White Sox

20/20 vision: Dreaming of roster for White Sox next World Series contender

20/20 vision: Dreaming of roster for White Sox next World Series contender

Be afraid, baseball world. Be very afraid.

While "Winter is coming" in this weekend's Game of Thrones series opener, the White Sox version of the iconic phrase from one of television's most popular shows will be coming to a baseball diamond near you in a few years.

The White Sox farm system has gone from worst to first in the span of 15 months.

And it's only going to continue to get stronger as the White sox have a few more trade chips to sell off and they'll have a Top 5 draft pick in 2018. The organization will also have a few briefcases stuffed with cash to toss around to the loaded 2019 free agent class.

As most White Sox fans pick their jaws up from the floor when looking at MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospect list, we've done our best to construct the optimal White Sox lineup for the 2020 season.

LINEUP

1. Yoan Moncada (2B)

The top prospect in MLB is a five-tool talent who possesses the on-base skills (.385 in Triple-A) and speed (16 stolen bases in 2017) to set the table for the White Sox for the next decade.

2. Manny Machado (3B)

If the White Sox are going to throw big money at a free agent in 2019, Machado could be the guy. His age (27) when he hits the open market is right around the White Sox window of contention.

3. Eloy Jimenez (LF)

Some scouts believe Jimenez could be better than Moncada. His power and ability to hit for a high average make him an ideal candidate to hit No. 3 for the White Sox in 2020.

4. Jose Abreu (DH)

Abreu's leadership will still be imperative for the White Sox when they're ready to contend.

5. Luis Robert (CF)

Robert is the ultimate wild card in the White Sox system as he's yet to show off his skills in the United States. Another five-tool talent, Robert's upside is off the charts.

6. Avisail Garcia (RF)

Coming off his first All-Star appearance, Garcia could be an integral part of the White Sox future or the team could sell high on his 2017 season for more high-end young talent.

7. Zack Collins (C)

Collins low batting average (.220) and high strikeout numbers (90) in Single-A are alarming, but he's still only 22 years old, and his defensive abilities behind the plate have improved immensely since the White Sox drafted him. 

8. Jake Burger (1B)

Burger's advanced bat and power will have him moving up the pipeline. It wouldn't be surprising to see him shift from third base to first base by the time he's ready to join the majors.

9. Tim Anderson (SS)

The first piece of the rebuild has gotten off to a bad start in 2017, but he's still an important part of the young core.

BENCH

Nicky Delmonico (OF), Adam Engel (OF), Yolmer Sanchez (IF), Kevan Smith (C), Gavin Sheets (1B)

Engel is a must-have on the bench for the White Sox as he could be an important late-inning defensive replacement at any position in the outfield. Delmonico's left-handed bat and pop give him the nudge over a few other White Sox minor league outfielders. Sanchez can play all over the diamond and would be the perfect utility infielder for a contender. Smith and Sheets round out the rest of the White Sox bench.

ROTATION

1. Carlos Rodon

2. Michael Kopech 

3. Alec Hansen

4. Lucas Giolito

5. Dane Dunning

While he hasn't shown consistency thus far in the majors, Rodon — the only holdover from the current White Sox rotation — has the dynamite stuff to be the ace. Kopech, who has topped out at 105 MPH, has the highest upside of any pitching prospect in the minors and if his command continues to improve he could challenge Rodon for the top spot in the rotation. The last three spots in the rotation could be a toss up because the White Sox have about 15 arms that are worthy of a starting spot. No matter how it shakes out, the White Sox project to have a strong starting five. Hansen, Giolito and Dunning — our projected No. 3, 4 and 5 starters for the 2020 South Siders — have the upside of being No. 2 starters if they were on a handful of other clubs. 

BULLPEN

Zack Burdi (closer), Andrew Miller (SU), Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease, Carson Fulmer, Bernardo Flores

Burdi possesses an 80-grade fastball (the highest possible rating) and a potential wipeout slider. If Burdi can bounce back from potential Tommy John Surgery, he'll likely still be the White Sox closer of the future. Instead of inserting one of their young pitchers in the setup role, the White Sox will throw some money at the best reliever in baseball, Andrew Miller, because why the hell not? Lopez' fastball which can reach 100 and plus-curveball would be devastating in a 7th inning role before the White Sox turn the ball over to Miller and Burdi. Cease and Fulmer round things out.

White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about James McCann's breakout season with the White Sox (1:15).

Then Chuck speaks with McCann about all the preparation he does for every game (9:20), why he'll never use a cheat sheet scouting report behind the plate like many catchers do (11:30) and what McCann has been badgering Lucas Giolito about since spring training (14:30).

