forward to seeing how he handles AAA – doesn’t have a loud set of tools but seems to do a lot of things well.


Jay not being available for the KC series worries me. Outfield defense is very important there, especially with a rookie in one of the corners. I expect to see a hot shot down the third base line turn into homer because Eloy will wait for the ball to bounce off the wall and instead it hugs the wall as it always does in Kauffman Stadium.


Good call out. Palka and Eloy in the corners in Kauffman is… Not ideal. I wouldnt mind seeing Leury in Right one of those games.


Here’s hoping that the Royals are not hitting many balls into the corner. They already seem to be helping us out with that with the lineup they are expected to trot out.


Oh sure, NOW everybody wants Eloy to work on his defense


A outfield with Engel and Palka would be unbearable. Palka would would hurt the teams defense and Engel and Palma combined offensives stats would be around 230 with 33 h/r and100Bri. Not good for one player, But for two it doesn’t look good.

lil jimmy

I have high hopes for Banuelos. He seems to throw strikes. Still just 28. He’s my lightning in a bottle candidate.

Reindeer Games

Adam Engel isn’t on this list which seems about right.  I would not include him in my top 40 most essential White Sox Outfielders list.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I was afraid of that.

Reindeer Games

Important in the sense of “will make them lose a lot of games because he’s playing all the time and shouldn’t be”?

As Cirensica

We have no other credible CF other than the not ready Robert and Basabe. My guess is that it pushes Engel’s stock upwards…at least in the short run.

Right Size Wrong Shape


As Cirensica

We need to accept that Leury is passable CF for a few games. And I have a feeling if the Sox expose him as a CF, his defensive metrics will fall. Engel is a good CF.

The White Sox pitching staff will allow a lot of contact, and hard. Having credible defense in the middle is very valuable. Having Engel will cost us some runs offensively, but he certainly will save some runs with his glove.

In any event neither player will be part of the team in the contending window because they will likely be in their 40s and retired.




We have no other credible CF


Reindeer Games

Adam Engel isn’t a major league player.  He’s certainly not a credible CF.  Out of players with more than 450 PAs, he had the 10th lowest OBP and the 6th lowest Slugging.  He’s not even a AAAA CFer because he can’t even hit AAA pitching.  Plus, he’s overrated defensively because of highlight plays. 

Reindeer Games

Last year was basically his ceiling, and Brian Anderson (remember him) managed to have a season with the Sox with more bWAR. 

lil jimmy

I hope your’re not looking for someone to disagree with you.


but his new stance . . .

As Cirensica

I completely agree with you. Engel is not a MLB, and him being our best CF speaks volumes how this team currently sucks and I predict around 95 losses this year.


I wouldn’t have been angry with the White Sox taking a look at Drew Ferguson in the Rule 5 draft this year. Can play center (not as good as engel) and had a .436 OBP (BB 15.8%) in AAA last year. Wouldn’t mind having a guy that can get on base. I think we know what we have in Engel. At the end of the day, I guess the difference doesn’t really matter as Basabe or Robert will be starting in CF hopefully come 2020.


It’d sure be nice to get value out of a first-round pick, though.

Déjà vu


I’m ranking players whose seasons will more or less determine your satisfaction with the 2019 season

I think I see where this is going with your Giolito teaser. Top 5? Tune in tomorrow, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.