(Daniel Bartel / Icon Sportswire)
As winter draws to a close, temperatures rise—Ann Arbor aside—and Spring Training gets underway it can only mean one thing: Baseball is (almost) here! Welcome back to M-SABR’s Season Preview 30 Teams in 30 Days series, where our staff writers share their insights on what to expect from your favorite team and players in 2018, and get you ready for that very first first pitch. Today Conor Stemme takes on the Chicago White Sox. Enjoy!
by Conor Stemme
Chicago White Sox
2017 Record: 67-95 (4th in AL Central)
2017 Payroll: $65,000,000 (28th overall)
Projected 2018 Lineup:
All player projections for 2018 from Steamer
- LF Adam Engel, .209 AVG/.276 OBP/.333 SLG, -0.2 WAR
- 2B Yoan Moncada, .236 AVG/.327 OBP/.393 SLG, 1.8 WAR
- 1B Jose Abreu, .293 AVG/.351 OBP/.524 SLG, 2.8 WAR
- RF Avisail Garcia, .283 AVG/.341 OBP/.456 SLG, 1.7 WAR
- DH Nick Delmonico, .246 AVG/.325 OBP/.4296 SLG, 1.1 WAR
- SS Tim Anderson, .264 AVG/.290 OBP/.402 SLG, 1.0 WAR
- C Welington Castillo, .248 AVG/.307 OBP/.429 SLG, 2.1 WAR
- CF Leury Garcia, .257 AVG/.302 OBP/.383 SLG, 0.1 WAR
- 3B Yolmer Sanchez, .248 AVG/.299 OBP/.383 SLG, 0.9 WAR
Projected 2018 Rotation:
- James Shields, 164.0 IP/5.55 ERA/1.52 WHIP, 0.2 WAR
- Reynaldo Lopez, 120.0 IP/5.14 ERA/1.45 WHIP, 0.5 WAR
- Lucas Giolito, 143.0 IP/5.00 ERA/1.50 WHIP, 0.9 WAR
- Carson Fulmer, 115.0 IP/5.88 ERA/1.67 WHIP, -0.3 WAR
- Miguel Gonzalez, 163.0 IP/5.54 ERA/1.47 WHIP, 0.3 WAR
The White Sox offseason was pretty uneventful compared to the previous season. They only signed two players to major league contracts: catcher Welington Castillo and starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez. Castillo was signed to a 2 year/15 million dollar deal. A phenomenal defender and above average hitter, Castillo will become the starter and split time with Omar Narvaez. Miguel Gonzalez was re-signed by the White Sox after they traded him to the Rangers in late August. He is by no means a stud, but he had a solid 1.4 WAR last year, making him a reliable 4th or 5th starter. The White Sox also made a few trades including one for Joakim Soria. Their moves this offseason did not make national headlines like trading Sale or Eaton, but they did enough to improve their team, and hopefully not finish last in the division.
Heading into 2018, the White Sox are still in rebuild mode for another year or two. They have a great farm system with 7 prospects in MLB’s Top 100 including Eloy Jimenez (#4) and Michael Kopech (#10). With these minor leaguers, as well as players currently on the team, they will compete in a few years. But let’s go back to this season. The White Sox finished in 4th last season and will probably finish in that range again, depending on how the Tigers and Royals do. Players like Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada, both rookies in 2017, will hopefully step up and become part of the new White Sox’ core. Meanwhile, players like Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia are looking to keep up their form from last year.
The White Sox starting lineup is a mix of young and old, good and not-so-good. The heart of the order for the White Sox will be Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, and Avisail Garcia. Abreu had his second best season ever, only behind his rookie season, with a slash line of .304/.354/.552 giving him 4.1 WAR for the season. In terms of wRC+, Abreu was the 8th best hitter in the American League. The 9th best hitter by that metric was the team’s other star slugger, Avisail Garcia. Garcia had a phenomenal year last year leading the White Sox with 4.2 WAR. However, his abnormally high BABIP of .392 shows that last season may have been a fluke. He did strike out about 5% less than in previous seasons, so hopefully he can still become a great contact hitter for the White Sox. Yoan Moncada was the first of many Sox prospects to arrive in the majors. Along with Kopech, he was one of the two major pieces in the Chris Sale deal and played 54 games last year in the majors. He had a .231 average, .338 OBP, and .412 slugging percentage with 8 home runs. This gave the 22-year-old a WAR of 0.9. With some experience in the majors under his belt, hopefully he can fulfill his potential and improve on last year’s stats.
