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2018 MLB preview: Chicago White Sox

2018 Chicago White Sox preview

2017: 67-95 (fourth place in AL Central)

Last postseason appearance: 2008

Last World Series title: 2005 

2017 Recap

2017 was the official start of the rebuilding process for the Chicago White Sox. In the previous offseason, Chicago traded away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, while receiving top prospects to help with the future of the team. While it may take some time, the White Sox will be competing for a title before we know it.

Chicago, a team that has made the playoffs nine times during its franchise history, was far from a contender in 2017. They finished 22nd in slugging, 23rd in runs, 24th in WHIP, 25th in OBP and pitching ERA and 30th in walks per nine innings. They also were a disaster in the field, committing the third most errors in baseball.

2018 Chicago White Sox preview
Avisail Garcia had a career year in 2017 (Photo from ESPN.com)

There were a few bright spots on the south side. Avisail Garcia, the 26-year-old from Venezuela, had his best MLB season by a long shot. Garcia was named to the American League All-Star team and finished the year with a batting average of .330, which ranked third in the MLB.

His insane .392 BABIP, which can be impacted from a little bit of luck, was the best in baseball among qualified hitters. Garcia also slugged 18 home runs, hit .424 against lefties and had a .380 OBP. He also performed when Chicago needed him most, hitting .374 with men on base.

Chicago’s other offensive star was Jose Abreu. Abreu has hit at least .290, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in each of his first four seasons in the MLB and continues to be one of the most consistent offensive players in the game. The Cuban slugger finished fourth in total bases, fifth in extra-base hits, seventh in doubles and tied for eighth in hits. Abreu also hit .357 with men in scoring position.

The stat that really defined this team was walks. We mentioned they were 25th in OBP, but Chicago really could not walk. Todd Frazier, now a Met, led the White Sox in walks with 48. Frazier’s last game as a member of the team was on July 16.

The pitching was pretty much a total disaster, but because of the highly touted prospects, White Sox fans should stay optimistic and trust the process.

2018: Around the Diamond

On Dec. 1, 2017, the White Sox signed free agent Welington Castillo to start behind the plate. Castillo will bring a nice veteran presence, as well as some pop in the lineup. Since 2015, Castillo has hit 53 home runs and is coming off a career best .282 batting average from 2017.

2018 Chicago White Sox preview
Will Moncada take a big leap forward in 2018? (Photo from FanRag Sports)

Abreu, who in January, avoided arbitration and signed a one-year deal worth $13 million, will remain at first base. Yoan Moncada, who along with Michael Kopech was sent over from Boston in the Sale trade, will start at second. Moncada struck out in 32 percent of his plate appearances. That’s terrible, especially if you aren’t hitting over 30 home runs a season. He had a .325 BABIP, so when he hits the ball, he is good, but the 22-year old has a lot of growing to do. Still, his potential is through the roof.

Shortstop Tim Anderson swung a nice bat in 2017, hitting 17 home runs while stealing 15 bags, but he also led the MLB with 28 errors. He will need to clean it up in the field to keep the White Sox afloat.

Yolmer Sanchez, who finished sixth in triples and hit .303 with men in scoring position, will most likely play third. Chicago will also have Matt Davidson at DH.

Other than Avisail Garcia in right field, the remaining two positions are really up for grabs. Charlie Tilson has a good shot to bat leadoff and start in centerfield, while Leury Garcia, who played in just 87 games last season due to injury, should start in left field after positing decent numbers when healthy. Nicky Delmonico and Adam Engel will also be competing for spots in the lineup.

On the Bump

James Shields, who is owed a whopping $21 million in 2018, will unfortunately remain in the rotation. If you looked up “washed up” in the dictionary, you would probably find a picture of Shields’ face. He had a 5.85 ERA in 2016 and followed that up with a 5.23 ERA last season.

The White Sox also have two young studs, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, who will continue to get reps as starters and hopefully blossom into big-time pitchers in the MLB. Lopez started eight games in 2017 and posted a 4.72 ERA. Giolito looked great in his seven starts, finishing with a 2.38 ERA. He also never allowed a run in the 16.2 innings he pitched when he faced the lineup the first time through. Giolito could take off and have a great 2018.

Carlos Rodon had shoulder surgery in September and won’t be ready for Opening Day, but he will eventually give Chicago quality innings. They also welcomed back Miguel Gonzalez, who was bad in 2017. The 24-year-old Carson Fulmer will also get a chance to prove he can make something happen over a full-year span. Chicago also brought in Joakim Soria to close out games.

The Future

Chicago has seven players on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect list, which is tied for the second most in baseball. While the MLB team doesn’t look up to par, just wait on it. Headlining this list is outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Michael Kopech. Jimenez is considered the best power hitting prospect in the game and has drawn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton.

2018 Chicago White Sox preview
Is Jimenez the next Stanton? (Photo from NBC Sports)

Not only does he mash the ball, Jimenez also hits for a great average. In 89 games between A+ and AA, Jimenez hit 19 home runs and batted .312 with a .568 SLG. He has serious potential to be a top power hitter in this league and should see time with the major league club in 2018.

Kopech should also be getting some time at the major league level this season. In just 134 and a third innings between Double and Triple A, Kopech struck out 172 batters and had an ERA of 2.88.

While Chicago’s 2018 staff looks a bit suspect, keep in mind they have Kopech, Alec Hansen, Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning, three right-handed starters who rank in the top 100.

Luis Robert checks in at No. 28 on the top 100 list. Robert, only 20 years of age, hit .310 with three home runs in 28 Rookie-Ball games. Coming in at No. 99 on the prospects list is Blake Rutherford. Rutherford, also 20 years old, did not have a great 2017, but according to MLB.com, has been “compared to a more athletic version of David Justice.” Only time will tell if these top dogs will pan out.

2018 Prediction: 65-97 

Chicago should see some of their top prospects at the major league level, which is fantastic. But this team is at least two or three years away from competing.

 

Featured image by ChicagoNow.com

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