The Chicago White Sox will enter the 2020 season with more roster pieces to help them finally contend. The White Sox's postseason drought hit 11 years last season, and the club hasn't recorded a winning record since the 2012 season when they finished 85-77. It's been four years since the White Sox cemented their status as rebuilders, when they traded their homegrown ace Chris Sale. In an abbreviated 2020 season, Chicago may very well just have a great chance to make a Cinderella run.
During a free agent spending spree this offseason, the White Sox added catcher Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnacion. The veteran additions will be paired with a large pool of talented young players, helping this team look like it is finally ready to compete. But will the club be able to break through in 2020? Let's preview the White Sox.
Win total projection, odds
2020 Sportsline projection: 27-33
World Series odds (via William Hill Sportsbook): 30/1
2019 record: 72-89 (Missed playoffs)
- SS Tim Anderson
- 3B Yoan Moncada
- 1B Jose Abreu
- C Yasmani Grandal
- DH Edwin Encarnacion
- LF Eloy Jimenez
- RF Nomar Mazara
- CF Luis Robert
- 2B Leury Garcia
Plenty of worthy additions, including Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 34 home runs last year and will serve as the club's main designated hitter. All of Chicago's DHs combined to hit .197/.275/.342 last season.
There are a few lingering questions regarding the White Sox rotation, including whether some of their younger pitchers can continue to maintain consistency on the mound. Overall, Chicago will be putting out a very balanced rotation, especially when Michael Kopech and Carlos Rondon make their returns from Tommy John surgery. Kopech underwent in September 2018 while Rondon underwent in May 2019. There's always the chance that Rondon and/or Kopech bounce between the rotation and bullpen, at first. Strong performances from Kopech and Rodon would be crucial in the White Sox's postseason hunt.
Giolito showed that he has what it takes to be ace, Keuchel and Gonzalez should provide veteran presence and consistency, Cease should be ready to go deeper into games after a few mechanical tweaks, while Lopez is looking for a turnaround in 2020.
- Closer: RHP Alex Colome
- Setup: LHP Aaron Bummer, RHP Steve Cishek
- Middle: RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Kelvin Herrera, LHP Jace Fry, RHP Jimmy Cordero, RHP Jose Ruiz, RHP Ian Hamilton
- Long: RHP Carson Fulmer
The back end of the White Sox bullpen was a strength in 2019 and looks to be the same in 2020.
The core is set, prospects are coming
Chicago has a solid young core of Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez and Lucas Giolito. This offseason, as we talked about earlier, was busy with veterans getting added to the mix in Chicago. The club extended franchise slugger Jose Abreu while signing 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal as free agents.
On top of the nice balance of vets and youngsters in Chicago's roster, the White Sox will now be able to look toward their top prospects in Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal to add further talent. Madrigal, 23, hit .311/.377/.414 across three minor-league levels, and if he continues impressing, he's likely to transition to the White Sox's full-time second baseman. Here's what our RJ Anderson said of Madrigal:
Madrigal has walked 30 more times than he's struck out in his career, which is impressive considering he's fanned all of 21 times -- or in less than three percent of his trips to the plate. For reference, no qualified hitter in the majors has struck out less than nine percent of the time this year. In fact, just 13 batters have checked in since the last round of expansion with more than 300 plate appearances and a K rate below five percent. The last person to do it was Jeff Keppinger, back in 2008. (The lowest since 2010 is 5.8 percent, by Juan Pierre in 2011.)
Robert, who turns 23 in August, figures to be a key piece as the White Sox try to contend in 2020. This winter, the team signed the young outfielder to a six-year, $50 million contract extension, despite never having played in the big leagues. Robert's a five-tool player, and finished the 2019 season with a slash line of .312/.381/.551 with 35 home runs, 50 doubles, and 63 stolen bases. He's set to become the club's new starting center fielder. Robert was ranked the top prospect in the White Sox system.
After the offseason of 2018-19, where the White Sox missed out on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the 2019-20 offseason brought the club much more success. Chicago's productive moves included signing the top free agent catcher in this year's market, Yasmani Grandal, left-hander Dallas Keuchel, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, left-hander Gio Gonzalez and right-hander Steve Cishek. The club also acquired outfielder Nomar Mazara via trade with the Rangers. The offseason additions are also going to be upgrades at multiple positions for Chicago: Grandal is an upgrade at catcher, Mazara an upgrade in right field, and Encarnacion an upgrade at the DH spot.
AL Central competition
Can the White Sox seize the opportunity of a shortened season in the American League Central division? The White Sox are practically a new team since finishing 28 1/2 games behind the Twins last season. The Tigers and Royals are set to continue their respective rebuilds and remain noncompetitive, while the Indians and Twins are expected to battle for the division crown. Then again, in a 60-game season, it does feel like anything is possible.
"Honestly, I think luck is going to play a (big) role in the 60-game season," White Sox starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel told Vinnie Duber of NBC Sports. "It's going to be who kind of catches fire early and then who kind of catches fire late. If you can come out hot and play well early, and then idle for 20 games, but then kind of catch fire again the last 10, 15 games — there's a lot of different ways to do it. I've taken into account playoff years from my previous experience, and there's a lot of different ways."
Keuchel definitely has a point. Instead of the baseball season normally being a marathon, this year's will be a sprint for all 30 clubs. In a sense, it does feel as if every division is wide open. One losing or winning streak could make or break a team's postseason chances.
"I think this team, if we can get off to a hot start, if the bats can swing it like we know they can now with how deep our lineup's going to be," Keuchel told NBC Sports, "then I think we might wreak a little havoc in the AL Central."
Guess we'll just have to wait and see.