I want you to name three Chicago teams off the top of your head. Right Now.
I truly believe that would be the answer for most everyone outside of the Chicagoland area.
The White Sox are now a part of the conversation. The team has more buzz than any other team in the city right now, they look scarily similar to the 2015 Chicago Cubs, and already have an All-Star pitcher, the batting champion and an elite third baseman.
“It’s a team that’s serious about winning,” new reliever Steve Cishek said of the Sox.
A Quick Word on Rebuilding
The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2008. Over the course of the 2010 decade, the White Sox finished with 743 wins to 846 losses for a .459 winning percentage.
Doomsday came for the White Sox in 2016 when the Chicago Cubs won their first title in 108 seasons. The White Sox were dead in the grave and it forced General Manager Rick Hahn to act. He decided to look into the Cubs model and made changes starting with this:
Rick Hahn started this whole thing by trading star pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. Hahn got this team to where they are today by making many significant trades (including the crosstown blockbuster), drafted very well with their top picks, had some amazing international signings and loaded up their depth.
All of this potential means nothing unless the team wins on the field. Core guys Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada, on top of their free-agent signings should give the south side faithful reason for hope in 2020.
2019 In Review
The Chicago White Sox finished 2019 with a 72-89 record – a 10 win increase from the season before – and gave fans a little reason to cheer.
“We’ve gotten ourselves to the end of the first stage of this rebuild,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “And we’re ready, come this offseason and next year, to take that next step and head deeper down the path toward competitiveness and ultimately winning championships as we get to where we want to be.”
On the positive, the team found their ace in all-star Lucas Giolito (Sixth in ERA, fourth in strikeouts). Shortstop Tim Anderson recovered from his 2018 disaster and transformed himself into the AL Batting Champion. Former Cubs prospect Eloy Jimenez jumped onto the scene belting 31 homers and 79 RBI’s in his first season.
The Sox faced another blow when pitcher Carlos Rodon also fell victim to Tommy John.
Most importantly, last season brought huge improvements to the team’s top prospects. Soxmachine.com has been yelling for the Sox to bring up Luis Robert. His argument was supported due to Robert being named the 2019 Minor League Player of the Year.
Nick Madrigal, the team’s other top prospect, also won a Minor League Gold Glove and only struck out a ridiculous 16 times all of last season. Madrigal should come up within the first half of the year and take over 2nd base.
The White Sox knew what they wanted in the draft selecting Cal Slugger Andrew Vaughn at #3 overall. Vaughn represented a “premier bat” for the middle of their lineup. The 21 year old first baseman finished his junior year at Cal batting .381 (67–176) with 14 doubles, 15 home runs, 50 RBI, 49 runs scored and only 59 walks. Andrew Vaughn will be a power hitting lefty bat in the middle of the order as soon as next season.
The White Sox struck quickly after the signing period started, securing star catcher Yasmani Grandal to a 4 year, 73 million dollar deal. Grandal should stabilize a young rotation providing a strong club house leader. It sounded like the White Sox’s core helped influence his decision as he said on Chicago Radio.
They followed this up with their “John Lester” type signing. The Sox brought in Dallas Keuchel at 3 years, 55 million dollars. Keuchel is a former Cy Young winner and World Series Champion and should bring leadership and wisdom to the young team.
In addition, the team locked up star prospect Luis Robert to a 6 year, 50 million dollar contract extension placing him under team control until he is 28.
2020 Projected Line Up
1. SS Tim Anderson (AL Batting Champ)
2. 3B Yoan Moncada (25 home runs in 2019)
3. 1B/DH Jose Abreu (33 home runs in 2019)
4. C Yasmani Grandal
5. DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion (34 home runs in 2019)
6. LF Eloy Jimenez (31 home runs in 2019)
7. RF Nomar Mazara (19 home runs in 2019)
8. CF Leury Garcia
9. 2B Danny Mendick
Expect Luis Robert in the outfield and Nick Madrigal at 2nd base by the end of the season and look pretty fierce:
As I stated above, Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon should return by the end of the season.
The fans of the White Sox have every right to expect a winning team this year. The general manager doesn’t want to dampen those expectations:
“If people want to get excited about this, if they want to have high expectations and high hopes, that’s fantastic,” Hahn said. “All we can do is be transparent about this process and what we are trying to do.
“All we can do is put players in the best position to succeed and augment the roster appropriately as needed. But what it’s really going to be about is it puts us in the position to get to that final goal of contending and winning multiple championships. That’s where I think the excitement should be about what this means for the long term.”
I believe Keuchel and Grandal will prove to be an effective battery on the mound and provide crucial veteran leadership throughout the season. Star Prospect Michael Kopech will come back for the mid-season and will provide much needed fire power. The improvements of Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez should determine the fate of this team. If Moncada can continue in his MVP trajectory, and/or Jimenez continues to smash the ball, this team should be dangerous.
The window is open. The Indians traded away Cory Kluber, might be ready to trade Fransisco Lindor (ARE YOU STUPID?) and appear to be ready to take a step back. The Twins won 101 games last season, dominating from start to finish, but can we trust them? Detroit and Kansas City should continue to live in the basement.
The White Sox are so close to winning consistently. This is a team with playoff potential. It will probably fall just a little short and set up sky-high 2021 expectations.
FINAL RECORD: 86-76, 2nd in AL Central
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This one is a classic.