White Sox

Five burning questions as Sox open spring

679302.png

Five burning questions as Sox open spring

1. Is Robin Ventura ready to be the new voice of the White Sox?

Thus far, its hard not to like what Robin Ventura is selling. Replacing a legend is never easy and not saying Ozzie Guillen was such, but he did have the personality of an entire team -- oh yeah, and was the first manager to win a World Series in Chicago in 88 years. But theres no doubt that the team needed a change. It needed a new voice, someone other than that of the outspoken Guillen. There will never be another Ozzie, and Ventura is not pretending to replace him. This team as constructed represents one that seems more suited for the more relaxed style of Ventura and the attitude and energy he brings to Arizona. Hopefully, he can do more with less for a team with few expectations.

2. Can the rotation overcome the loss of Mark Buehrle?

Im not sure fans will feel the true impact of Buehrles loss until Opening Day, but the White Sox will immediately. Gone is a clubhouse favorite and organizational mainstay. There are few guarantees in baseball, but Buehrle is one: 200 innings, 10 wins, 30 starts. Now its time for others to step up. The Sox turn to John Danks, a mini-Buehrle in a sense, to take over the role as ace of the staff. Danks was dangled as trade bait in the offseason before the team committed to the southpaw long term. He has the makeup to be the guy and hes pitched in big games. But after Danks there are several question marks. Gavin Floyd has shown flashes at times, but hasnt delivered enough to be considered a No. 2. Jake Peavy has made just 38 starts since being acquired in a deadline deal in 2009. Chris Sale has shined out of the bullpen, but is an unknown as a starter and Philip Humber was one of the surprises of the first half a year ago, but it was also the first time in his career where he made more than one career start in a season. Their rotation could be one of the deepest in the game, however heading into Thursdays first workout, these questions have to be answered in order for that to happen.

3. Which Adam Dunn will show up?

Enough about Dunns 2011. It might be the most well-documented story of last years season on both sides of town. The question now is whether 2011 is a thing of the past, or more of whats to come. Dunn cant possibly be worse. Statistically, it was one of the worst seasons in the history of the game. If the slugger is mentally strong, he could easily win the AL Comeback Player of the Year award, something hes on the record as saying he wants to win. If Dunn can hit .230 with 30 home runs, thatd fill a major void in a lineup thats in dire need of his old numbers.

4. Who will close?

Sergio Santos filled a huge void at the back end of the bullpen after early struggles from Matt Thornton and Chris Sale as closer in 2011. Thornton and Sale went on to have great seasons in their more traditional roles and Santos recorded 30 saves in his first season as a closer. But the Sox dealt Santos to Toronto in the offseason and now theyre back to where they started. Thornton, Jesse Crain and rookie Addison Reed all figure to be in the mix, but Thornton is the likely favorite coming out of camp. What I like about Thornton this offseason is that he has voiced his preference to be the teams closer. Whoever it is, theyll need that pitcher to finish off games, especially in April. You cant win the division in April, but you can lose it, especially at the back end of the bullpen.

5. Can Dayan Viciedo make fans forget about Carlos Quentin?

Viciedo has all the tools to be a superstar for the White Sox. Hes been fantastic at Charlotte for the last two years and has shown the ability to club the ball in limited at bats in Chicago. He struggled after being called up last season and now, for the first time, is being penciled the starting lineup to replace Quentin. Quentin could have been in the AL MVP in 2008, but injuries plagued most of his time in Chicago. However, CQ had the ability to carry the team on his back for stretches, something theyre now hoping Viciedo can do.

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

1018_yoan_moncada.jpg
USA TODAY

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

The White Sox future at third base is a pretty big unknown.

Jake Burger is only a year and a half removed from being a first-round draft pick, but the double Achilles tear earlier this year has not just derailed his 2018 but thrown his entire future, and with it the White Sox future at the hot corner, into question. How will the injuries affect Burger's timeline to the majors? How will it affect his ability to play third base?

Those questions and the seeming lack of any other high-end third-base prospect in the White Sox system have made it seem rather obvious that the rebuilding White Sox third baseman of the future currently isn't a part of the organization.

