White Sox

MLB Power Rankings: Week 1

727320.png

MLB Power Rankings: Week 1

Every Monday throughout the regular season, we'll be ranking all 30 teams -- take a look and offer up your thoughts in the comments or to us on twitter @CubsTalkCSN or @WhiteSoxTalkCSN.

Previous rankings: Preseason

Tony
JJ Comments 1
Tony: Wow.Impressive start.
JJ: Well, at least Jose Valverde finally blew a save.
2
Tony: Looking sharp so far.
JJ: Are Yu ready for Darvish's debut?
3
Tony: Sitting atop AL East after sweep.
JJ: They're happy to have Carlos Pena back.
4
Tony: Not the best start, but could've been much worse.
JJ: Not looking like a team that lost Albert Pujols.
5
Tony: See above.
JJ: Rough start not a sign of things to come.
6
Tony: No World Series hangover for the Redbirds.
JJ: Starting pitching is a growing concern; Rivera is not.
7
Tony: Bad series, but again, could be worse.
JJ: Remember when people were concerned about Halladay? That was funny.
8
Tony: These kids are for reals, yo.
JJ: Drilled LincecumBumgarnerCain in impressive fashion.
9
Tony: Don't fret, they're too good to stay down.
JJ: Is Liverpool to blame? If so, it's all Andy Carroll's fault.
10
Tony: Who'd have thought they'd ever been in last place?
JJ: Ryan Braun hits the road for firstBOOOOOO.
11
Tony: I really like this group, solid start to 2012.
JJ: What's worse: Ozzie's Fidel comments or Hanley at 3B?
12
Tony: This is the "worse" I mentioned above. Ouch.
JJ: NL Central battle could get more fun if Cincy contends.
13
Tony: Just ask the G-Men if the D-Backs are for real.
JJ: Naturally, Chad Tracy played hero multiple times.
14
Tony: Think they have a shot at the Wild Card this year?
JJ: Pitching should be fine after being dismantled by Arizona.
15
Tony: Got to watch them first-hand. Solid group.
JJ: Scored seven runs in three games against the Mets. Blah.
16
Tony: Great start, love this young lineup.
JJ: Great start for Ubaldo's season.
17
Tony: What happens when Kemp slumps?
JJ: Hop on the Brandon Morrow bandwagon while there's room.
18
Tony: Good start trying to show they belong.
JJ: Bruce. Chen. And, you know, a good offense.
19
Tony: Came up on the wrong end of two marathon games.
JJ: Offense right where we left it in '11, but Dunn looks better.
20
Tony: Will they ever mesh as a team?
JJ: I admire Kemp's 5050 goal, but...no.
21
Tony: Two losses to Houston? Who are they, the Cubs?
JJ: Gritty series win vs. Philly, still don't think the pitching is there.
22
Tony: Man, if only...this close to a sweep.
JJ: Santana's return is big, but they're still the Mets.
23
Tony: Hung in there vs. Texas...for two games.
JJ: Beat up on a bad team.
24
Tony: Great start, but can they keep it up?
JJ: Also beat up on a bad team.
25
Tony: Felix Hernandez is great, but who else will step up?
JJ: Booing already? Yikes.
26
Tony: Love Maybin, but not enough offense.
JJ: There's no such thing as an overreaction to losing to Houston.
27
Tony: Cespedes is a man, but he's not 40.
JJ: Andrew Cashner might break someone's radar gun.
28
Tony: Holy cow. Didn't think they'd sweep all year.
JJ: Yoenis Cespedes is my spirit guide.
29
Tony: Ouch. To the Orioles? Really?
JJ: Brutal offense scored five runs in three games.
30
Tony: Wasn't sure they'd win two games all year.
JJ: Lucas Harrell started their second game. Lucas Harrell!

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

When Jose Abreu went to the All-Star Game — voted in as the starting first baseman for the American League squad — he was of course deserving as an incredibly consistent performer through his first four seasons in the big leagues and his role as the face of the White Sox.

But the numbers weren't looking so good in mid July. An extended slump had Abreu looking very un-Abreu-like, perhaps heading toward his worst statistical season since arriving in the majors from Cuba ahead of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign.

At the close of the first half, he was slashing .253/.311/.441 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, a far cry from the .301/.359/.524 slash line he put up through his first four seasons, when he also joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to start their careers with a quartet of 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns.

But Abreu, who's been a very good second-half hitter during his career, is on a hot streak that's powering his way back to his version of normal. And it's looking like he could again reach the numbers we're so used to seeing from him by season's end.

