Thanks to Moncada and Anderson, the White Sox are flashing reasons for excitement despite sub-.500 start

One of the more annoying predicament early in the baseball season is that we have to couch ourselves with "it's early, but ... " caveats in nearly every analysis. It's true, and we should always keep in mind that a few hot weeks to start the season hardly means a player is definitely breaking out, but if the talent is there we can still enjoy watching it and dream on the potential. 

Such is the case with some of the White Sox younger players with big upside, specifically the left side of the infield. 

Shortstop Tim Anderson had a pretty underwhelming career going before this season. He did have 20 homers and 26 steals in 2018, but he also carried a .258/.286/.411 (89 OPS+) slash into this season and that was in over 1,600 plate appearances. Hardly a small sample. 

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Tim Anderson CHW • SS • 7

Still, the former prospect who Baseball Prospectus once placed in the top 20 in baseball has yet to turn 26 years old. His post-hype breakout status is intact and he's leading the AL with a .421 average at present. He also has three doubles, three homers, 10 RBI, 11 runs and six steals in six tries with a 189 OPS+. He's only walked once, but if he's gonna hit in the 5-6 range instead of the top of the order, we can live with that. 

As noted, there's reason for excitement around Anderson on the South Side. How about third baseman Yoan Moncada

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Yoan Moncada CHW • 3B • 10

The former consensus top-three prospect in baseball was the centerpiece -- or at least co-centerpiece with Michael Kopech -- in the Chris Sale trade. Last year, his first full season in the majors, he flashed upside but also led the majors with 217 strikeouts while slashing .235/.315/.400 (97 OPS+). 

This year? Moncada has been among the most exciting players in baseball. He doesn't even turn 24 years old until late May. He's hitting .333/.371/.652 with six doubles, five homers, 16 RBI and 15 runs. He was awfully close to bringing down Guaranteed Rate Field with a first-inning grand slam in the home opener, too: 

Moncada and Anderson have already combined for 1.6 WAR on the season and the talent is there to stay on this track, even if things like Anderson's average will obviously come down. 

There are two more names to watch here as well. 

  • Eloy Jimenez has had some early struggles, but he's only 22 and hit two homers against the Yankees last Friday during a veritable monsoon. There's a ton of pop in his bat. 
  • Another possible post-hype breakout is Carlos Rodon. Through four starts, the former third overall pick and top-20 prospect is pitching to a 3.27 ERA, but thanks to 29 strikeouts in 22 innings and zero home runs allowed, his FIP sits at a beautiful 1.87. The walks (9 in 22 innings) could stand to come down, but Rodon is allowing opponents to hit just .190 with a .250 slugging percentage. 

At 7-9 entering a Wednesday matinee at Kansas City (stream regionally via fuboTV), obviously everything hasn't gone well for the White Sox. Lineup fixture Jose Abreu has been terrible, as have the likes of Yolmer Sanchez and Daniel Palka. In the rotation, Reynaldo Lopez (8.84 ERA), Lucas Giolito (6.19), Ivan Nova (5.28) and Ervin Santana (10.38) join the "terrible" mix to this point in run prevention. 

On the flip-side, a lot of those guys will likely improve in the coming weeks and the White Sox play in baseball's worst division. The two expected contenders -- the Indians and Twins -- have vulnerabilities. 

And here is where I take a negative turn. 

The White Sox play in the third-largest market in baseball. You can move them down if you wish for splitting the market with the more-popular Cubs, but you can't possibly call them a small-market team. Yet they ranked 24th in baseball in opening day payroll at a touch over $90 million. Moving forward, they don't have more than $20 million in guaranteed contracts in any season. 

About now is when someone comes in to scream that simply spending money doesn't win games and that's true. Given all the extensions we keep seeing around baseball, however, I can't help but think what a dropped ball it was to half-ass offer Manny Machado and half-ass pursue Bryce Harper in the offseason. Remember how I talked above about Anderson being only 26? That's the same age as Harper and Machado. 

Imagine if the White Sox landed Machado and then kept Moncada at second base? White Sox second basemen are hitting .200/.241/.309 this season. 

Imagine if the White Sox landed Harper? White Sox right fielders are hitting .143/.250/.214 this season. 

I won't be harping on this all season or anything, but it was a completely unacceptable effort by the White Sox this past offseason. If there was ever a time to be aggressive in filling around their young talent, it was this past offseason. 

Regardless, there are reasons for excitement with the players the White Sox actually do have, and it starts with that exciting left side of the infield, trickling down the power potential of Jimenez and Rodon looking to become a frontline starter. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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