Chicago White Sox Season Preview: Are They Finally Ready to Contend?

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Editor's note: Welcome to SI's MLB preview. Click here to view every team's outlook in 2020, including predictions, projections and, yes, a preview of the 2030 preview. Click here to read the White Sox fantasy preview.

The White Sox were one of just four teams that failed to make the playoffs in the 2010s. GM Rick Hahn spent the winter working to end that streak. He signed catcher Yasmani Grandal, lefty starter Dallas Keuchel and DH Edwin Encarnación to contracts totaling $140 million, all in an effort to do what the Twins did last year: steal the AL Central from the sleeping Indians.

The additions fill out a homegrown base that features three of 2019’s biggest breakouts in shortstop Tim Anderson (who hit an AL-best .335), third baseman Yoán Moncada (.315/.367/.548) and righty Lucas Giolito (3.41 ERA, 228 strikeouts). Coming up behind those three this year are outfielders Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert, top-five prospects in successive seasons. Righty Michael Kopech, the game’s best pitching prospect two years ago, should be back from Tommy John surgery later in the year. A rebuilding project that began with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in ’16 is on the cusp of producing a contender.

Even with all that money spent, there are no guarantees here. Those great ’19 seasons were built in part on good fortune on batted balls: Moncada had a BABIP of .406, the highest mark since 1977; Anderson wasn’t far behind at .399. Giolito has still never thrown 180 innings in the majors. Adding Keuchel helps; the team really needs a true No. 1, though. This lineup could be short on OBP, and it won’t be a good defensive team in any alignment.

Yet no AL team outside New York and Houston has Chicago’s ceiling. Grandal balances the lineup, helps with OBP and provides the young pitchers an excellent framer. If the rotation can hold its own, allowing the offense and a sneaky-good pen to do their jobs, the White Sox can be this year’s Twins. One thing is certain: They won’t go the whole ’20s without making the postseason. — Joe Sheehan

Projected Record: 91-71, 2nd in AL Central

Believe the hype—the White Sox have surrounded their emerging stars with all the right veterans. Even if their playoff drought lasts another year, it’s bound to end soon.

Key Question: Are the White Sox worth the hype?

We’ve been hearing about them all offseason long, and rightfully so, considering their young talent and all the moves they made. But Minnesota is loaded, and if the White Sox don’t win the AL Central, there’s no guarantee a wild-card spot will be there to fall back on. — Matt Martell

Player Spotlight

Moving Up: Luis Robert, OF

Between his contract and signing bonus, the Sox have guaranteed the 22-year-old Cuban outfielder $76 million before his first big league game.

Moving Down: José Abreu, 1B

The first baseman had a career-high strikeout rate in ’19 (21.9%). Though Abreu, now 33, still hit 33 homers, Father Time may be closing in.

Watchability Ranking: You Could Do Worse

The White Sox’ rebuild is over, and the question now is just when the new construction will be fully functional and ready to cut the ribbon. It could be now. It could be more like 2021. Either way, however, this set of young players—Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Luis Robert, Yoán Moncada, Dylan Cease, Nick Madrigal—should guarantee a team that’s fun to watch no matter how much it wins. — Emma Baccellieri

Preview of the 2030 Preview

Yoán Moncada, 3B: One of the last recipients of big money on the international market, Moncada took a while to go from looking the part to acting the part. At the plate he left passivity behind and became the embodiment of selective aggression back in 2019. Now 35, his once-fearsome bat speed has slowed, but his patience still allows him to pounce in the right situation. No matter how his skills have slipped, he’ll always be beloved by South Siders for helping to power the Sox to multiple division titles in the first half of the ’20s. — Craig Goldstein