White Sox

The White Sox are having a quiet Winter Meetings because the rebuild is ahead of schedule

The White Sox are having a quiet Winter Meetings because the rebuild is ahead of schedule

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The White Sox silence at these Winter Meetings speaks volumes.

Last year, no team made more noise. Rick Hahn pulled off franchise-altering deals that shipped Chris Sale and Adam Eaton away from the South Side, kickstarting the declared rebuild with a couple of bangs.

Fast forward to December 2017 and the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, and you’ll see the fruits of those efforts: a complete lack of activity. But there’s a reason for that, a good one, as Hahn has explained in a couple different ways this week in Florida.

“I think all of us enjoyed last Winter Meetings more than this one because there was more activity,” Hahn said Wednesday during his daily media session. “We are in a far, far better place as an organization as we sit here today. We are much closer to winning our next championship today than we were a year ago.

“Last year sort of marked a very clear declaration about our direction and obviously had two very strong steps toward accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish. This year we started our conversations up there in the suite with, ‘Let’s take a second and understand where we’re at right now and what we have coming and how we want to get there and realize that at least for this week, there’s probably not going to be a ton that we’re going to do that’s going to continue that process.’

“There’s a reason for that. We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year, and once those next opportunities present themselves, we’ll continue.”

Now obviously fans and the media alike get swept up in the flood of trade rumors during what has historically been baseball’s busiest week. Reports that the Baltimore Orioles are shopping Manny Machado had White Sox fans dreaming of seeing him on the South Side. Watching the Miami Marlins trade away much of their roster had some White Sox fans clamoring for their favorite team to trade for Christian Yelich. There’s been trade speculation for months, really, involving Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.

And those fans and media members aren’t alone. Hahn said earlier this week that his preaching of patience applied just as much to members of the White Sox front office as it did to fans.

But as he showed with the trades involving Sale and Eaton — and the one in July that sent Jose Quintana across town — picking the right spots and acquiring the right packages is far more important when it comes to maintaining the carefully laid plans of this rebuilding effort.

“We have to be responsive to the market,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve shown that repeatedly at one end of the extreme in terms of our timing of making a big trade like the Quintana trade. You heard me say a year ago that it would be great if were able to do it while at the Winter Meetings last year. In reality it didn't come together until the All-Star break.

“At the other end of the extreme, I don’t think many people expected us to act quickly and sign Welington Castillo and add to this team in a way that we felt helps us for the short term and the long term.

“Again, just because the eyes of the baseball world are focused on it this week, there’s nothing magical about doing anything right now. We’re going to respond more when the opportunities better present themselves as opposed to the fact that everyone is gathered in one place.”

It doesn’t make for front-page headlines or airtime-filling fodder, but the White Sox plan is unfolding as planned right before everyone’s eyes. This is the waiting period, as Hahn keeps reminding everyone. After acquiring enough talent in such a short period of time to make the farm system baseball’s best, there is a part of this rebuild that simply involves playing the waiting game.

But at the same time, this plan is ahead of schedule. Hahn thinks so. After establishing a direction a year ago, Hahn’s made some gigantic moves and built a farm system so exciting that fans know every nook and cranny of the thing. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are already on the big league roster. Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez might not be far behind. And there’s plenty of depth, too, with names like Luis Robert, Micker Adolfo, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning.

Give the White Sox time, and they hope to produce a perennial championship contender. That time to give is right now. This is the plan. And it’s not just right on schedule. It’s a little ahead of schedule.

“We probably are from the standpoint that I anticipated there probably would need to be more deals at these Meetings like the ones there were at the last Meetings,” Hahn said. “We didn’t know how quickly all these things would line up. We had multiyear control on many of our players, so there was no urgency other than the impending deadline to move anybody. But we were able to accomplish a great deal in the last year prior to getting here, going to basically from a year ago at this time through September we were able to get a lot done and move the process along very quickly.

“That said we have a lot more to do, we’ve got an important draft coming June, there is going to be other important trades, there will be free-agent signings that take place to facilitate this and obviously at this point in particular huge amount of player development that has to go right.

“We’re pleased with how the first part went, but we’re pretty well focused on how to maximize the returns to this next part as well.”

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.