2018 finish: 62-100, fourth in AL Central
SI's 2019 prediction: 75-87, Third in AL Central
Key additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Jon Jay, SP Ivan Nova, RP Alex Colomé, RP Kelvin Herrera
Key departures: OF Avísail Garcia, INF Matt Davidson
1. 3B Yoán Moncada
2. 2B Yolmer Sánchez
3. DH José Abreu
4. 1B Yonder Alonso
5. LF Eloy Jiménez
6. RF Daniel Palka
7. C Welington Castillo
8. SS Tim Anderson
9. CF Adam Engel
C James McCann
INF José Rondon
OF Leury García
OF Ryan Cordell
LHP Carlos Rodón
RHP Reynaldo López
RHP Iván Nova
RHP Lucas Giolito
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Alex Colomé (closer)
RHP Kelvin Herrera
RHP Nate Jones
LHP Jace Fry
RHP Ryan Burr
LHP Caleb Frare
RHP Dylan Covey
LHP Manny Bañuelos
Injury list: OF Jon Jay, RHP Ian Hamilton, RHP Michael Kopech (out for 2019)
Movin On Up! Yoán Moncada’s strikeout rate is terrifying. In 2018, he was punched out over third of the time he entered the batter’s box. But when he makes contact, he can do damage; even as a 23-year-old second baseman, he averaged 90.6 mph in exit velocity, good for 42nd in baseball.
Sell! Lucas Giolito was a first-round pick in 2012 and MLB.com’s third-best prospect entering the ’16 season, but he has never lived up to the hopes scouts pinned on him. His fastball velocity was down to 92.4 mph last year, and he induced batters to swing and miss only 8.3% of the time. He is still only 24, but that prospect shine has dulled.
Appreciate This Man! Tim Anderson is exactly the kind of athlete baseball should be attracting. He was a high school basketball star who did not pick up a bat until his junior year. He fell in love with the game, played it in junior college and went No. 17 to the White Sox in the 2013 draft. His late start means that he is still learning on the job; his defense at short has just recently become reliable. But he has the makings of a star, and he should grow into one for the only team he’s ever known: Chicago signed him to a six-year, $25 million deal before the ’17 season, ensuring that he will be part of the team’s resurgence, should it come.
A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: After acquiring Manny Machado’s brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and Machado’s close friend Jon Jay, the White Sox forgot to land Machado himself. Instead, they elected to move Moncada, the game’s top prospect two years ago, to third base, swapping him across the infield with Yolmer Sánchez. The absence of Machado, or any big free-agent hitter, increases the focus on Moncada. The Sox need the Cuban infielder to become the hitter he was projected to be when he was the centerpiece of the Chris Sale deal. Moncada hit 17 homers, stole 20 bases, and drew 67 walks in his first full MLB season, but the only number anyone noticed was his league-leading 217 strikeouts. Even in our strikeout-happy era, whiffing nearly a third of the time caps your offensive value. Because he does everything else at the plate, even a small reduction in his strikeout rate could turn Moncada into an All-Star.
League Pass rating: 4.5
If the White Sox had acquired Manny Machado, that would have boosted their window of contention, their win total and this rating, but as it is, they are a year away at best. Their young, graceful infield defense keeps them watchable, but the pitching will likely struggle. The main draw of the 2019 season is outfielder Eloy Jiménez after he and the White Sox agreed to a six-year contract before the top prospect has taken a big league at-bat.
Keep an Eye Out for… The last two years haven’t been kind to Chicago’s pitching prospects—Lucas Giolito has floundered, while Michael Kopech and Dane Dunning both blew out their elbows—but Dylan Cease could be the one to break the streak. The righty touches 98 mph with his fastball and has a hard-breaking curveball to complement it, giving him true ace upside. He destroyed Double A last year and has an outside chance to get major league innings late in 2019. Zack Collins, a first-round pick out of Miami in 2016, is the catcher of the future in the South Side after a good year in Double A. Righty Ian Hamilton probably would’ve made the White Sox this spring if not for a car accident in which he hurt his shoulder. The righty offers a plus fastball and slider and will make for an excellent late-inning relief option for manager Rick Renteria once he’s healthy.
A rival scout analyzes the 2019 Chicago White Sox
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
Whether they're going to come in third place or fourth place. They've got Kelvin Herrera, which was a good addition, but the bullpen's going to be a struggle. They don't expect to compete. I think 2020 was their target date to compete for the division. They really don't have a chance to win the division this year, so the biggest thing for them is getting their younger players to play and develop for next year.
What young player(s) is/are on the cusp of stardom?
Once Eloy Jiménez comes up, he's a guy who you watch play and you're like, he's got a chance to be a 30-home run guy, .280 hitter. He's the real deal. I'd be shocked if he doesn't have success.
What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?
Early last season, you heard whispers about whether Yoán Moncada’s swing was going to work. He put on a little weight. I wouldn't say he’s a bust, but there are some concerns that he's not going to be the superstar player everybody thought he was going to be. You could put Lucas Giolito in that category as possibly a bust. When you watch him pitch, it's—oof, he’s a big guy, he’s not real athletic, and he has strike issues.
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
Yolmer Sánchez. This guy's steady. They moved Moncada to third, so Sánchez will be the everyday second baseman. He’s a nice, steady good player, and not a lot of people know about him.
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
I'd say Moncada. I don’t think he's going to be the All-Star player everyone thought he was going to be.
Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?
Either Carlos Rodón or Nate Jones. I mean, Rodón is nasty. I haven't seen a slider like that since Steve Carlton.
Who has the best instincts/ baseball IQ?
I'd probably say Jon Jay. He's a good addition to that club. He's a fringe-y everyday guy, but he's a veteran, he knows what he's doing, so he can help some of the younger guys on that team.
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
Eloy Jiménez. I've seen this kid since A-ball, and it’s impressive. I saw him in big league camp and he looked like he belonged. This guy's got power to all fields, he’s a home run hitter, but he’s not a big swing-and-miss chaser. He has good at-bats. Once he settles in, he definitely has a big upside. His ceiling in the future could be as an MVP candidate. The Cubs traded some good players, and this was one, gosh darn, you'd like to have him back.
Name two guys on this team that you would immediately trade for?
On their current roster, Rodón and José Abreu.
Which under-the-radar prospect/non-roster invitee could make a splash this season?
I like their position players. I don't like their pitching so much. But they've got some guys. Luis Alexander Basabe just got hurt so he's going to be out four-to-six weeks, but I thought he had a chance to impact the club later in the season. He’s not really under the radar, but I love Dylan Cease. He's one of their top guys that they got from the Cubs.
Is the current manager one you would hire to run your club?
Yes. He’s a development guy who’s good with young players. I just hope he stays there when they get good, because there's been a history of teams getting rid of the manager who developed their guys.
What is the ceiling for this team this year? What about the next three years?
For this year, it’s third place. I like their chances to compete in the next three years if they can add some pieces to their pitching staff, to their bullpen. I think they've done a good job of acquiring prospects, but if they can add to that group, I like their chances to compete for the division in the next three years.