Pitching is a similar story with some veterans, like James Shields, and some younger players like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Shields is the elder statesman of the staff at age 36. Last season, he had a 5.23 ERA with a WAR of -0.2. His years of being a dominant number one starter are long since over, but hopefully he has a year or two left in him to mentor the young pitchers until the next generation of White Sox are ready. Two of these young pitchers have already arrived and are projected to be in the starting rotation for 2018. The first is Lucas Giolito. He was the main piece in the deal for Adam Eaton in the 2016-2017 offseason. His experience in the majors has been limited and has not gone very well. However in his final three starts of the season, Giolito pitched 19 innings, allowing 2 or fewer runs each outing. The strikeouts were not there, but he was improving. That’s all I can hope for from a starter his age. Giolito should be a top of the rotation starter for the White Sox in a year or two, as long as this season goes well.
Reynaldo Lopez was also part of the deal for Adam Eaton, and his introduction to the majors was similarly rough. He struggled during his starts at the end of the season, but should have a starting role on the team. Again, like Giolito, he will have many opportunities improve and become a dominant starter for the team in the future. One starter, possibly Carson Fulmer, will be bumped from the rotation when Carlos Rodon returns in late June. Either Giolito or Lopez also could be sent down or moved to the bullpen if they are not performing or if the 24-year-old Fulmer exceeds his projections.
The White Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball, highlighted by Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech. Eloy Jimenez was the main piece acquired from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana deal in July, and should start the season in Double A. A hard-hitting outfielder, Jimenez is Baseball America’s #4 prospect heading into the season, but he may be forced to play DH due to his poor defense. He probably will not make an impact this season, but he will be one to watch in the future. Kopech will also start the season in Triple A, hoping to get a call up early in the season. The White Sox have a wealth of solid prospects at a variety of positions, with players in the top 10 of MLB rankings for pitcher, catcher, third baseman, and two outfielders. Second base and shortstop are already hopefully covered for the long term with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. The White Sox’ depth of talent is immense, and they are a team to watch going forward. This season won’t be the greatest, but in a few years this team should compete for the World Series.
Predicted Record: 70-92
Player to watch: Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu is the team’s main man and has been since he joined the team in 2014. He is by no means the best player in baseball or the best first baseman, but he consistently contributes to the White Sox and is dependable. He has played in at least 145 games every season since joining the team. This places him at 13th in the MLB over that span. He leads the team in average, home runs, wRC+, and WAR since being on the team. He has become the face of the franchise for now until the new stars rise up.
Player to Watch: Michael Kopech
Michael Kopech will most likely start the season in AAA, but he should make the majors soon. He is known for his fastball that has been clocked at over 110 MPH. Kopech had a K/9 of 11.69 in 119 innings of work in AA, which conutinted in his small stint at AAA Charlotte. Kopech’s 2.87 ERA leading him to his Triple A promotion at the end of the season. He is a guarantee to be called up in September, but if he is successful, he could be called up sooner.
Player to Watch: Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson was drafted in the first round by the White Sox in 2013, and should be their shortstop of the future. He had an impressive rookie season in 2016, where in 99 games he contributed 9 home runs and a .283 average with a WAR of 2.5. However, he hit a sophomore slump hitting only .257 with 0.2 WAR last year. This season will be an important one for him as he hopes to rebound and return to rookie season form. Lucky for him however, he is the main shortstop for the White Sox now and for years to come. Tim Anderson should improve as his BABIP was higher than his batting average showing that he was the victim of poor batted ball luck. Expect big things from Tim Anderson this year and big things from him and the team a few years down the road.