30 in 30: Chicago White Sox

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The White Sox are coming off a really bad season, but at least they have Manny Machado to lean on, right? No? Well, at least they have all his friends.

The South-Siders went out and added Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay, two of Manny Machado’s best friends, trying to sway the shortstop to Chicago. However, that was all for naught, as he won’t be suiting up in black pinstripes this summer. Instead, they look to compete in the weakest division in baseball sporting a very similar roster to last year’s.

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The one massive addition is going to be Eloy Jimenez. Acquired from the Cubs in the Jose Quintana trade in 2017, Jimenez has rocketed up into a consensus top-3 prospect in baseball and is one of the two cornerstones Chicago’s rebuild was based on. While he does have his fielding deficiencies, the Sox are counting on him to immediately be an impact bat in the heart of the order, and I don’t see a reason to believe he won’t be.

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The other massive unknown, one which could constitute a swing of possibly double-digit wins, is Yoan Moncada. Moncada was baseball’s unquestioned top prospect when he was traded, along with Michael Kopech, for Chris Sale. He hasn’t yet quite found his stride in the bigs just yet, but a drop in his 33.4% strikeout rate would be coupled with an exponential growth of success at the plate. Moncada was within the top-50 hitters in baseball in exit velocity and barrel rate, so should he put the ball in play more often, he is going to have tons of success in this league.

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Moncada will also be moving to the hot corner this upcoming season, seemingly in a move to familiarize himself with the position before the impending arrival of former Oregon State product Nick Madrigal at second base. Moncada hasn’t spent a ton of time at third base, but if his performance at second last year for the Sox is any indication, it’s going to be tough for this move to be anything but successful.

Neither Yonder Alonso nor Jose Abreu is going to light the world on fire, but it absolutely isn’t a bad 1B/DH pair. The Sox brought in Alonso, Manny Machado’s brother-in-law, in a trade with the Indians earlier this offseason. Alonso is one year removed from his best big-league season to date, and should he get his walk rate back up to a comparable equivalent from that 2017 season, he could be a potential all-star for the Sox.

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It’s fair to question whether or not Abreu will be back with the Sox in 2020, as he heads into his contract year with another first baseman seemingly ready to start in his place. Abreu also took a step back last year after dealing with some medical issues, but I believe it’s fair to assume he will return to all-star level form this year. General Manager Rick Hahn has seemed pretty apprehensive to trading his team’s all-time biggest signing, but should the correct offer present itself, I could see Abreu being shipped off in July.

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The rest of the lineup, however, is uninspiring. They’ve got Tim Anderson and Adam Engel, two guys with fantastic defensive upside, but limited potential at the plate. Daniel Palka is going to be fun to watch, but he is the epitome of a three-true-outcome hitter, and not the type that will single-handedly win teams games. By trading Omar Narvaez to Seattle, they got worse at the catcher position, though the addition of James McCann will ensure that it isn’t a catastrophic drop-off.

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Hahn focused this offseason on the bullpen, building one of the most underrated, formidable units in the game. Alex Colome, acquired from Seattle in the Narvaez trade, is the epitome of consistency at the back end. Colome has been within 1.0 and 1.3 RA9-WAR every full season he has been in the bigs, with the exception of a 2.4 RA9 campaign in 2016. The Sox know that they are going to be getting one of baseball’s premier back-end guys, and should his K% spike back up to the 31.4% it was two years ago, they may have an AL Reliever Of The Year candidate.

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Kelvin Herrera, who the Sox saw a lot in Kansas City, should be setting up Colome. Herrera got hurt last season for Washington, but he is two years removed from a stretch where he was the best set-up man in baseball. Much like Colome, Herrera has had issues with K% falling the past couple years, so if he can pick back up his form from 2016, the Sox are going to be in really good shape.

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The one name to really watch out for in the pen this year is Ian Hamilton. Hamilton’s fastball is already at the top tier of pitches in baseball, but Hamilton doesn’t have a second pitch he can consistently throw as a plus pitch. Unlike most young relievers, Hamilton doesn’t have major control problems either, walking only 16 in 51.2 innings in the minors last season. He has shown the beginnings of developing a slider and changeup in the minors, and should he work with pitching coach Don Cooper to get those pitches up to par, Hamilton’s going to be lights out for years to come.

However, much like a lot of the bad teams in baseball right now, Chicago’s downfall is going to be their starting pitching. Carlos Rodon had injury issues last year and hasn’t ever truly been a lockdown pitcher, but he’s the best they’ve got. Maybe Rodon will be able to strike more guys in year two post-surgery, but don’t count on it.

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Reynaldo Lopez, acquired in the Adam Eaton trade, is a massive question mark to say the least. Lopez was throwing BP to the American League last year, who absolutely teed off of him for a 1.19 HR/9 and 47.1% fly ball rate. Lopez just hasn’t learned to hit bats at the level he needs to, and in year three, it’s asking a bit much for him to put it together now.

With Michael Kopech out for the year with Tommy John surgery, there really isn’t much to look forward to in the Sox rotation. Dylan Cease most likely isn’t going to be there this year. Ivan Nova isn’t exciting at all. Dylan Covey is perhaps the most hated player in Chicago right now, and that is a city with the BULLS. That’s tough to do.

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The Sox lineup and bullpen are pretty good. They should be able to win a little bit in the division, and against some of the American League’s other awful teams. However, they aren’t playoff bound, or really anything close.

Team Record: 73-89

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Team MVP: Eloy Jimenez

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