White Sox

Race to the bottom? With Giants in town, thinking about No. 1 pick and another high-profile addition to White Sox rebuild


Race to the bottom? With Giants in town, thinking about No. 1 pick and another high-profile addition to White Sox rebuild

The race to the bottom kicks into high gear this weekend on the South Side.

No, there won’t be the same sort of atmosphere that accompanies the actual pennant races happening elsewhere around the league at this time of year, but you could argue that the stakes are similarly high for the teams with two of the three worst records in baseball.

The White Sox and the visiting San Francisco Giants are a combined 67.5 games out of first place in their divisions, at the tail end of a couple last-place seasons, but they’ll be fighting for the No. 1 pick in next summer’s draft this weekend and throughout the remainder of September. Both are competing with the team with baseball’s worst record, the Philadelphia Phillies, and all three squads are within a game and a half of each other at the bottom of baseball’s standings.

Now, as manager Rick Renteria explained and as you surely could have guessed, obviously these teams aren’t trying to lose to improve their draft position. It’s been a tough year in all three cities. The White Sox are in the early stages of their rebuild. The Phillies are trying to crawl out of theirs. And the Giants are having a very uncharacteristic season after failing to make it four straight Even Year championships last October.

Getting the No. 1 pick isn’t on the minds of those in either of the dugouts this weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“I think their club and our club and every club that plays Major League Baseball tries to go out honestly and tries to perform well, tries to win a ballgame,” Renteria said. “I think all those things take care of themselves. They’re not something I think about, worry about, concern myself with.

“My biggest concern is, are the players doing what they’re supposed to do, are they gaining experience and knowledge and are they dealing with situations that occur at any given moment properly? And the rest, it is what it is.”

But while the managers and players aren’t thinking about next year’s draft, the fans certainly are. And while there will be nothing that happens this weekend that affects baseball’s exciting pennant races, it’s anything but a meaningless trio of games, as it could have a huge impact on who gets to pick first next June. That provides some reason to pay attention over the final month of the season as the White Sox finish out a last-place campaign.

Getting the No. 1 pick could be huge, obviously, as it would give Rick Hahn a golden opportunity to add a franchise-changing player to his already remarkable cadre of highly ranked prospects in the minor leagues. Top picks over the past decade and a half have included some of baseball’s best players: Carlos Correa, Gerrit Cole, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, David Price, Justin Upton and Joe Mauer. Imagine adding someone like that to an existing group of prospects that includes Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Alec Hansen, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning and Luis Robert.

But while the race to the bottom is a moderately fun thing to follow over the season’s final month, it’s important to note that no matter the White Sox pick, there will be opportunity to add an incredible talent — as well as the usual pitfalls of a guy not panning out.

There have been No. 1 busts like Bryan Bullinger, Matt Bush and Luke Hochevar. And similarly there have been perennial All Stars taken at Nos. 2 and 3: Kris Bryant, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Justin Verlander were No. 2 picks, while Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Evan Longoria all went at No. 3. The White Sox spent a No. 3 pick on Carlos Rodon three years ago, and they’re hoping he’ll be at the top of their rotation of the future.

It might be fun this weekend to follow the standings closely and see if the White Sox can better position themselves for the first choice in the draft. But at the same time remember that this last-place season’s silver lining means a pick at the top of that draft, even if it’s not the first one. And as history has shown, there’s franchise-altering talent to be found at one, two and three.

So get ready for another high-profile addition to the White Sox rebuild.

White Sox Talk Podcast: The all-request, whatever's on your mind episode


White Sox Talk Podcast: The all-request, whatever's on your mind episode

In this special bonus episode, we opened up the podcast to our favorite people: you the White Sox fan!

You asked the questions and we answered them!

Who will be the White Sox closer in 2020? Can Avi Garcia be an effective #2 hitter? Who will be the Nicky Delmonico of 2018? Who has been the biggest surprise at spring training?  There are questions about Adam Engel, Ryan Cordell, Carson Fulmer, Yoan Moncada, as well as Roger Bossard, Mike Ditka and Rocky Biddle.

We also give away a signed Freddy Garcia baseball from 2005.   

Take a listen here or in the embedded playlist below.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?

They seem to have missed their window.

Living on a lighted stage approaches the unreal, they say. And it did there for the Jays for a while, too, as they made back-to-back trips to the American League Championship Series. Those teams were fun. They hit a lot of homers. They flipped a lot of bats. We all got to watch Geddy Lee keep score on national TV. Good times.

Well, the good times haven’t lasted, and the Jays again seem to be on the outside looking in of an AL East race that figures to feature the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and no one else.

Jays fans have had to say a farewell to kings in the past two offseasons, with two of the biggest engines of those ALCS teams, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, no longer with the team. Encarnacion is entering Year 2 with the Cleveland Indians. Jose Bautista would like to be a working man, but he’s still watching the tumbleweeds roll by on the deserted plains of this offseason’s free-agent market.

Sure, Josh Donaldson is still around, a modern-day warrior with a mean, mean stride and a mean, mean swing, too. The same can be said for Justin Smoak, who teamed with Donaldson to mash a combined 71 homers last season. But are the dipped numbers of Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins and the increasing ages of Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales and Curtis Granderson giving anyone in the Great White North great confidence in this lineup? Even the two imports from the St. Louis Cardinals, Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz, couldn’t reach base at a .300 clip last season.

The best news for the Jays might be what’s going on 60 feet, six inches away from home plate — excuse me, 18.4404 metres from home plate. Marcus Stroman might start the campaign on the disabled list, but he’s still really good after posting a 3.09 ERA last season. J.A. Happ was good last year. Marco Estrada was OK. And the Jays added Jaime Garcia this offseason, who isn’t a blockbuster newcomer, but he managed 129 strikeouts in 157 innings last season while pitching for three different teams.

Is any of that enough for the Jays to compete this season? To get closer to the heart of the AL East race? No probably not, but it’s really up to you to decide. And remember that if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

I’m out of applicable Rush lyrics, so let’s just move this along.

2017 record: 76-86, fourth place in AL East

Offseason additions: Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk, Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte, Jaime Garcia, Seung hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, John Axford

Offseason departures: Jose Bautista, Miguel Montero, Darwin Barney, Dominic Leone

X-factor: The Jays had one of baseball's better closers last season in Roberto Osuna. He's had that job for a while now and has racked up 95 saves in his three big league seasons, including 36 and 39 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. His ERA was a career-high 3.38 last season, but he finished more games than any other pitcher in baseball and struck out a career-high 83 batters in 64 innings.

Projected lineup:

1. Curtis Granderson, LF
2. Devon Travis, 2B
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
4. Justin Smoak, 1B
5. Russell Martin, C
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Randal Grichuk, RF
8. Kevin Pillar, CF
9. Aledmys Diaz, SS

Projected rotation:

1. Marcus Stroman
2. J.A. Happ
3. Aaron Sanchez
4. Marco Estrada
5. Jaime Garcia

Prediction: Fourth place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants