Coming into the 2019 season, many White Sox fans are already pessimistic about the season’s outcome. I will fully admit that for the last couple of seasons, that was also me. This season, though, I have a bit more hope for the continuous rebuilding that has been happening over the last few years. Though it will certainly be an uphill battle, this season has some lights at the end of the tunnel and hopefully we can see some positive turn around from the 2018 season. (Author’s note: Statistics listed in italics are from the 2018 season unless otherwise noted)
During the 2018 season, the White Sox had an abysmal record of 62-100 and finished in Fourth Place in the AL Central. This was their first 100-loss season since 1970, and maybe could have been subconsciously predicted by Opening Day 2018, where it was (a high of) 34 degrees and snowing. The attendance for that game was reportedly only slightly above 900 people, even though over 10,000 bought tickets. The home (30-51) and road (32-59) records were not much different, and though they did not finish in last place, they were only four games above the last place Royals and finished with the third worst record in the MLB, coming in just above Kansas City (58-104) and Baltimore (47-115).
The White Sox are notorious for talking a big game during the off season, saying how they are ready and willing to spend money on the right player. This was music to the ears of White Sox fans when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper became free agents after the 2018 season. Though both players were rumored to have met and had serious talks with the White Sox, Machado wound up signing with the Padres and Harper with the Phillies. This caused all hell to break loose within the White Sox fanbase, especially fans saying that the front office was all talk and no action. Though it was definitely a hard pill to swallow, most White Sox fans have moved on to focus on who is on the team, rather than those who signed elsewhere. Though they did not sign either of the big name players, the White Sox did make some other moves during the off-season. The first move came in December, when they traded for Pittsburgh starter Ivan Nova in exchange for Yordi Rosario and $500,000 of international signing bonus money. Followed by trading for Cleveland’s Yonder Alonso in exchange for minor league outfielder, Alex Call. More recently, the White Sox signed prospect Eloy Jimenez to a six-year, $43 million deal.
The White Sox are arguably building from the ground up in the pitching realm right now. The starting rotation is fairly young, and it will more than likely be a slow process getting to a point where they are consistent. As of now, it’s looking like the starting rotation will consist of four guys-
- Carlos Rodon (6-8, 4.18 ERA, 1.260 WHIP, 2.0 WAR)
- Reynaldo Lopez (7-10, 3.91 ERA, 1.272 WHIP, 3.1 WAR)
- Lucas Giolito (10-13, 6.13 ERA, 1.477 WHIP, -1.3 WAR)
- Ivan Nova (PIT 9-9, 4.19 ERA, 1.280 WHIP, 1.1 WAR)
With that, Ervin Santana is another name to keep in mind as a potential fifth starter. Per WGN Radio, Rick Hahn said Santana will “stay behind (in Arizona) and continue to throw”, noting that four starters will be in play until April 10th when “assuming everything holds and that is the time we need a fifth starter, Ervin will very likely take the ball that day.” Michael Kopech also would’ve competed for a rotation spot this spring after getting a “cup of coffee” in the league last fall, but is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is likely out for the season.
The White Sox bullpen has a lot of promising talent this year, and could be an area of positive outcomes for the team. They will likely be starting out with an eight-man bullpen-
Alex Colome (Closer)
This bullpen has a very promising future, should they remain healthy. Ian Hamilton, another relief pitcher, will be starting the season on the IL with a setback following a shoulder injury. With regard to healthiness, another notable player is Nate Jones who has yet to pitch a fully healthy season since 2016. In addition, the hope is that Kelvin Herrera remains healthy after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his foot.
Welington Castillo will be the starter behind the plate for the White Sox this year. After playing only 49 games last year (March and April and the end of September) due to an 80 game suspension, he ended the season with a .259 BA over 170 ABs with 44 hits and 6 HRs. His WAR for the season wound up being 0.6. This season, it is likely that if he does not step up his bat, that he will split time with James McCann, who has a similar look behind the plate to Castillo.
Going into this season, the White Sox have a pretty solid defense as far as the infield goes. According to the MLB.com projected depth chart, it is no shock that Jose Abreu will be back starting at first, Yoan Moncada at third, and Tim Anderson at shortstop. At second base, it will more than likely be Yolmer Sanchez. Jose Rondon will also make the Opening Day roster, though it is looking doubtful that he will start. The White Sox will definitely be looking for 2x All-Star and 2x Silver Slugger Jose Abreu’s bat to carry them along to wins this season. Last season, Abreu had 499 ABs with 132 hits and 22 HRs for an overall .473 SLG. Moncada is another bat that the White Sox will be looking at to perform well, especially after his Spring Training performance so far. In 51 AB’s in Spring Training, Moncada has accumulated a .353 BA, .478 OBP, and a .647 SLG. It will definitely be a step in the right direction if he keeps it up throughout the regular season.
The White Sox have a very large and versatile outfield this season. Though Jon Jay is looking like he will start the season on the IL, hopefully his hip and lower back soreness will settle soon and he will be back quickly. The likely starters for Opening Day are Eloy Jimenez in left, Adam Engel in center, and Daniel Palka in right. When Jay is better, it would not be a shock to see him start back in right. Another key player in this equation is Leury Garcia. Though it is unlikely he will start, his utility will be imperative to the team, especially knowing he could very well play second as well as the outfield. Palka is a key player here as well, because his bat (2018: 417 ABs, 27 HRs, .484 SLG) could be used at DH, depending on how Yonder Alonso starts the season.
Following the February trade where the White Sox acquired Yonder Alonso, it is looking like he will start at DH and potentially share time at first with Abreu. As mentioned above, Palka is also a viable option to play in the DH spot if/when he is needed. Alonso had a pretty noteworthy season in 2018, with 516 ABs, 23 HRs, and a .421 SLG.
Yes, that was a whole hullabaloo of information. I think the part that is the most important to take from everything I wrote above is that the 2019 White Sox have a lot of potential and talent going into the start of the season. Barring any injuries, there is definite wiggle room for the White Sox to move around the projected AL standings (via Baseball Prospectus) of finishing fourth in the AL Central with a record of 70-92. As far as chances to move up and down in the standings, all of the teams are pretty even. Even though Cleveland is looking like they will top the division, that really is not a hard task. Excluding Cleveland’s outstanding starting rotation, nothing really stands out. It is also absolutely possible that the Minnesota Twins contend for first in the division. I have a lot of faith and hope in the Chicago White Sox this year. I cannot wait for the season to actually start and for everything to fall into place. They may not have a winning season this year, but it is definitely going to be a year where things start to look up.
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