Chicago White Sox

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

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Who will be the White Sox closer?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Who will be the White Sox closer?

White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.

Who's going to be the White Sox closer? The most likely answer to that question is that it won't be just one guy.

That might not be a satisfying response to many fans. An old sports adage reminds us that if you have multiple closers, you probably don't have one.

But the White Sox seem ready to embrace a different way of thinking, one that says your so-called closer should be the guy that pitches in the highest-leverage situations, regardless of whether that's in the ninth inning or not. And different guys might be more suited to different situations if those situations present themselves as the most important in the game — be they in the sixth, seventh, eight or ninth innings.

So we'll see how that works out. The White Sox, though, do have a few options when it comes to picking their "best" reliever, or the guy who would fit into a traditional closer's role.

Juan Minaya finished last season as the team's closer, stepping into the job after Rick Hahn's front office traded away a large chunk of the bullpen. David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle got sent to the New York Yankees, Anthony Swarzak to the Milwaukee Brewers, even Dan Jennings to the Tampa Bay Rays. Heck, Tyler Clippard, who came over in that trade with the Yankees, got flipped to the Houston Astros. But Minaya fared pretty well, ending up with nine saves over the final month and a half of the year and not allowing a run in his final eight outings.

This spring, Minaya has been all right. He started the spring with a scoreless inning against the Cincinnati Reds. But he's allowed a run in each of his three appearances since, all lasting one inning. Spring stats don't mean much, and Rick Renteria said they don't mean much to him, personally. After the way Minaya finished 2017, he's likely still in very good favor with his manager.

Nate Jones is healthy, which has been a rarity in the recent past. He threw just 11.2 innings last season and a combined 19 in 2014 and 2015. But he showed how good he can be when he stays healthy, finishing the 2016 season with a 2.29 ERA. He's got strikeout stuff, and he would figure to be a good option in a traditional closer's role. He hasn't allowed a run in five spring innings, with six strikeouts in those five outings.

Both Minaya and Jones are under team control for plenty longer, and they could be options for the closer's job stretching into the future, not just in 2018.

A guy who doesn't fit that bill is Joakim Soria, the 33-year-old former All-Star closer for the Kansas City Royals who the White Sox acquired in a three-team trade this offseason. He could be a candidate for high-pressure situations if for no other reason that to advertise his services to potential contenders looking for bullpen upgrades. Soria's the kind of guy who could serve a sign-and-flip purpose for Hahn's front office and help the rebuild by bringing in another young piece.

And just because Renteria talks about a closer-by-committee type of situation during spring training doesn't mean that will be the strategy for the entirety of the 2018 season. It might be a way to simply continue the battle for the closer's job into the regular season. It might be a way for one guy to separate himself from the others. It's very possible that Minaya, Jones, Soria or someone else is the go-to ninth-inning man at some point during the season.

"Someone else," you say? Gregory Infante had a 3.13 ERA last season. Luis Avilan's was lower, at 2.93. Aaron Bummer is ranked as one of the White Sox top 20 prospects. As the great philosopher Kevin Garnett once said, anything is possible.

Michael Kopech goes to minor league camp as White Sox continue to trim roster


Michael Kopech goes to minor league camp as White Sox continue to trim roster

White Sox fans' dreams of seeing Michael Kopech on the team's Opening Day roster were never very realistic. Tuesday, they were officially dashed.

The White Sox announced Tuesday morning that Kopech, the organization's top-rated pitching prospect and the No. 10 prospect in baseball, has been assigned to minor league camp.

This is not surprising news, of course, but it brings what was a hit-or-miss spring to an end for the 21-year-old hurler with huge expectations.

Kopech finished with a gigantic 11.57 ERA in four spring outings, showing that the decision to start him at Triple-A Charlotte makes a lot of sense. Kopech started off great in Cactus League play, with no earned runs allowed in his first two outings, which featured six strikeouts over 4.1 innings. But he was roughed up in his final two outings, allowing five runs in 2.1 innings against the Kansas City Royals and a whopping seven runs (four earned) in just a third of an inning against the Oakland Athletics.

While Kopech's talent had some thinking there was an outside shot he could do enough this spring to make the team's Opening Day roster — he did, after all, strike out 155 batters in 119.1 innings at Double-A Birmingham last season — it figure he'd begin the 2018 campaign at Charlotte after making just three starts at the Triple-A level in 2017. General manager Rick Hahn told reporters earlier in spring training that Kopech would begin the season in the minors, with that official roster move coming Tuesday.

Hahn has said repeatedly this offseason that a good developmental season for Kopech and other highly touted prospects like outfielder Eloy Jimenez could mean them not seeing the big leagues at all. But if Kopech pitches like he did last season, you'd have to predict that he'll get his first taste of the majors at some point during the 2018 season.

Joining Kopech in minor league camp is Jacob May, the White Sox Opening Day center fielder a season ago. The moves brought the White Sox big league camp total to 36 players.