Sunday, March 1, 2020

Chicago White Sox 2020 Season Preview



           Every year, there is a team that sticks out to everyone in Spring Training. That might be the White Sox this year. They already have a talented farm system, with former first rounders and international players coming up to join the team this year. They have supplemented their young talent by signing veterans stars. They big issue will be the bullpen, but if Chicago can figure that out, they are legitimate AL Central contenders.

           Offseason additions: C Yasmani Grandal, LHP Dallas Keuchel, DH Edwin Encarnacion, OF Nomar Mazara, RHP Steve Cishek, LHP Gio Gonzalez, LHP Adalberto Mejia, RHP Bryan Mitchell, UT Cheslor Cuthbert, UT Andrew Romine.

           Offseason subtractions: RHP Ivan Nova, LHP Josh Osich, RHP Juan Minaya, C Welington Castillo, OF Ryan Cordell, OF Jon Jay.

           Rotation
The White Sox might have found their ace in Luca Giolito. A former 1st rounder who was once baseball's top pitching prospect, Giolito struggled in his first full season, with the worst ERA in baseball. He rebounded in 2019, with a 3.41 ERA and 228 strikeouts in 176.2 innings. He also had three complete games with two of them being shutouts, both the most in the league. He made the all-star team and finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting. The White Sox signed former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel to a four year deal. In his one year in Atlanta, Keuchel had a 3.75 ERA and a 121 ERA+ in 112.2 innings. A great fielder, Keuchel is a four time Gold Glove winner. Twelve year veteran Gio Gonzalez is in his third stint with the White Sox, but had not played with the team yet. He made just 17 starts last year with two relief appearances for the Brewers, posting a 3.50 ERA. Reynaldo Lopez had an encouraging 3.91 ERA in 2018, but struggled in 2019, finishing the season with an ERA of 5.38 over 33 starts. He allowed a league leading 110 earned runs. Dylan Cease, acquired with Eloy Jimenez for Jose Quintana in 2017, had a rough debut. He had a 5.79 ERA in 14 starts, but he did finish with a 10 K/9. Top pitching prospect Michael Kopech is back from Tommy John surgery. He made his debut at the end of 2018, making four starts. He will likely start the season back in AAA.

             Bullpen
The White Sox acquired Alex Colome last offseason and held onto him at the trade deadline in hopes of being competitive this year. Colome posted a 2.80 ERA with 30 saves and 55 strikeouts in 61 innings. The White Sox locked up set-up man Aaron Bummer, signing the southpaw to a five year deal. Bummer had a breakout 2019 season, limited both righties and lefties to an average under .200, and posting a 2.13 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. The team poached Steve Cishek from the cross-town Cubs. Cishek saved seven games last year, striking out 57 with a 2.95 ERA in 64 innings. Evan Marshall was a good set-up man, with a 2.49 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. Lefty Jace Fry struck out 68 batters in 55 innings, and while his 7.2 H/9 was good, his 7.0 BB/9 was among the worst in the league. It lead to an inflated 1.582 WHIP. Former Royals closer Kelvin Herrera hasn't been the same since leaving Kansas City midway through 2018. He had a career worst 6.14 ERA for the White Sox last year. He is still only 30 years old. The White Sox claimed Jimmy Cordero from the Mariners in June. He was solid the rest of the way, pitching in 30 games with a 2.75 ERA and 31 Ks in 36 innings. Ian Hamilton had a AAA ERA of 1.71 in 2018, but allowed 18 runs in 16.1 AAA inning last year before missing the rest of the season with an injury. Carson Fulmer was picked 8th overall in 2015, but has a 6.56 ERA in 44 career games (15 starts).

                Catchers
The White Sox went out and signed Yasmani Grandal to a four year deal. One of the best catchers in the game, Grandal is a good defender, and hit 28 home runs with a career high .848 OPS last year, his only season with the Brewers. James McCann was a surprise all-star, with career highs in home runs (18), batting average (.273) and OPS (.789). However, betting on a regression would be wise, especially after a transition from starter to backup.

