White Sox

Welcome to the heart of the White Sox rebuild: You can be patient and have fun at the same time, right?

Welcome to the heart of the White Sox rebuild: You can be patient and have fun at the same time, right?

Welcome to the heart of the White Sox rebuild.

SoxFest is sold out this weekend, the fleet of highly rated prospects is on parade, and the questions are already coming about when all these young guns will turn the team into a perennial contender.

That’s the plan, anyway, and the fact that everyone expects it to come true and come true any day now shows how good a job Rick Hahn’s front office has done in assembling such an incredible amount of young talent in such an incredibly brief amount of time.

But the waiting game is easier discussed than played, and this weekend’s festivities will surely feature frequent queries about when Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez will crack the major league roster and when free-agent superstars like Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado can be expected to be introduced at Guaranteed Rate Field.

And so Hahn will likely spend a lot more time talking about patience.

“The fan support has been stunning. It has been overwhelming in terms of the amount of enthusiasm and energy that they’ve shown," Hahn said Friday ahead of the festivities at the Hilton Chicago. "Obviously, this weekend is sold out. Virtually every fan that interacts with me directly or calls or emails or writes a letter has expressed their support, and actually a few last night as I was out at a sponsor event expressed, ‘Why was their any doubt that we would support that? You articulate a clear plan that makes sense and follow through on it, you’ll have our support through thick and thin.’ Which, as an organization, we very much appreciate.

“I think when we preach patience at this point, to an extent we’re saying it to ourselves. There’s going to be a temptation. All of you that are gonna be in Glendale for the first few weeks of spring training are going to see players that are going to get you excited, and people are gonna want to see them at the big league level, just like a year ago when they wanted to see (Yoan) Moncada start at the big league level, and (Lucas) Giolito and (Reynaldo) Lopez. But we have to be patient with their development, there’s still some finishing elements that have to happen at the minor league level and then we’ll bring them on when the time is right to the big league level. That’s what it is in terms of asking for patience, and preaching too, to ourselves in the coaching staff and in the front office.”

As Hahn mentioned, White Sox fans are all aboard the rebuild train. They’ve completely bought in and know it will take time for all these guys to deliver consistent contention. But there’s a reason the SoxFest lineup includes as many minor league players as major league ones. Kopech, Jimenez, Alec Hansen, Zack Burdi, Zack Collins, Blake Rutherford, Dylan Cease. None of these guys has spent a day in the major leagues. Only a few have spent a day in the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Is expecting them to reach the majors so soon perhaps a tad unrealistic? Well, it depends. They are all pretty darn good.

“As we sit here right now I want to say Eloy has roughly about 70-odd plate appearances above A-Ball,” Hahn said. “If at age 21 he spends the entire year in Double-A in the Southern League and is even close to the level that he performed at for the three weeks he was there already, that’s a really, really good developmental year. Now, the good ones have a way of sort of changing your timeline on that, and it’s not going to shock me if at some point over the course of the summer Eloy forces our hand a little bit and we’re going to have to wind up being a little more aggressive than what would be a very fine developmental plan for a 21-year-old who is hardly above A-Ball.”

The thing is, however, that the performances of guys like Kopech and Jimenez — not to mention the fact that Moncada, Giolito and Lopez are already at the major league level — has created a bit of an expectation that this thing could come together ahead of schedule. Kopech said recently he’s ready for his major league moment. Jimenez said he’ll be ready when the call comes.

But when those promotions do occur — be it during the 2018 campaign or after it — the presence of these young guys alone doesn’t mean the rebuilt White Sox will be a finished product. Far from it, in fact, as Hahn continued to discuss the development that will need to occur at the major league level, as well.

“It’s the rare, rare player that gets to the major league level and doesn’t need any further refinement or adjustment,” Hahn said. “Even if it’s just getting comfortable with the speed of the game or the amount of the scrutiny that comes with being a big league ballplayer on a daily basis. So we know that’s going to continue.

“And it’s going to happen with Moncada. He’s not a finished product, Tim Anderson’s not a finished product, Carlos Rodon’s not a finished product, despite being in the big leagues for a couple years. It’s part of the reason Ricky (Renteria) and the coaching staff is perfectly suited for this process. They’re all teachers, they all have roots in player development, they all have a history in setting organizational goals and holding players accountable for it, and that continues not just through our system, but once players get to Chicago.”

And so, more patience.

The rebuild is generating the kind of excitement not seen from South Side baseball fans since new Hall of Famer Jim Thome sent that ball out of Guaranteed Rate Field to score the only run in the Blackout Game. Renteria, for one, said he can’t control his excitement. White Sox fans know the feeling. But he said that he can control his patience.

“There are two things that I’ve been asked: Can I contain my excitement? No, I can’t,” Renteria said. “I’m very excited about the men we’ve been watching at the camp and last September, the guys that we’ve seen here, the kids we’ve seen at instructional league in the Dominican. But I can contain control my patience.

“I don’t want to contain my excitement. I want everybody to see my excitement because it is real. The players’ talents, not everybody is going to make it, not everybody is going to be The Guy. But there is a lot here. I can contain my patience knowing that if we do it the right way, at the end of the day we’re going to have a chance for some successful seasons and have a lot of fun.”

Homer Simpson once said the waiting game sucks. He might have been onto something — anyone want to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos instead? — but it’s a necessity right now on the South Side, one fans seem willing to accept.

