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The White Sox should announce the additions to their September roster within the next several hours, but chances are they won’t change the complexion or excitement factor all that much. Luis Robert seemed to call it a season on Instagram:
There’s always some level of interest in seeing how new players fare, but none of them will shift the balance or perception of the rebuild as Year Three comes to a close. I’m actually not sure if any development can at this point, but here are five questions I’m hoping somebody can answer over the final four weeks.
Can Yoan Moncada keep it together?
Moncada is hitting .186/.234/.395 since coming off the injured list, striking out 17 times in 47 plate appearances to three walks, two of which happened Monday. This recent binge puts his strikeout rate at 28.5 percent, and I’ve long considered 28 percent the line dividing his season’s ceiling between good and great. I have no scientific reason for doing so — I just eyeballed it before the season and settled on 28 percent, and I haven’t had to adjust it. Measure once, cut once. That’s what I always say.
Moncada bounced back from a similar rough patch in May, and given his uneven switch-hitting history, he may be prone to running hot-and-cold with his swing maintenance. The Sox could use a rally out of him, because he’s one of two players who are keeping the idea of the rebuild afloat.
Can Lucas Giolito finish strong?
Giolito is the other, and only a second Freddie Freeman homer kept him from a seventh consecutive quality start. He’ll likely pass last year’s innings total (173⅔) two starts from now, and he should have three starts afterward. There are no outward signs of tiring, as he pulled himself out of a leg-related midseason fatigue funk and is throwing as hard as ever. His command seems stable as well.
Given the massive year-over-year jump, I wouldn’t blame Giolito if his numbers lost a little bit of shine in September, just because it seems like no one person should hoard all this progress. That said, if he’s having a Chris Sale season in terms of strikeout rate and hit suppression, it’d be cool to see what one looks like without the expected tail-off in September.
Can Giolito get some help?
If nothing else — and there was nothing else — credit Ross Detwiler with making points convenient. The last turn through the rotation, the non-Giolito White Sox starters averaged 2⅔ innings. On Monday, Detwiler lasted … 2⅔ innings.
Iván Nova can be forgiven, because he gave the White Sox plenty in August otherwise. Also, he’s not going to be around in 2020, and at this point, “help” means next season more than this one.
Reynaldo López has cut down on his homers, surrendering only four over his last 10 starts. That gives him a 3.76 ERA over that stretch, even if it doesn’t quite reflect his start-to-start stability. If he can shake off his disaster in Atlanta and provide more of that in September, the Sox should feel better about him having one of the five rotation spots to open next season. If this relative homer drought is the fluke and López’s ERA is closer to 6.00 than 5.00, it offsets a lot of Giolito’s gains, because the White Sox will still have three rotation vacancies to consider instead of tow.
Then again, López could have a low bar to clear because Dylan Cease hasn’t yet secured a spot of his own. He has a 6.92 ERA over 10 starts because when he turns the run spigot on, he can’t figure out how to turn it off.
- Bases empty: .250/.314/.508, 8.6% BB, 24.3% K
- Men on: .357/.439/.595, 11.2% BB, 19.4% K
Success from the stretch has been one of Giolito’s biggest accomplishments, lowering his OPS with runners on from .861 to .578 year over year. Maybe Giolito has something to tell Cease about that during his ongoing tutelage.
Can Tim Anderson’s defense return?
I hesitate to call Anderson a cornerstone of the rebuild because even he trails only D.J. LeMahieu in the batting race, he’s not offering a ton in areas besides bat-to-ball success. He’s striking out eight times for every walk, the stolen bases have dried up (1-for-2 in 32 second-half games), and he’s leading the league in errors.
Anderson’s been above-average despite his flaws, and while you might not expect him to hit .329 ever again, the quality of contact is loud enough to suggest he won’t cede all his gains.
The question with Anderson is what he looks like when he’s hitting .280, not .330. That’s why those other areas — particularly defense — are so important. If Anderson gains control over the entirety of his game, he can be an above-average player even with a little below-average luck. If he needs a .390 BABIP to be a difference-maker, well, the Sox have lost those bets before. And hell, even if he finds some middle ground with his fortune, his ability to make a difference is limited in a lineup where nobody makes pitchers work.
Will Eloy Jiménez have to wait until the offseason?
Like most hitters, there’s an inverse relationship between Eloy Jiménez’s ground-ball rate and his overall success. Jimenez’s just happens to be more pronounced because he leads the White Sox in grounders.
It’s the same thing with strikeouts:
Putting a dent in one of these before the end of the season would be helpful, but I’m expecting any dramatic revisions to wait until after the season, even if Jiménez thinks it can happen sooner:
“I think … no, I’m going to be a .300 guy,” said a smiling Jimenez. “This is OK for a first year. It was really tough this year because I have so many injuries.
“Then I lose some games and I lose my timing, but that is OK. I think this month is going to be good and next year is going to be better.”
At least his confidence hasn’t taken much of it a hit.
Also, updating the “Who Will Lead The White Sox in Homers?” discussion:
- Jose Abreu, 28
- Yoan Moncada, 22
Eloy Jiménez, 22
Jiménez secured more than two-thirds of the vote before an injury caused his numbers to drop. Abreu has managed to expand his lead since.