The White Sox helped kick-start the Hot Stove with the biggest signing of the offseason thus far with Yasmani Grandal! The $73 million deal was the largest contract given to a free agent in White Sox history, surpassing the deal Jose Abreu signed in 2013 for $68 million. This sets the tone for what should be an exciting offseason for the White Sox, who are rumored to be interested in the flame-throwing righty Zack Wheeler.
The White Sox have virtually the same group of players as last year after Abreu accepted the qualifying offer. They should be able to improve their 72-89 record simply because of the young core continuing to develop and learning how to win together. Does this mean that the White Sox can really be playoff contenders next year?
First, let’s start with the backstops for the Pale Hose. The White Sox, behind starting catcher James McCann, last season lost many runs due to poor presentation behind the plate. Despite having a career year at the plate, James McCann ranked dead last among qualifying catchers in Runs Extra Strikes with -16. Grandal ranked second, tied with former White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, with +13. Grandal won’t just help the pitching staff, he’ll also help the offense. He provides a much needed left-handed bat, being a switch hitter, to balance out the right-handed heavy lineup. Yasmani drew 109 BB which was 4th most in all of baseball. One of the biggest problems the White Sox have had in recent years has been the ability to get on base and Grandal should help that cause. Yaz hit 28 HR last year for the Brewers and can play 1B to get Abreu off his feet. It’s pretty safe to say the White Sox have the best catching tandem in the game.
Jose Abreu has received a lot of criticism from White Sox fans because his numbers have declined over the years and is not a good defender. However, Jose Abreu still hit 33 HR and led the American League in RBI with 123 for you traditional fans. Can we expect that to continue into next year? Most certainly we can! Jose Abreu is an elite slugger. His exit velocity ranks in the 94th percentile and his hard-hit rate is in the 93rd percentile. Just 12 hitters in baseball had both a better average exit velocity and hard hit rate as Pito. Among them are Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Judge, and Christian Yelich.
Nick Madrigal should be the primary second baseman for the White Sox in 2020 unless he gets traded. Since being drafted 4th overall in 2018, Nick has struck out just 21 times in 705 PA in the minor leagues. According to Mike Petriello, his 3% strikeout rate is the lowest in the minor leagues since 2006. While Madrigal has elite contact skills, he does not have power and does not draw walks. He has a 7% BB rate in his minor league career with just 4 long balls. MLB Pipeline believes he can develop more power as he develops, with a shot at 12-15 homers a season. Not that defense was a problem at 2B for the Sox in 2019 with Yolmer Sanchez winning the Gold Glove award, but Madrigal has the potential to follow Yolmer as the next 2B to win a Gold Glove award for Chicago.
“Yoan Moncada is a bust”, can no longer be said after he received votes on the AL MVP ballot this year. YoYo, just like his countryman Abreu, has an absurd hard-hit rate and exit velocity. Although everyone raved about how much better Moncada looked at 3B defensively, he was tied for last among qualifying 3B with -7 Defensive Runs Saved. Despite walking a lot less in 2019 he struck out less, as well. He changed from a passive approach, that of Zack Collins, to an aggressive approach which paid off big time. Look for Moncada to continue to put up strong numbers on offense in 2020 as he is starting to prove why he was the #1 prospect in baseball.
Many people don’t seem to believe that Tim Anderson can repeat his batting title again. No, they aren’t coming out of left field with this one. TA’s expected batting average was .294, but obviously he hit much better at .335. Therefore, he was an extremely lucky hitter this year. Look for Anderson to still hit 20-25 HRs next year but maybe with a more down to earth .290 batting average. Timmy is still far from his ceiling. His approach at the plate has tons of room to improve. His defense is not where it needs to be if the Sox plan on winning in the next couple of years. He was the 4th worst SS in DRS in 2019. TA had a breakout year in 2019, but you can expect the numbers to decline a little bit. Just don’t expect his swagger or bat flips to disappear in 2020.
Eloy Jimenez proved why he was the number 3 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline coming into 2019. He hit 31 HRs and slugged .513 even with 2 IL stints. Just like teammates Yoan and Jose he smashes the ball with the best of them. His defense was, well, terrible. Using the Statcast metric ‘Outs Above Average’, Eloy was in the 3rd percentile! I don’t think you needed a stat to tell you that, as simply watching you can tell he wasn’t great. If he can become an average defender and improve his walk rate he could be a perennial MVP candidate. If he stays healthy look for him to put up a 40 home run season in 2020 with a few mentions of his mom sprinkled in.
The days of Adam Engel in CF are becoming numbered as the #3 ranked prospect in all of baseball, Luis Robert, is looming. Luis Robert was named the MLB Pipeline Minor League Hitter of the Year. He smashed 32 homeruns across three levels in ’19 after hitting 0 in ‘18 although he had 2 in the AFL. Robert put together a 30-30 season this year, but he drew just 28 walks. A recurring theme within the White Sox organization even after the signing of Grandal. However, La Pantera can be a solid defender up the middle if he improves his reads. He has a 60 arm on the 20-80 scale so if he fails in CF he can shift to RF. Robert might just be the most exciting addition to the team in 2020.
Right field is the only toss up as of now for the White Sox. Currently Leury Garcia would be the Opening Day RF for the White Sox. Rick Hahn has stated the need to address RF and there are many options on the free agent market (Castellanos, Calhoun, and Dickerson) and the trade market (2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts). If the White Sox address the need by bringing in someone along those lines then the team should be solid across the diamond.
The Designated Hitter will be a revolving door for Chicago in 2020. Zack Collins will see time there. Grandal and Abreu will DH to take a break from the field. This is also a place where the White Sox can add a free agent. Maybe Edwin Encarnacion on a short term deal could be a good fit for the Sox.
Ultimately, expect the White Sox lineup to improve in 2020. The young core will continue to develop and improve on their strong 2019 campaigns. The addition of new hitting coach Frank Menechino and assistant hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, along with Grandal, should help the team’s walk numbers. The lineup should be able to help the team vie for a postseason spot in 2020. But they will have to improve their approach if they want to become an elite offense.
Featured Photo: @YazmanianDVL08