A lot can happen in a year. Just ask the White Sox.
At this time last year, they were buyers, having brought on Todd Frazier to cement the middle of the lineup, and they had their eyes on the playoffs.
However, they improved their record by just two wins, and opted to change course, moving Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in a pair of moves that signaled an obvious rebuild was underway in Chicago. They still have veterans in the form of Jose Quintana, Frazier and Jose Abreu, but all three may have new homes by the middle of the summer, so it's all about the youth movement in Chicago these days.
That usually means hard times are on the way, and this will likely be a long season at Guaranteed Rate Field. Still, with arguably the top pitching and hitting prospects in baseball at their disposal and already seasoned with some upper minors experience, it might not be long until they start to turn things around.
Is Lucas Giolito still an elite pitching prospect?
Giolito's prospect star has lost some of its shine, but he still ranks among the best in baseball despite a rough season. Scouts still love his stuff, with a mid-90's fastball that may not even be his best pitch. His curveball has a chance to be one of the most devastating pitches in baseball. That he still largely garners a spot among the best young talents in baseball despite his 2016 season that exposed some flaws speaks to how high the ceiling is.
Giolito still more than held his own in the upper levels of the minors, sporting a 2.97 ERA in 115 1/3 innings in the minors, and he even started to put some of his command issues behind him in his first seven starts at Triple-A. However, he was a huge disappointment in the majors, walking 12 with just 11 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings, as he scuffled to a 6.75 ERA. The command was a real concern, especially because Giolito just wasn't able to get swings and misses, picking up just six swinging strikes on 71 curveballs, a disappointing number given his pedigree.
So, the question is, did the Nationals simply sell-low on Giolito, or did they get out before the floor dropped out? The fact that his velocity wasn't quite where it was expected to be makes one want to lean toward the latter, but his age, pedigree and scouting reports still make him someone worth betting on. It just isn't as sure a bet as it seemed to be a year ago.
Will Yoan Moncada be up early enough to make a difference?
If the Nationals potentially sold low on Giolito, the Red Sox couldn't have expected to get much more for Moncada, the centerpiece of a deal that sent Chris Sale to Boston. Moncada had his own struggles in the majors, striking out 12 times in 20 trips to the plate during a late cup of coffee, but he enters the 2016 with barely a blemish on his minor-league track record. Moncada is at the point Giolito was a year ago, where you can barely find anyone with anything negative to say about his game.
So, while there are questions with how his game will translate, they are no louder than any elite prospect. Moncada should be able to hit for average and power, with a knack for getting on-base and a good sense of what to do when he gets there; he is a true five-category stud in waiting if everything goes right. The question is, how long can the White Sox justify keeping him down? They shouldn't have much trouble finding a place for him to play right away if they want to.
But, there are other factors in play. Moncada's defense remains a work in progress at both second and third base, and he has just 228 plate-appearances above A-ball. That could give the White Sox plenty of cover to keep him down. Moncada simply may not be ready, but the White Sox also have financial incentive to keep him down for the first few months to control his service time.
Moncada still obviously has stud potential for Fantasy, and could make a Trea Turner-esque impact this season. For that alone, he will be worth drafting in most formats, but you need to discount him because we may not see him until June. It might be tough to swallow a roster spot for that long.
Who is the next veteran to go?
There are four candidates here: Todd Frazier, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera and Jose Quintana. All four may be off the roster by the end of the season, though Abreu seems more likely to hang around, with four years of club control. Cabrera probably doesn't have much value on the market, so he seems likely to hang around until the deadline, at least.
Frazier and Quintana are interesting, however. Frazier had a tough season, hitting a career-high 40 homers, but hitting just .225 as he became an even more all-or-nothing hitter in his first year in Chicago. Even with the drop in batting average, that kind of power has value on the market, and some team will certainly be interested. Be warned, however; Frazier certainly benefited from a helpful home park in 2016, and may not be so lucky elsewhere.
Quintana is the best bet to get traded soon, and we should be hoping for it. Long an underrated Fantasy option, Quintana might just be the unluckiest pitcher in baseball, with just 40 wins and a .500 record to his name over the last four seasons, despite posting a 3.35 ERA and topping 200 innings each season. Wins will be hard to come by again in Chicago this season, so let's hope those rumors of him heading to Houston come true.