No products in the cart.
The daily Patreon request line during the All-Star break continues with this question from Andrew:
Now that Cease has arrived, which moves the Sox closer to their window of competitiveness, when do you envision other notable prospects like Robert, Madrigal, Vaughn, Dunning, and Burdi to reach the majors? And how long do the Sox have before they can’t afford everyone?
As we discussed with Monday’s assessment of the trades that started the rebuild, the White Sox have effectively replaced the stars they traded with a cost-controlled new group. This wave Andrew mentions is going to be the key in differentiating the first rebuild from the second.
Theoretically, the extension for Jiménez should make it easier to be aggressive with another prospect’s timeline, but Rick Hahn’s been fairly adamant that this year still qualifies as a rebuilding one, and I’m assuming he’ll use the diminished expectations to suppress Robert’s timeline in the same way while there’s no pressure to get every win. It’d be nice to be proven wrong.
Robert: If he hits in Charlotte like he has in Winston-Salem and Birmingham, he should be up in September for the kind of readiness assessment that Eloy Jiménez also earned last September. Of course, the Sox weren’t willing to reward Jiménez with a call-up because of service-time reasons, and he only made the Opening Day roster because he agreed to a contract extension that capped his earnings for his first eight years in the league. Robert doesn’t seem as likely to sign one of those because he’s already enjoyed his first big payday.
I’m also prepared for the possibility that Robert looks a little more ragged in Charlotte as the season wears on, just because he’s already set a career high in games with nearly three full months to go. It’s hard to be in better physical condition than Robert, but I’m just not taking his unprecedented availability for granted.
Madrigal: I kinda have the sense that Madrigal will hit .280 at every level he plays at, with the variance in overall value coming from the walks and doubles columns. He could probably be on the same timeline as Robert, but unlike La Pantera, there are a few more bodies in his way.
Granted, Yolmer Sánchez, Jose Rondón and Danny Mendick shouldn’t be blocking any long-term solution, but the White Sox are also going to need somebody else who is playable at second, whether it’s as a 2020 Opening Day starter, infield depth, etc. I’m guessing they’ll spend the rest of the season settling 40-man decisions for the upcoming offseason, then carve out a space for Madrigal a month into 2020.
Vaughn: Now we get into murkier territory. If Vaughn is a Kris Bryant type of ready — even if he doesn’t have an MVP-level ceiling — he should be ready to go by the end of 2020, or the start of 2021. The Sox, however, have struggled to matriculate their previous two polished college power bats selected in the first round. Vaughn should be a cut above Zack Collins (whose swing was questioned in pre-draft scouting reports and is also trying to catch) and Jake Burger (who can’t get healthy), but I can wait until he shows it himself in A-ball before penciling him in.
Dunning: Speaking of uncomfortable precedents, a tidy White Sox rebuild will include multiple players making smooth returns from Tommy John surgery. Michael Kopech gets the first crack at ending a three-player losing streak (Nate Jones, Micker Adolfo and Zack Burdi), and Dunning is on deck. He had surgery in March, so a conservative track has him reestablishing his Double-A credentials by the end of 2020, setting him up for a path to the majors in 2021.
Burdi: Assuming the surgery on his patellar tendon doesn’t completely reset the progress he made with his stuff this year, I’m guessing he could be on a Thyago Vieira Charlotte-Chicago boomerang at some point in 2020. I don’t really count him as part of a rebuild at this point, just because reliever success tends to be random, while Burdi’s issues staying on the field aren’t.
Does anybody else fit this wave?
With Gavin Sheets looking like a candidate to bust out of Birmingham by the end of the year, he could barge his way into the first half of 2020 if he maintains his trajectory. He and Vaughn will keep each other honest, and if it’s somehow the best-case scenario for both, the Sox will finally have depth for dealing.
That was supposed to happen with the logjam of outfielders in Birmingham, but Micker Adolfo had another season-ending surgery, Luis Basabe has battled hand and leg issues, Luis Gonzalez hasn’t yet clicked in Double-A, and Blake Rutherford has only started recently producing there, and in a limited fashion. Steele Walker looks ready to join them after receiving the player of the month nod at Winston-Salem for June, but a 2020 projection for him would be aggressive, at least anything more than a September call-up.
As for when salaries will become a concern? Unless they do some serious spending on the open market, it won’t be until Giolito and Moncada hit free agency after the 2023 season, because neither will benefit from a fourth arbitration year that helps set records. It’s hard to imagine them unloading the money cannon — partially because of past habits, and partially because the free agent pool is shallower than it used to be. Either way, the Sox have more than a window to make what they have work, and if they can make the postseason two years in a row, the eight-figure payrolls they’ve carried the last few years will be relics of a bygone era.