                  Infielders
Jose Abreu was a free agent, but took the qualifying offer before signing an extension. There was no chance he was leaving. He hit 33 home runs with a league leading 123 RBIs, plus a .284 average and .834 OPS. However, his batting average and OPS were actually lower than his career numbers. Second base will be Nick Madrigal's spot very soon. He will likely be called up six weeks into the season for service time purposes. He has Gold Glove potential and stole 35 bases with a .311 batting average in High-A, AA and AAA last year. For now, 26 year old utility infielder Danny Mendick will hold down the fort. He hit two home runs with a .308 average and a .787 OPS in 16 games last year, his first time in the majors. Tim Anderson was a 20-20 player in 2018, and while he didn't reach 20 home runs or 20 stolen bases in 2019, his improvements were more important, raising his batting average by 95 points, up to .335 to win the batting title. His .865 OPS was also a career high by over 100 points. He stole 17 bases and hit 18 home runs. Yoan Moncada, once MLB's top prospect, also saw major improvements. His 217 strikeouts in 2018 led the league, but he rebounded with a career high 25 home runs, with 10 stolen bases, a .315 batting average and a .915 OPS. Andrew Romine is worth having around because he can play every position. His hitting needs improvement. He did not hit a home run in 72 games for Seattle last year, and his .210 batting average and .504 OPS were the worst of his career in a full season. Edwin Encarnacion can spell Abreu a day at first, but will be a primary DH. Encarnacion has hit at least 32 home runs in eight consecutive seasons. He has a career .851 OPS with 414 homers.

                   Outfielders
Eloy Jimenez made the Opening Day roster last year as the club's top prospect. He hit 31 home runs with an .828 OPS. He finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting. Luis Robert is in a very similar situation. The club's top prospect this year, Robert had one interesting twist from Jimenez's situation. He already signed an extension, before his first MLB game. In three different minor league levels Robert hit 32 home runs, stole 36 bases, had a .328 batting average with an OPS of 1.001. Robert and Jimenez will be in center and left field for a long time. The White Sox acquired Nomar Mazara from the Rangers. A 24 year old with four years of MLB experience, Mazara hit exactly 20 home runs in his first three seasons, but hit only 19 in 2019. However, his .268 average and .786 OPS last year were career highs. Mazara always starts strong but dies off midseason. Leury Garcia can play the infield as well as the outfield. He led the league with 11 sacrifice hits last year. A seven year veteran, Garcia played in over 100 games for the first time in 2019. He stole 15 bases and his .279 batting average was a career best. Adam Engel is very fast and has a great glove in centerfield. However, he stole just three bases last year. Engel's .242 average was a career high.

                      Projected Opening Day Lineup
SS Tim Anderson (R)
2B Yoan Moncada (S)
1B Jose Abreu (R)
DH Edwin Encarnacion (R)
C Yasmani Grandal (S)
LF Eloy Jimenez (R)
CF Luis Robert (R)
RF Nomar Mazara (L)
2B Danny Mendick (R)

                        Projected Rotation
Lucas Giolito (R)
Dallas Keuchel (L)
Gio Gonzalez (L)
Reynaldo Lopez (R)
Dylan Cease (R)

                        Projected Bullpen
Alex Colome, closer (R)
Aaron Bummer (L)
Evan Marshall (R)
Steve Cishek (R)
Jace Fry (L)
Kelvin Herrera (R)
Jimmy Cordero (R)
Ian Hamilon (R)

                        Projected Bench
C James McCann (R)
UT Leury Garcia (S)
OF Adam Engel (R)
UT Andrew Romine (S)

                        Prediction
The White Sox have a lot of young talent. Their rotation is getting better, and while the bullpen does not have a lot of household names, it can hold up. However, they are still a year away from being serious contenders. I think the White Sox are going to finish second in the AL Central, but miss the playoffs.

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