After a one-homer, three-hit, three-RBI day in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers, Abreu is up to .268/.327/.484 on the campaign with 21 homers and 73 RBIs. That puts him nine homers and 27 RBIs away from the mark he's hit in each of his first four seasons with 42 games left in the season. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be able to do that, as he's hit eight homers and driven in 21 runs in his last 22 games.

He'd have to be some kind of dialed-in for the remainder of 2018 to bump the averages back to where they've been in recent seasons. But here's the kind of hot streak he's on now: Since the start of the second half, Abreu is slashing .323/.385/.646. And that's not too crazy when you realize how good he's been in the second half in his career. Coming into Wednesday's game, his career second-half stat line looked like this: a .314/.381/.540 slash line with 61 homers and 199 RBIs in 303 games.

For the White Sox, the confidence was always there that Abreu was going to snap out of the extended slump that saw him slash .180/.230/.308 from May 27 to the end of the first half, and he's done exactly that. Now, he's hot enough that he's inspiring confidence he could return to some of his regular numbers by season's end. It's that kind of consistency, coupled with his off-the-field value, that makes the team think so highly of him and could keep him around long enough for the rebuilding process to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

0815_carlos_rodon.jpg
USA TODAY

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

The White Sox seem to be a couple years away from shifting from rebuilding mode to contention mode. There's plenty of development that still needs to occur at both the major league and minor league levels before the roster of the future comes fully into focus.

But with some excellent performances happening right now, is the White Sox rotation of the future falling into place? At least a little?

Look at this:

— Carlos Rodon, last seven starts: 1.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts
— Michael Kopech, last six starts: 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts
— Dylan Cease, last seven starts: 1.08 ERA, 57 strikeouts
— Dane Dunning, last five starts (back in June): 2.08 ERA, 38 strikeouts

Kind of looks like four-fifths of a starting rotation, doesn't it?

As has often been discussed, the White Sox have a good deal of starting pitching depth, and there are plenty of possibilities to fill that starting staff down the line. Heretofore unmentioned are pitching prospects Alec Hansen, Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores, all ranked among the organization's top 25 prospects, as well as current big leaguers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have each had their flashes of brilliance this season on the major league stage.

But the four guys listed above have been very, very good this season, especially recently, making it easy to envision them making up 80 percent of the starting rotation the next time the White Sox are competing for a championship.

Let's start with Rodon, who extended his streak of great starts to seven in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers. He went eight innings for the second outing in a row, and he's now pitched into the eighth inning in five of his last six starts. He's got a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, with 42 strikeouts in that span. Wednesday, he bounced back from a rocky three-run third inning and finished with just three runs allowed on five hits and a walk, adding six strikeouts. Quite simply, he's been ace-like and done well to answer the health-related questions he brought into the season, when shoulder surgery prevented him from debuting until June for the second straight campaign.

Then there are the two guys putting up monster numbers in the minor leagues: Kopech and Cease.

The 22-year-old Kopech has moved past some midseason struggles and has been downright electric of late at Triple-A Charlotte. In his last six starts, Kopech has a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a jaw-droppingly low four walks in 38 innings. It's quite the turnaround for a guy who was having difficulty keeping the walk numbers low earlier this season. But he's come out the other side pitching as well as he has since joining the White Sox organization prior to last season, which is saying a lot considering he struck out 172 hitters in 2017. He's just 11 strikeouts away from matching that total this year. He could make his major league debut before the 2018 season is over.

And then there's Cease, also 22, who wasn't even the most talked-about player in his own trade, coming over from the Cubs along with Eloy Jimenez in last summer's crosstown swap. Cease has been a tremendous surprise for the White Sox this season, not because they didn't think he'd be great but because he's been the organization's best pitcher. And he's continued that trend in his seven most recent starts at Double-A Birmingham, too, with a razor-thin 1.08 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He deservedly represented the White Sox at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Washington, D.C., last month and appears to be well on his way to earning the team's minor league pitcher of the year honors.

And for a fourth, how about a guy who hasn't pitched in a month and a half? Dunning has an elbow injury that's kept him out since late June, but prior to that, he was putting up terrific numbers at Double-A Birmingham. In his last five starts before hitting the DL, he had a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And he might be making some progress, if a recent tweet is any indication.

Now, as mentioned, there's a lot that can and will happen before the starting staff is set on the next White Sox team that will contend for a championship. But this kind of positive production from these four guys stokes the idea of a potentially dominant rotation of the future.

At the very least, this quartet seems to be making life easy for the legion of 2020 lineup projectors out there.