Posted on March 28, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Chicago White Sox have endured five straight losing seasons, none worse than last year’s 95-loss campaign. However, few teams in baseball have as strong of a farm system as the White Sox, which should bode well for the future of the franchise. Will enough of that young talent emerge in 2018 to make Chicago competitive or will the White Sox have to wait another year before becoming a playoff contender?
Some of Chicago’s young pitchers appear close to ready to take on prominent roles. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Carson Fulmer will all start the season in Chicago’s rotation. All three are 24 or younger and had a strong finish to the 2017 season. More importantly, all three have the stuff to be frontline starters and may be ready to start coming into their own as big league starters.
Lefty Carlos Rodon could also become part of that young core of starters once he fully recovers from shoulder surgery. Michael Kopech, the no. 10 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, could be ready to make his big league debut at some point in 2018, adding another top-flight talent to Chicago’s rotation. In the meantime, the White Sox are hopeful veterans James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez can hold down rotation spots. Neither was particularly impressive last season but they should be suitable backend starters.
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While Chicago’s rotation boasts plenty of young talent, the team’s bullpen is still a work in progress. To be fair, the White Sox have brought in veteran Joakim Soria to serve as their closer. Soria has started to show signs of decline the past couple of seasons, but he does have plenty of experience and has over 200 saves on his resume.
In front of Soria, the White Sox should have a solid contingent of setup men, including Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, and lefty Luis Avilan. However, there is not much depth in the Chicago bullpen beyond those guys. The White Sox will be relying on a lot of young and unproven pitchers to help full out their bullpen, which means they could end up losing a lot of games in middle relief if their starters can’t go deep in games.
The White Sox still have some work to do with their lineup, but some of the pieces are starting to fall into place. Shortstop Tim Anderson and second baseman Yoan Moncada are working on establishing themselves as Chicago’s middle infield of the future. Both have a long way to go, but this will be their first full season playing together up the middle. At third base, Matt Davidson is hoping to build off his 26 home run performance last year, although his OBP of .260 needs to improve.
Fortunately, the White Sox have a few established veterans to help anchor their lineup. Jose Abreu could end up back on the trade block later this summer, but until then, he’ll be a key figure in Chicago’s lineup after hitting 33 home runs and driving in 102 runs last year. The White Sox also signed catcher Welington Castillo to give them a boost of power from behind the plate. Right fielder Avisail Garcia is coming off a breakout season and should help provide some lineup depth behind Abreu and Castillo.
However, the White Sox are quite thin in the outfield outside of Garcia. Chicago has top prospects like Eloy Jiminez, Luis Robert, and Blake Rutherford, but they are at least a year or two away. In the meantime, the likes of Nicky Delmonico, Leury Garcia, and Adam Engel and some others will have to fill out the team’s outfield. There is some potential in that group, but nobody with an established track record in the majors.
The talent in Chicago’s young starting rotation is real. But whether those pitchers can perform to the best of their abilities over the course of a full season remains to be seen. More importantly, the White Sox figure to be middle of the pack at best both offensively and coming out of the bullpen. That doesn’t equate to a great season despite all the young talent in the organization. Look for the White Sox to finish 70-92 in 2018, a small improvement from last season for a team that may not be ready to compete until 2019 or 2020.