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 pitchers up for any role in short season: 'We want to win'

White Sox pitchers up for any role in short season: 'We want to win'

So how's this whole pitching thing going to work in 2020?

The baseball season has been squeezed down from its typical six-month marathon to a 60-game sprint to the postseason. The sport's been on hold for months, spring training abruptly halted back in March, with "Summer Camp" not starting up until the beginning of this month. Opening Day is two weeks from Friday, and the White Sox have more arms than they know what to do with.

Rick Hahn's fond of saying you can never have enough pitching, and certainly it's the truth, especially ahead of a season where the White Sox, nor any other team, can be certain of what they'll get from any one of their players. But with Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodón, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert all able to be full-season additions after their various recoveries from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox have a much deeper group of pitchers — starting pitchers — than they were expected to have in March.

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The elements of the long layoff and the 60-game sprint, which certain players have described as potentially having a playoff atmosphere from Day 1, make it so Rick Renteria suddenly has a ton of options when it comes to managing his pitching staff. And the skipper himself, in the past no fan of new pitching trends such as the opener, has admitted that everything is on the table, including an expanded rotation or the art of "piggybacking," multiple starters pitching one right after the other in the same game.

It wouldn't be outlandish to expect creative deployments of the White Sox many arms. Wouldn't Kopech and his triple-digit velocity make a menacing late-inning option? Wouldn't opposing teams be shaking in their cleats if they finally chased Dallas Keuchel, only for Rodón to appear right after?

There are tons of possibilities, and the lines between starting pitcher and bullpen pitcher could get blurred in this most unusual of campaigns.

And another new variable for these White Sox could make things even more different: It's winning time on the South Side.

"We want to win. And in order for us to accomplish that, we have to be open to do whatever it takes to win every game," White Sox starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez said Tuesday through team interpreter Billy Russo. "We as the starters, I think we're open to help the team in any role or capacity the team needs us to pitch. I think we don't need to be heroes, we just need to do our job."

"This season's pretty unique, obviously, with a 60-game schedule. I think a lot of us are going to have to encompass different roles," Rodón said Sunday. "Plus, we have a surplus of arms that we'll get to use, and I think there's some creative ways we could go about using them. I think all of us are pretty willing to step into any role we can to help this team win. We have a chance just as much as anyone."

That "whatever they ask of me" attitude might not strike as super uncommon, especially when teams get into pennant races and the playoffs. But this season will feature a pennant race from Opening Day to the end of September. Fast starts will be essential, and any losing streak could derail everything.

If the White Sox are going to compete alongside the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians for the AL Central crown, they'll need to do it from the jump.

"It's just going to be 60 games, and we have to win right away," Lopez said. "We have to start winning from the beginning because we won't have any chance to regroup or get better as the season progresses. We need to start in a hot situation and just try to keep it."

"We have 60 games," Keuchel said, "and I figured we’re probably going to be in playoff-mode type of coaching, when you get five or six innings from the starters, depending on how good they’re doing, and you turn it over to the bullpen."

RELATED: White Sox said to have one of MLB's easiest schedules, but not so fast

If Renteria has plans to utilize his pitching staff in a drastically different fashion, he might not have settled on it just yet. "Summer Camp" is still just a few days old, and the White Sox are still figuring out what kind of shape their pitchers are in after the months-long layoff. Simulated games and live batting practice sessions are starting to happen, and the team will play its first intrasquad game Thursday.

And the players are in that same mode of discovery. They usually get a month and a half to work themselves from offseason shape to in-season shape. This year, they got the majority of the way down that road, then went home for three months, and now they'll get only three weeks before the games start counting.

It's far from a perfect setup, and what pitchers can or will do once the season starts remains one of baseball's myriad mysteries.

"It’s such a weird way to say this, but it’s almost like you have to come to work and figure it out as you go," Gio González said Tuesday. "And it’s tough because it’s putting everybody in a situation where no one — we’re trying to make the best of it, but this is all new to everybody. I don’t know what is going to happen, I don’t know how they’re going to start us or move the guys around. We’re just trying to get our feet under us."

The same can be said for everyone involved in putting on the Major League Baseball season right now.

As with the questions surrounding the season's viability itself, the question of how the White Sox will alter their pitching strategy won't be answered for a while longer.


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Why White Sox-Cubs games could be 'a little taste' of Crosstown World Series

Why White Sox-Cubs games could be 'a little taste' of Crosstown World Series

A Crosstown World Series?

It's a Chicago baseball fan's dream.

The White Sox representing the American League, the Cubs representing the National League, for all the marbles. Sounds fun. Sounds electric. Sounds insane.

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There's no figuring out which teams are going to end up in the Fall Classic — or if Major League Baseball will even get to the Fall Classic — in this pandemic-shortened season full of nothing but unknowns. The White Sox and the Cubs both head toward the 60-game sprint to the playoffs with aspirations, expectations of playing in October. If both teams get the answers they're looking for in their starting rotations, they could both be in playoff position.

But there are no guarantees this season.

Still, the schedule could provide the next best thing to a World Series zipping up and down the Red Line.

The Crosstown rivals will face off six times — eight if you count the exhibition games on July 19 and 20 — with the rivalry games accounting for one-sixth of each team's regular-season schedule. And the scheduling gods have smiled favorably on the Crosstown rivalry, with the White Sox and Cubs slated to square off in the final series of the regular season, when playoff spots could be on the line.

In other words, we're talking about potentially the most meaningful matchup between these two teams since the 1906 World Series.

"Let's look forward to that. Let's all be happy that there's a possibility of that occurring, let's all embrace it as a city," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday. "I know that most of Chicago would like to see a Crosstown World Series some day. Maybe this will be a little taste of it."

Should the White Sox find themselves dueling with the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians for AL Central supremacy, should the Cubs be jockeying with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds or Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, should either team be making a mad dash for a wild card spot, it could all come down to how they fare against one another on the season's final weekend.

RELATED: White Sox 2020 schedule: 5 key series during 60-game race for AL Central crown

While it hasn't been the case in recent seasons, with the Cubs harboring championship expectations and the White Sox rebuilding, the two seem to be evenly matched while meeting each other in the middle of their respective trajectories, the White Sox on the precipice of opening their contention window and the Cubs trying to keep theirs from slamming shut.

Both teams boast thrilling cores, with Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez, Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito breaking out in a big way last season on the South Side and the Cubs boasting three MVP types in their lineup: Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo.

The White Sox look to have the deeper pitching staff, but there are questions among the unproven arms. The Cubs might not have the depth, but they have the experience of Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester.

And the 2017 trade between the two clubs has put even more focus on comparisons. José Quintana, who went to the North Side in that deal, finds his season in jeopardy after injuring himself while washing dishes. Meanwhile, the return package of Jiménez and Dylan Cease is part of the reason that the White Sox are on the verge of brighter days on the South Side. Will 2020's multiple Crosstown matchups see Jiménez deliver another "thanks, Cubs" moment? What about the idea of Cease facing down his former organization with the playoffs on the line for his current one?

It will be fascinating to see these two teams square off during 2020. And it will be a lot more meaningful than usual. It could mean everything by the time we get to the season's final series, Sept. 25, 26 and 27 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

"We see our Crosstown rivals as just another team that we have to do the best we possibly can to defeat on a daily basis. If it happens to be for a slot in postseason, even better," Renteria said. "How much more exciting will it be for everybody in our communities to embrace both their teams fighting for something that's meaningful."

 


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