The free-agent lists White Sox fans are salivating over have some pretty intriguing names on them. Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who wants to play shortstop but is a two-time Gold Glove winner at third, are free agents this winter. So are less-heralded guys like Mike Moustakas and Marwin Gonzalez, who counts third baseman as one of his many job titles for the Houston Astros. Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon are free agents the following offseason. Those are big names, any one of which could be a cherry on top for the White Sox as they plan to shift from rebuilding to contending.

But what if the White Sox already have their third baseman of the future? What if he's already on the major league roster?

No, sorry, this isn't about Yolmer Sanchez. It's about Yoan Moncada, to which you might react thusly: "Wait a minute. Yoan Moncada is a second baseman! Learn to count your bases, Duber!"

My rarely utilized math skills aside, Moncada switching positions has been a bit of a talking point for a little while now, and it has far more to do with what's going on in the farm system than it has to do with Moncada's 2018 season in the major leagues.

The White Sox spent their first-round draft pick on a middle infielder in June despite having two supposed long-term pieces in Moncada and Tim Anderson already playing in the big leagues. Nick Madrigal's versatility on the infield was part of the praise the White Sox heaped on him after making him the No. 4 pick in the draft, but for a guy who's been discussed as a Gold Glove type of defender at either second base or shortstop, it kind of seems like that would be the best place to put him. Now, Madrigal's not exactly knocking on the doors of the major leagues, yet to play his first full season of pro ball, but the White Sox dubbed him the "best all-around player in college baseball" this summer, leading one to believe that his development could move along quickly enough to get him to the majors by the time that much-anticipated shift from rebuilding to contending happens.

If that's the case, either Moncada or Anderson would have to move, right? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the White Sox end up liking Madrigal at third or elsewhere, but he's playing middle infield in the minor leagues.

Anderson moving to the outfield was a favorite suggestion of White Sox Twitter after he led baseball with 28 fielding errors in 2017. He made 20 more in 2018 (fourth most in baseball), but his defensive improvement by the end of the season was one of the biggest positives to take from the 100-loss campaign.

"That’s the thing that really jumps out the most in terms of significant progress he’s made," Rick Hahn said of Anderson's defense during his end-of-season press conference last month. "He’s managed to capitalize on the athleticism we’ve always seen from him and convert that into being a potentially, frankly Gold Glove-caliber defensive shortstop based on what we’ve seen over the last few months.

"This is really a testament in the end to Tim Anderson’s work ethic. He knew it was an area that he wanted to improve, whether it was because he wanted to show people wrong or because he knew he wanted to make himself a stalwart at that position and eliminate the rumors about position change. He worked extraordinarily hard both with Joe McEwing and the things he did on his own, and the kid deserves a world of credit and I think it bodes very well for him continuing on the trajectory of becoming an impact shortstop."

It doesn't sound like Hahn is describing a guy who will be moving away from his position any time soon.

Moncada racked up a good deal of errors at second base in his first full season in the majors — 21 of them, to be exact, the third most in baseball — but Hahn and Rick Renteria both said they noticed improvement from Moncada in the field. But Moncada did tell the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen during the season that he would be willing to make a position switch if the team wanted him to do it.

Hahn got a similar question during his year-end press conference. Though the general manager wasn't directly asked if Moncada would make a position switch, Hahn said Moncada could defend well at other positions on the diamond and that if such a change were desired, the team would probably make it sooner rather than later.

"It’s conceivable if we made a decision as an organization to try him elsewhere that we would do it as soon as this offseason or next spring training, you’d see it in action," Hahn said. "I do think he has made a great deal of process at second base. I also think he has the athleticism also to be an above-average defender at other positions, too. It’s a subject for further conversation, but as he sits here today, I am pleased with the progress and the pitch-to-pitch focus and the athleticism, the arm strength and foot movement and his hands at second base."

White Sox fans aren't super high on Moncada being the savior of anything, not just third base, right now after his disappointing 2018 season: a .235/.315/.400 slash line and 217 strikeouts, the fourth-highest single-season total in major league history. But that's not souring the White Sox on his potential, and it's not changing what they think he can be.

By 2020 or 2021, perhaps Moncada's evolution as a big league ballplayer puts him on a similar level as some of the free-agent names mentioned above. Perhaps he's already playing third base by then with Madrigal on the major league infield, too.

The White Sox seem to have a hole at third base, with popular opinion being that it can only be filled by a marquee free agent. Maybe it does get filled this offseason — by a guy standing about 100 feet away.

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

1017_dan_pasqua.jpg
GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.