Though no one ever said you can’t be patient and have a little fun at the same time, right?

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Baltimore Orioles?

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 Baltimore Orioles?

Perhaps a better question for White Sox fans: When’s Manny Machado coming to the South Side? (Better question from me, personally, is when Chicago might acquire Maryland's greatest creation: the crab pretzel. Had in College Park last summer. It's amazing.)

Whether that ends up happening or not is a question for next offseason, but that query is one that plenty of South Side baseball fans on social media have asked for years now. Machado, mentioned in trade rumors during the Winter Meetings in December, is most likely entering his final season as an Oriole. His contract is up at season’s end, and he’s expected to land a gargantuan deal next offseason.

The funny thing is that for all the hullabaloo over the 25-year-old infielder, he’s coming off his worst statistical campaign as a big leaguer. In 2017, he slashed .259/.310/.782, all three of those percentages seeing huge dropoffs after a sensational 2016 campaign a year prior. His power numbers stayed relatively consistent, but his run and hit totals plummeted as the O’s weren’t quite as a competitive as in years past.

Now, Machado is likely still cruising for a big contract regardless of what he does in 2018. He’s moving to shortstop, which will be interesting. But he’s young enough that even another season like last year won’t make too big a difference, considering how good he’s been throughout his career.

That’s who White Sox fans will be watching whenever their gaze falls on the Baltimore baseball club. (They won’t be alone, by the way, and some contending teams might even try to add him at the trade deadline.) But the O’s are making news for other reasons, recent reasons, in fact.

The biggest name left on the free-agent market finally signed this week, and now the Orioles have a big-time addition to their starting rotation. Unlike Jake Arrieta, it appears Alex Cobb’s waiting game paid off in the form of dollars, years and a no-trade clause. How nice for him. It’s also nice for the O’s, who get to add a guy to a low-key decent starting staff.

Cobb, who had a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season, might not be ready to rock for the start of the regular season considering he didn’t ink a deal until a week out from Opening Day — bet he’s good at staring contests, too — but the trio of Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner (another new addition) and Kevin Gausman will be ready, and all those guys are coming off a solid-enough 2017. Bundy had a couple good stretches, posting a 3.03 ERA over his first 13 starts and then a 2.00 ERA in the month of August. Gausman had a 3.31 ERA over his final 18 starts. Cashner, another free-agent signing, had a 3.40 ERA with the Texas Rangers.

So while the likes of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and the better-than-Machado-last-year Jonathan Schoop still make the O’s an offensive threat in a hard-to-win AL East, the starting pitching might be where the magic is this time around.

2017 record: 75-87, fifth place in AL East

Offseason additions: Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, Colby Rasmus, Alex Presley, Pedro Araujo, Joely Rodriguez, Nestor Cortes Jr.

Offseason departures: Welington Castillo, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Flaherty, Seth Smith, Jeremy Hellickson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley

X-factor: I said it just above, and I'll say it again: Jonathan Schoop was better than Manny Machado last season. Schoop made the All-Star team and finished with 32 homers, 105 RBIs and a .293/.338/.503 slash line. His .841 OPS was one of the best 50 in the game. Should we expect Schoop to be the best middle infielder on the O's in 2018, too? Maybe that's a little extreme, but hey, good to have this guy.

Projected lineup:

1. Tim Beckham, 3B
2. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
3. Manny Machado, SS
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Trey Mancini, DH
7. Colby Rasmus, RF
8. Caleb Joseph, C
9. Alex Presley, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Dylan Bundy
2. Andrew Cashner
3. Kevin Gausman
4. Chris Tillman
5. Mike Wright Jr.

Prediction: Third 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
Baltimore Orioles

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers

Sounds like we know how the White Sox starting rotation will line up to start the season


Sounds like we know how the White Sox starting rotation will line up to start the season

Rick Renteria's starting rotation isn't exactly official for the start of the season, but it's about as close as it can be.

Maybe "unofficially official" is the best way to go?

The South Side skipper agreed with the assessment of reporters Wednesday in Arizona, saying that an order of James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer "sounds right."

Shields was already announced as the White Sox starter for the season opener next Thursday in Kansas City. That wasn't much of a surprise considering Shields' veteran status in this rotation.

Giolito, who made seven starts at the end of last season and looked mighty good doing it, might be the best starting pitcher on the team going into the season. He posted a 2.38 ERA in those games, with many fans hoping he would have been the one to take on the Royals in the opener. It sounds like he'll likely pitch two days later in Game 2 against the Crowns.

Lopez made eight starts at the end of last season, turning in a 4.72 ERA in those starts. He's another former highly touted prospect who will get a full season to continue his development at the major league level.

Gonzalez was brought back this winter after being traded away from the South Side last summer to bring another veteran mentor type to help along these young pitchers. He had a 4.31 ERA before the trade to the Texas Rangers after a 3.73 ERA in a full season with the White Sox in 2016.

Fulmer is another young arm who will be looking to earn a spot in the crowded rotation of the future this season. He's had a rough spring — though turned in his best start of the spring earlier this week — but he'll be given every opportunity to prove he can succeed as a big league starting pitcher after showing some promise at the end of last season.

Those first three guys will face off against the Royals on the season's opening weekend. Gonzalez and Fulmer are expected to make their first starts of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays in Canada.