White Sox

Previewing the Cleveland Indians

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Previewing the Cleveland Indians

With the White Sox kicking off divisional play tonight against Cleveland (6:00, Comcast SportsNet), I turned to Lewie Pollis of Wahoo's on First to answer a few questions about the Indians:

Honest question: Is the Indians' rotation better off without the guy formerly known as Fausto Carmona?

It's hard to deny that. Carmona's sorry, Roberto Hernandez' DIPS numbers suggest that he was better than he looked last year (4.56 FIP, 4.18 SIERA), but we're talking about a low-strikeout worm-burner pitching in front of a questionable double-play duo (Jason Kipnis is still learning second base, and there's a lot of debate about Asdrubal Cabrera's defense) who's put up ERAs of 5.25 or higher three of the last four years. It's been five very long years since his breakout 2007 or maybe eight, since we now know that he's three years older than we thought.

All the major projection systems peg Hernandez for an ERA in the mid-to-high-4.00's, meaning he'd need a major improvement (an unlikely scenario for a 31-year-old with a distraction this big hanging over him) or some great luck in order to be even an average pitcher. The Indians might miss his durability (he's thrown 389 innings over the last two years), but between Jeanmar Gomez, Kevin Slowey, David Huff, Zach McAllister and Scott Barnes they shouldn't have much trouble replacing his production. I'm not sure Hernandez wins a roster spot ifwhen his visa issues get cleared up.

Is Shin-Soo Choo due for a rebound year? And, conversely, could Asdrubal Cabrera be in for a regression?

I'm definitely on board the Choo bandwagon for 2012. He's supposedly put his distractions from last year (his May DUI was the big one) behind him, and a good part of his struggles last year can probably be chalked up to bad luck (his .317 BABIP was way below his .351 career mark). Expecting a full rebound to his 2009-10 levels is probably unrealistic, but even if his power doesn't fully return he's still got his strong plate discipline. And don't forget that, despite his injuries, distractions, and slumps in 2011 he was on pace for a solid 2.7 fWAR over a full season.

Cabrera is in for some regression this year. He really slowed down towards the end of last year, which obviously is not a good sign for a player whose 25-homer power seemed to come out of nowhere. That's not to say that the improvement isn't for real, just that 15 homers is a more realistic expectation than 25. I see his average and OBP improving a little bit as he gets walk rate and BABIP back up a little bit, which will help to make up for his regressed power. Anyway, he'll be good just not as good as he was last year.
Jason Kipnis is a local guy -- what are your expectations for him this season?

I'm quite bullish on Kipnis this year. Basic principles of regression and small sample size say that he probably won't keep up the 135 wRC he posted in his 36-game debut last year, but just from watching him hit that's a real possibility. We're talking about a 25-year-old second baseman with solid plate discipline and real plus power. Don't be surprised if he goes 2020.

We know plenty about Justin Masterson (that he's really good), but give us a rundown of what to expect from Cleveland pitching this series.

First up is Josh Tomlin. Hope you're not looking to walk much in game one because his 1.1 BB9 rate was the best in baseball last year. The problem with Tomlin is that his stinginess with walks comes with a dearth of strikeouts, so he's really at the mercy of the Indians' defense. He's a flyball pitcher so he's generally good at keeping his BABIP down, but he also tends to be quite homer-prone...which makes the thought of him pitching at U.S. Cellular a little nerve-wracking.

Next (thanks to the need to creatively juggle the rotation around Ubaldo Jimenez' unfair suspension) you get Masterson. He's got a great sinkerfastball that's pretty much all he throws. You can always expect a lot of grounders from him, and while he doesn't do it as consistently he's got the stuff to rack up the strikeouts too as evidenced by this 10-punchout performance on Opening Day.

Finally, you'll draw Jeanmar Gomez. Most people expected him to start the year in Triple-A, but he beat Kevin Slowey for the final rotation spot with a strong spring (1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings). He's been a real pitch-to-contact guy in the past (.88 strikeouts and walks per inning) but that changed in Goodyear (1.12). I'm hoping he really has turned over a new leaf in terms of getting more strikeouts, but I'm not exactly sure what we'll see from him in his season debut.

And lastly, give us a projection for the series.

I'll say the Indians take the first game and that it won't be particularly close, but that's mostly because I don't know if I can handle another high-stress heartbreaker after this weekend's 37 innings of heart palpitations against the Blue Jays. I make it a point never to bet against Justin Masterson so Cleveland will take game two, and I suppose I'll let you guys win game three.

If Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez spent 2018 in the majors, what would their production look like?

If Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez spent 2018 in the majors, what would their production look like?

