White Sox

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Why is Welington Castillo the right man for the job?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: Why is Welington Castillo the right man for the job?

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.

Signing a veteran catcher might not have seemed like the most typical offseason move for a rebuilding team not expected to contend this season.

But the White Sox did an awful lot of good for their present and future in inking Welington Castillo to a deal that could keep him on the South Side for the next three seasons — the endpoint there being the time the White Sox hope their rebuilding efforts reach their apex and the team becomes a perennial contender.

Castillo is coming off a career year both offensively and defensively, which obviously gives the White Sox an upgrade at the position. That's not to say the combo of Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith were bad in 2017. In fact, they were surprisingly good, with White Sox catchers leading the American League with a .279 batting average and a .346 on-base percentage. But Castillo outdid both, individually, slashing .282/.323/.490 with a career-best 20 homers. Plus, he threw out 49 percent of attempted base stealers last season, the best percentage in baseball, showing a big leap in his defense.

It all adds up to the White Sox having a strong catcher in 2018, which of course can't hurt, regardless of expectations. But a veteran backstop has plenty of value for the team's still-developing pitchers, too, and there could be an awful lot of those on the South Side by season's end. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already in the rotation, with Carson Fulmer expected to join them at the season's beginning. Michael Kopech figures to be up to the big leagues before the end of September, too. Having an experienced game-caller to help shepherd along the staff of the future — while also producing — is a big deal.

And there's the flexibility, which is becoming a hallmark of all Rick Hahn's moves of late. Castillo's deal could keep him in a White Sox uniform through the 2020 season. That would figure to be around the time when the White Sox are starting to compete on a regular basis. If Castillo is still doing good work behind the plate and with the bat, great. He can stick around and be the starting catcher for a contending club. If Zack Collins, who has played just 12 games above the Class A level to this point, is ready to be a big league backstop by then, great. Castillo will have served as an effective bridge and could be a high-quality backup. Or the White Sox could deal him away for another future piece. Flexibility.

So in the end, what matters is that Castillo checks all the boxes for the present and future. Offensive upgrade, defensive upgrade, veteran catcher for a young pitching staff, a bridge to Collins or the veteran catcher of the future. Whatever the end result, 2018 will be the first year of the Castillo experiment. And it could mean the White Sox are entering their first stretch of having a stable, reliable catcher since A.J. Pierzynski left.

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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