White Sox's 2019 season was a mixed bag, but they have the pieces to finally contend in the coming years
The White Sox's postseason drought hit 11 years in 2019
In 2005, the White Sox won the World Series for the first time since the Black Sox scandal. They would make the playoffs again in 2008, but haven't made it since. They have only had a winning record twice since 2008 and four times since their World Series win. They haven't had a winning record since 2012. They are once again in baseball's bottom third in 2019.
Objectively, this has been one of the worst franchises in baseball since the World Series title.
This year was supposed to be the season when things started to turn. Some things did, but they are still losing a lot more games than they win. At some point, the wins need to come. Let's take a look at the positives and negatives and sort out what it means moving toward 2020.
Yoan Moncada looks like a star. Next season will be his third full season in the bigs and at age 25, he'll be in prime position to become a superstar.
Tim Anderson was a below average hitter before this season. In 2019, he's competing for the batting title and has flashed a good power-speed combo.
Jose Abreu can still hit. He's over 30 homers and 100 RBI for the fourth time in his career. He leads the AL in RBI. He is a free agent after this season, but it's possible he wants to stay put.
Lucas Giolito went from having the worst ERA in baseball among qualified starting pitchers in 2018 to an All-Star who is gonna get some down-ballot Cy Young votes.
Alex Colome's trade value. I don't believe the White Sox are going to contend until 2021 (see the last section) and Colome is a free agent after next season. The White Sox can flip him this offseason for players either close to major-league ready for already in the bigs who can help beyond next season.
The Manny Machado recruiting signings. Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso are very close with Machado and the White Sox appeared to sign them to aid their efforts in bringing Machado to the South Side. It didn't work. The duo both posted -0.8 WARs, respectively, for the Sox this year.
Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease came to the White Sox organization when the club sent Jose Quintana to the north side to the Cubs. Many White Sox fans seem to obsess over the deal because they love beating the Cubs. Both Jimenez and Cease have great upside, but 2019 was mostly negative for the duo. Sure, Jimenez has 24 homers, but he's been virtually a league-average hitter and with his poor defensive chops in left field, he's posted a 0.2 WAR. His on-base percentage is below .300 and that's terrible. Cease's ERA is 6.53. They are both incredibly young and it's likely the future is bright -- lots of players struggle in their first go-round in the majors -- but 2019 wasn't a positive for either one of these guys.
Reynaldo Lopez has shown flashes of being a very good pitcher, but he still has a 5.17 ERA this season. He's only 25, so it's possible things turn, but 2019 was a net negative.
Carlos Rodon had a 5.19 ERA in seven starts and then had to have Tommy John surgery in June. That'll impact next season, too. The former No. 3 overall pick just hasn't come close to turning into the frontline starter the Sox thought they were getting.
Great news: Starting pitcher Michael Kopech will be ready to go for spring training. It's possible with Giolito and Kopech, the White Sox have two frontline starters for next year, though Kopech will certainly be limited in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Perhaps Cease and Lopez figure things out next year the way Giolito did in 2019. That would give the White Sox four quality starters and it's not an unlikely outcome by any means. Unfortunately, Rodon likely isn't back at all and it's probably more realistic to see the rotation rounding into good form in 2021.
Still, they could go hard after a free agent starter like Gerrit Cole. I'll believe they actually land a huge free agent name when it happens and I have zero faith in the front office to get it done, but I suppose it's possible they quit acting like a middle-market team while playing in Chicago. Maybe they'll look to grab someone like Jake Odorizzi, Dallas Keuchel, Rick Porcello or Wade Miley instead of going for the home run.
There's good upside in an offensive nucleus of Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez, but they'll need Jimenez to take a big leap forward. They should try to bring back their veteran presence in Abreu, too. Their top remaining prospect is second baseman Nick Madrigal and he'll likely be added to the fray next year. The 2018 fourth overall draft pick out of Oregon State has flown through the minors and hit .331/.398/.424 in 29 games in Triple-A to end the season.
The other top prospect that is close to the majors is Luis Robert. In 47 games in Triple-A this season, he hit .297/.341/.634 with 16 homers and seven stolen bases. He can play all three outfield spots. He should play left with Jimenez moving to DH, but I'll guess he plays mostly right field.
That would leave six players who could be good to great on offense, if they retain Abreu:
Catcher James McCann had an excellent first half, but he's regressed back to his career norm in the second half.
Given the youth of Jimenez, Robert and Madrigal, again I'll say the best chance for a turnaround season is 2021 and not next year. That's because by 2021:
- Robert and Madrigal have a nearly full season of MLB experience.
- Moncada and Anderson could have established themselves as the stars of the team.
- Jimenez could become a more well-rounded hitter.
- Kopech won't be on an innings limit anymore while Rodon is back and it's possible Lopez and Cease are studs by then.
The front office will need to find a DH, build a good bullpen and stock the bench before then, but things are moving toward a possible 2021 breakthrough. That's where you keep your eyes as a White Sox fan.
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