Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Chicago White Sox 2019 season preview

Reynaldo Lopez. Photo from USA Today


               Strikeouts, strikeouts, so many strikeouts! That's what Chicago White Sox fans would be saying in 2018 every time they were up at bat. Second baseman Yoan Moncada led the MLB with 217 strikeouts, also a franchise record. And the record for the most strikeouts by a team in a season is 1,594, set by the 2018 White Sox. That is one area the White Sox are trying to fix, as their rebuild improves. 2018 will be an interesting season for the southern Chicago team, after going hard in for Manny Machado, but failing hard.

                 Offseason additions: RHP Kelvin Herrera, RHP Alex Colome, 1B Yonder Alonso, RHP Ivan Nova, C James McCann, OF Jon Jay, RHP Ervin Santana, OF Preston Tucker, OF Brandon Guyer

                  Offseason subtractions: RF Avisail Garcia, 3B Matt Davidson, RHP James Shields, C Omar Narvaez, LHP Hector Santiago, LHP Luis Avilan, C Kevan Smith

                  Rotation
Veteran pitcher James Shields led the White Sox in innings pitched last year, but he left for free agency. The team brought in an upgrade, getting Ivan Nova from Pittsburgh. Nova has had an ERA just over 4.00 in his two full seasons with the Pirates. Another season, another injury for Carlos Rodon, who pitched to a 4.18 ERA in 120.2 innings in 2018. The other two pitchers that are definitely going to be in the rotation are products of the Adam Eaton trade, but they had polar opposite 2018s. Reynaldo Lopez was a bright spot, with a 3.91 ERA, and he led the team in WAR at 3.1. Lucas Giolito, the more heralded prospect from that trade, pitched a career high 173.1 innings, but the bad news is that his 6.13 ERA led all qualifiers. But, he was just 23 on a 100 loss team. The fifth spot is up for grabs, with starter/reliever Dylan Covey and veteran Ervin Santana, brought in on a minor league deal, the favorites.

                    Bullpen
The area that saw the most improvement this offseason from Chicago was the bullpen. Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera were brought in. They both spent the majority of 2017 in a set-up role, but combined for 73 saves in 2017, when Colome led the league with 47. It is uncertain which one will close. Nate Jones and Juan Minaya are the best returning options. Minaya had a breakout 2018, and Jones was again hurt by injuries, pitching in just 30 innings. Jace Fry pitched in 59 games for the team last year. If Covey loses out to Santana, he's a bullpen option. The final spot is between righty Ian Hamilton and lefty Aaron Bummer, the latter has more MLB experience.

                   Catching
Despite an 80 game PED suspension in 2018, the Sox have enough confidence in Welington Castillo that they traded young catcher Omar Narvaez for Colome. Castillo struggled when playing in 2018, but was signed after hitting 20 home runs and .282 with Baltimore in 2017. Backup Kevan Smith was picked up off waivers from the Angels, and the team signed former division foe James McCann. He's thrown out 37 percent of runners in his career.

                    Infield
The middle infield for Chicago is young and interesting. Yoan Moncada struck out a lot in 2018, but the former number one prospect in baseball still has potential. Tim Anderson became the first White Sox shortstop ever to hit 20 home runs (20) and steal 20 bases (26) in a season. Matt Davidson was non-tendered, leaving third base duties to Yolmer Sanchez, who's 2.6 WAR lead Sox position players. Jose Abreu is in the final year of his contract, and the three time 30 home run hitter and four time 100 RBI gatherer will share first base and DH duties with Yonder Alonso, who hit 23 home runs last year for Cleveland.

                     Outfield
One of the top prospects in baseball, Eloy Jimenez will likely start the season in AAA, but will be called up after his service time is delayed. He will then be the starting left fielder. Until then, Nicky Delmonico will play there. Center fielder Adam Engel is very fast and a very good fielder, but can't hit. The Sox' non-tendered Avisail Garcia, giving right field duties to Daniel Palka. Palka was a D-backs and Twins reject who hit 27 home runs in just 449 Plate Appearances as a 27 year old rookie. Palka's 27 bombs was the most by a Sox' rookie since Ron Kittle's 35 in 1983.

                      DH/Bench
Alonso and Abreu will start most games. One at first base, the other at DH. James McCann is the backup catcher. Utility infielder Jose Rondon hit 18 home runs last year at AAA, but his major league numbers don't look good. Leury Garcia can play all three outfield positions, and has played the infield before. Speculation was that Jon Jay was brought in to persuade Manny Machado to come to Chicago (Jay is Machado's best friend, and they work out in the offseason with Alonso, Machado's brother-in-law), but now he is an extra outfielder.

                       Lineup
SS Tim Anderson
2B Yoan Moncada
1B Jose Abreu
DH Yonder Alonso
RF Daniel Palka
3B Yolmer Sanchez
C Welington Castillo
LF Nicky Delmonico
CF Adam Engel

                        Rotation
Carlos Rodon (L)
Reynaldo Lopez (R)
Ivan Nova (R)
Lucas Giolito (R)
Ervin Santana (R)

                        Bullpen
Alex Colome (R)
Kelvin Herrera (R)
Nate Jones (R)
Juan Minaya (R)
Jace Fry (L)
Dylan Covey (R)
Aaron Bummer (L)

                        Bench
C James McCann
INF Jose Rondon
OF Jon Jay
UT Leury Garcia

                       Additional Information
Ballpark: Guaranteed Rate Field
Manager: Rick Renteria
GM: Rick Hahn
World Championships: 3
2018 record: 62-100

                       Steal of the Decade
I don't love to do trades that have an undetermined outcome, but this one already looks like a win for the Sox. On July 13, 2017, the White Sox made a blockbuster deal with their cross-town rivals, the Cubs. The deal sent lefty Jose Quintana north for prospects Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Bryant Flete and Matt Rose. Quintana still can be an impactful pitcher for the Cubs, but his ERA with them is 42 points higher than his career ERA with the White Sox. While neither Flete or Rose are top 30 prospects for the White Sox, Cease and Jimenez can make an impact for the Sox this season. Jimenez and Cease are the Sox' 1st and 3rd overall prospects, respectively. They are also the 3rd and 21st overall prospects. The trade could be a flop for the Whit Sox, but right now, it looks really good.

                        Prediction
The White Sox are a young team, inexperienced team. There will be a lot of growing pains for them this year, but they are still better than the Tigers and Royals, and will be competitive again before them. But still, look for the Sox in the 90-100 loss range in 2019. 

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