2018 Season Preview: Chicago White Sox

This piece is part of the Replacement Level 2018 Team Preview Series. An introduction to the series, as well as a brief explanation of the projections used, can be found here.

2017 Review

Record

Pythag Record

BaseRuns Record

Runs Scored

Runs Against

67-95

70-92

68-94

706

820

Finishing off their first season as a true rebuilding club, the White Sox unsurprisingly finished near the bottom in more than a few team-wide categories. Preseason trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, followed by deadline deals of Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, David Roberston, and Tommy Kahnle left the team with essentially no legitimate MLB talent save Jose Abreu and Avi Garcia’s BABIP.

By the end of the season, though, the flowers were already beginning to bloom. September saw regular playing time for top acquisitions Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito, and most of the players acquired through various trades finished the season at AA or higher.

Offseason in Review:

Key Additions – Welington Castillo, Miguel Gonzalez, Various Relievers

The rebuilding Sox landed Castillo for two years and $15M, a surprising value considering he’s league-average at the dish and serviceable behind it. It’s fair to wonder if there’s something else at play considering he’s never been worse than useful and on multiple occasions turned in above-average seasons. Gonzalez will provide local restaurant tips to the incoming minor leaguers, returning to the South Side after five awful starts in Texas at the end of 2017. He’ll probably pitch a lot for what is likely baseball’s most questionable rotation, though he’s not going to stand in anyone’s way. The bullpen contains a number of fliers and likely trade candidates in Bruce Rondon, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Jose Ruiz, Jeanmar Gomez, and Thyago Vieira – scoff all you want, but there are a lot of former closers and 100 MPH fastballs in that group, and nobody thought much of Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak last year either.

Key Losses – None

Nearly all the White Sox’ free agents were some combination of irrelevant and terrible in 2017; hitters with fifty below-replacement plate appearances, relievers with thirty strikeouts in fifty innings, that sort of thing. Keeping everyone from a 95-loss team may not be the best thing, but they certainly didn’t lose any future assets.

2018 Projections

ZiPS

Steamer

Pecota

 66-96

66-96

71-91

Record estimators liked the White Sox a little more than reality in 2017, and projections basically expect more of the same this season. With the exception of Abreu and Moncada, the entire Sox’ roster is projected to be below-average, but that’s mostly because it’s full of injured or below-average players. Chicago is likely a couple years away from legitimate contention, but there is enough raw talent on hand that a decent team could poke its head out and look around.

Key Players:

After years of being on just the wrong side of the stars-and-scrubs balance, the upcoming talent features more of the same; starter Carlos Rodon should be healthy for some of the 2018 season and will need to show he can provide a reliable mid-rotation arm to a staff that desperately needs it. The double-play combination of Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada slid back in 2017 as the former relies on incredible BABIPs and questionable defense while the latter combines loud tools that lack in refinement, but with Anderson’s extension and Moncada’s #1 overall prospect sheen neither will be going anywhere soon.

Key Minor League 2018 Impacts:

With no rotation spots completely solidified, flamethrower Michael Kopech should be the proud owner of at least a half-season in the majors by the end of 2018, and the dominance of former Cub Eloy Jimenez in AA could mean balls are flying fast in both directions. Center fielder Charlie Tilson is another very fast object that should provide value in the field even if he doesn’t hit – which he likely won’t – and a healthy 2018 could make him a surprising starter.

Future Outlook:

The White Sox aren’t in an enviable position, but it’s clear to see how they could be soon. If nothing else, the future looks much brighter than it did after three years of wasting some of the best players in the game on 87-loss seasons; Chicago has a direction and they’ve committed to a plan. If things work out, they could end up with more than a few of the top twenty players in the game by 2020, beating up on mid-rebuild Detroit and Kansas City, a declining Indians team, and whatever the hell happens with the Twins. Or the avalanche of risk might bury them and their little dogs, too. The best outcome? A couple of their monster prospects pan out, the rest fail miserably, and they are exactly the team they just blew up.

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