Plus, why Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer have been so successful out of the bullpen (16:30), why McCann acts as a karaoke host on the team bus (17:40) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

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USA TODAY

Buckle up, White Sox, here come the best two teams in baseball

Things are about to get tougher for the White Sox. Much tougher.

The upcoming road trip features seven straight games against first-place teams, the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. Those two teams are, by their winning percentages as of this writing, the two best teams in baseball.

The much-bemoaned makeup of this season’s American League means seeing top-shelf competition is a rarity for any team playing outside the AL East. The Astros are a mile ahead of the rest of the AL West. The Twins have appeared, so far, as the only team capable of winning an aggressively weak AL Central. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays — three teams the White Sox have already seen one time apiece — will battle it out for the AL East crown all season long, but let’s be honest, they all seem safe bets to make the postseason.

The fact that the five teams likely to make the playoffs have already put themselves ahead of the competition and it’s not even Memorial Day is its own discussion topic as the rebuilding trend sweeps through the Junior Circuit. But for the 2019 edition of the Chicago White Sox, specifically, it just means that this week is not likely to be a good one.

In the 10 games they played against the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, the White Sox went 3-7. They were pasted by the Rays and Red Sox, who combined to outscore them 58-18 in seven games on the South Side, and they took two of three from the Yankees in The Bronx.

Of course, any expectations can be dashed in a small portion of a 162-game season. Cast your mind back to 2017, when the White Sox swept a three-game series from the soon-to-be world-champion Astros. The South Siders finished with 95 losses that season, but for three games in August, they had the champs’ number.

Will this week go similarly? Maybe. But it doesn’t seem likely.

The Astros are on fire, or at least they were before the Red Sox snapped their 10-game winning streak Sunday. That doesn’t change the fact that the Astros boast a plus-92 run differential that counts as the best in the game. Or their 3.43 team ERA (second in the AL). Or their .279 team batting average and jaw-dropping .353 team on-base percentage, both marks the best in baseball.

The Twins, the division rivals the White Sox will see for the first time in 2019 beginning Friday, aren’t far behind. That offense has been sensational, too, through the season’s first two months, owning baseball’s second best run differential (plus-77) and its second best team batting average (.270). No team in either league has hit more homers than the Twins, who have launched 87 of them in 45 games.

The White Sox, meanwhile, have a fragile, injury-affected starting rotation — after Sunday’s game, manager Rick Renteria did not share who’s starting Monday’s game — and a pitching staff with a 5.09 ERA that’s given up 68 homers this season. Sunday, Reynaldo Lopez made it through six innings of one-run ball, only for the White Sox bullpen to cough up a pair of two-run homers to the Toronto Blue Jays (one of baseball’s worst offenses) in the game’s final two innings. It was the sixth time this season the White Sox bullpen has allowed multiple home runs in a single game.

“Gulp” might be an appropriate reaction to hearing the White Sox have to go up against the Houston and Minnesota offenses seven times in the next seven days.

This isn’t to say the White Sox are merely a punching bag for these two giants of the American League right now. Certainly most of the teams the Astros and Twins have faced have suffered less than desirable fates. But the gaps between the rebuilding White Sox and this pair of contenders are not small.

The White Sox are trying to accomplish the same thing the Astros did, spending several frustrating years being patient during a rebuilding process only to come out the other side a perennial contender and World Series champion. These same Astros who are now bullying the rest of the AL lost a total of 416 games in the four seasons prior to their first playoff season in a decade in 2015. By the end of the 2017 campaign, they were world champions. That’s the template the White Sox are trying to follow.

But the White Sox aren’t to the mountaintop yet, and that might end up being painfully clear by the end of the upcoming road trip. It doesn’t mean their climb won’t get them to that same point, but don’t try to compare the 2019 White Sox to the 2019 Astros this week. That’s not the comparison that counts.

The Twins are a little different, having revamped their lineup over the offseason with free-agent acquisitions who have paid huge dividends. C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Marwin Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz (currently on the IL) have combined for 31 homers in 45 games. But homegrown guys like Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are all playing well, too. That quintet has accounted for 43 of the Twins’ 87 homers this season. That’s a strong core of homegrown young hitters, the kind of thing the White Sox hope to have real soon, the kind of thing that’s taking shape with Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson off to good starts and Eloy Jimenez at the major league level (and likely to come off the injured list Monday).

The White Sox have obviously had their positives this season, and they’re clearly in a better place now than they were at this point last year (a 21-24 record after Sunday’s game compared to 14-31 through the first 45 games of 2018). But their rebuilding process hasn’t yet reached the point where they’re going to be trading blows with the two best teams in baseball.

There could be some surprises on this road trip. But they don’t figure to be easy to come by. Buckle up, here come the two best teams in baseball.

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