It’s no secret that the White Sox and their fans are hoping to see both Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech in the big leagues in 2018. And according to one full-season projection system, it seems that the computers agree that both will be MLB contributors very soon.

FanGraphs’ Steamer600 projections forecast what MLB hitters would do over 600 plate appearances and what pitchers would do over 200 innings – and both Jimenez and Kopech are close to MLB-ready.

Jimenez, MLB.com’s 5th ranked prospect, is projected to provide a 1.9 offensive WAR and Kopech, MLB.com’s 10th ranked prospect, would account for 1.4 WAR over the course of a full season.

So what does that mean?

Here are some comparable MLB players from 2017 in offensive Wins Above Replacement for Jimenez:

Jackie Bradley Jr., BOS – 1.9 (541 PA) 

Jedd Gyorko, STL – 1.9 (481 PA)

Andrew Benintendi, BOS – 1.9 (658 PA)

Yasiel Puig, LAD – 1.9 (570 PA)

Salvador Perez, KC – 1.9 (499 PA)

Very solid company, considering those five players combined for an average OPS of .788. The Steamer600 projections peg Jimenez for a .770 OPS over 600 plate appearances.

The full forecast is as follows: a .267 batting average, an on-base percentage of .317 and a .453 slugging percentage to go along with 23 home runs.

Meanwhile, Kopech might be a bit further away from being an impact player with a projected WAR of 1.4 over 200 innings.

Here are some MLB WAR comparisons from 2017 for Kopech:

Julio Teheran, ATL – 1.6 (188.1 IP)

Lucas Giolito, CHW – 1.5 (45.1 IP)

Dellin Betances, NYY – 1.5 (59.2 IP)

Miguel Gonzalez, CHW/TEX – 1.5 (156.0 IP)

Greg Holland, COL – 1.4 (44.2 IP)

As you can see, the comparisons are not nearly as promising for Kopech as they are for Jimenez. The comparable range is mostly made up of late-inning relievers or middle-of-the-pack starting pitchers.

With a 100 mile-per-hour fastball and wipeout slider come the occasional control issues, and that is where the Steamer600 projections hurt Kopech the most, with a forecasted walk rate of 5.4 walks per 9 innings pitched.

The full forecast for Kopech includes a 4.84 ERA with 216 strikeouts over 32 starts with 32 home runs allowed. 

Whether these projections come close to reality or not, having Kopech and Jimenez on the Major League doorstep is sure to give the White Sox rebuild yet another boost in the coming season.

Don't call me Carlos: 'I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer'

Don't call me Carlos: 'I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer'

After a breakout season in 2017, don’t expect any more name changes from the man formerly known as Carlos Sanchez.

“Yolmer hit more home runs so I think I’m gonna stick with Yolmer,” said Sanchez in an exclusive interview from his Arizona home. “I’m the same person, but Yolmer worked good this year, so I’ll stay with Yolmer.”

After doing away with the name Carlos, the 25-year old infielder set career-highs across the board last year, slugging 12 home runs, driving in 59 runs while posting a .732 OPS.  

He ranked third on the White Sox in Wins Above Replacement with 3.5, trailing only Jose Abreu’s 4.7 and Avisail Garcia’s 4.5. In the three seasons prior, Sanchez totaled just 0.4 WAR in 201 combined games. 

And now, 2018 provides a new opportunity. Sanchez is expected to be the everyday starting third baseman, the spot he took over following Todd Frazier’s midseason trade to the New York Yankees.

With an elevated role comes a vigorous offseason schedule. He took only 20 days off after the regular season before starting to train for the upcoming spring. 

“I don’t want to work just on one thing. I want to do everything and that’s why I start training so early,” he said. “My speed. More power. Agility. A lot of things.”

Sanchez certainly isn’t the flashiest name in a White Sox infield that includes Abreu and the middle-infield tandem of Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. But he knows his role on the team – being flashy off the field and bringing energy to the clubhouse. 

“If you go with a lot of energy to the game, a lot of things change,” said Sanchez. “That makes a lot of difference in one game. And one game can make a lot of difference during the season.”

But a 70-92 record by the White Sox certainly was not due to a lack of energy as much as a general lack of talent. That should change in 2018 – when fans can expect to see Moncada, as well as other names like Nicky Delmonico, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez play a full major league season. Not to mention prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech knocking on the door to the big leagues.

And that excites Sanchez.

“We’ve got really young players but really talented [players],” said Sanchez. “We have to get better, but I think we can do a lot of good things next year.”

Are there any young players Sanchez is specifically excited to see develop? 

“They’re all going to be really good if they keep working,” he said. “Moncada could be a superstar.” 

That’s exactly what the White Sox are hoping as well.