White Sox

White Sox midseason report: Which current big leaguers have made case to be part of rebuild?

White Sox midseason report: Which current big leaguers have made case to be part of rebuild?

Since the White Sox front office made its rebuilding plans known, there hasn’t been much expectation for the South Siders to make a run in 2017.

Through the first half of the season, those expectations have been met, the White Sox a last-place team at the All-Star break.

Certainly, though, things haven’t been exclusively gloomy on the South Side. Several players have staked claims to being a part of the rebuild moving forward, playing key roles in all those times that Ricky’s boys didn’t quit. And all the while, the prospect watch in the minor leagues has been an entertaining pastime.

So, at the season’s midway point, here’s a player-by-player breakdown, looking not just at what each guy did in the first half but also looking at if they did enough to factor into the front office’s long-term plans.

Avisail Garcia

The Avi everyone was waiting for has finally arrived in 2017. In Miami this week for a well-deserved All-Star appearance, Garcia has been one of the White Sox top hitters this season, slashing .310/.353/.497 at the break with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs. Not to mention he's batting a Ted Williams-esque .400 against left-handed pitchers. Thanks in large part to hard work in the offseason, Garcia finally broke away from his mediocre numbers in his first few years with the team and now looks deserving of a shot at being a long-term fixture in the middle of the order.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Jose Abreu

As good as Garcia has been for the White Sox this season, Abreu has locked in the title of Mr. Reliable in his fourth big league season and currently leads the team with 53 runs scored, 103 hits, 23 doubles, 58 RBIs, a .522 slugging percentage and an .871 OPS. Barring injury or a serious slowdown, Abreu is likely going to wind up with his fourth consecutive 25-homer, 100-RBI season in a White Sox uniform. While it’s possible that track record could fetch a few intriguing offers for the 30-year-old — and Rick Hahn showed he wasn’t afraid to deal away his team’s best player with the Chris Sale trade this past offseason — Abreu has stated his desire to stick with the White Sox long term and be a mentor to top prospects and fellow countrymen Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Leury Garcia

Injury has quieted what was a mighty solid campaign for Leury Garcia, who emerged as an everyday center fielder after the White Sox started Jacob May there on Opening Day. Garcia’s slashing an impressive .298/.345/.459, but he hasn’t played since June 15 thanks to a finger injury. He might not be around when the rebuild is finished, but affordable and under team control for a while, he’s probably not going anywhere soon.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Todd Frazier

Following up on last season’s incredible distinction of having the lowest OPS of any 40-homer season in baseball history, Frazier has improved in 2017. He might not bash as many dingers — he’s got 16 at the break — but look at that on-base percentage: .335 with a team-high 47 walks. Last year, the on-base percentage was .302 and he had 64 walks in 158 games, a career high but a number he’s on pace to surpass this season. Still, Frazier’s hitting just .213, continuing a season-by-season drop in batting average that’s stretched on four years. Frazier would be a definite trade candidate with better numbers, but it’s unclear how much the White Sox would be able to get for him at this point. He’s set to become a free agent after this season.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Yolmer Sanchez

Perhaps the White Sox most pleasant surprise in 2017, Sanchez’s numbers won’t leap off the page at you, but he’s impressed with his personality, hustle and how much he’s improved from a season ago. In 2016, he slashed a nasty .208/.236/.357. That’s rocketed up to .265/.328/.398 this season. He’d probably have to make another big jump in production in order to really factor into the team’s long-term plans considering he plays the same position as top prospect Moncada. But you could see Sanchez sticking around as a reserve once the rebuild reaches it’s high point.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Anthony Swarzak

Swarzak’s been the team’s best pitcher so far this season, turning in a 2.41 ERA in 35 relief appearances. He’s been the best part of a tip-top bullpen that has one of the 10 best relief ERAs in all of baseball. Like Frazier, Swarzak is a free agent at the end of the season. Unlike Frazier, his strong numbers could fetch some interesting trade offers. As far as midseason trade candidates go, you’d have to figure Swarzak would be one of the leading ones on the roster.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Jose Quintana

The guy everyone thought would be traded by now is still here — and could still be for a long time. That’s the thing about Quintana is he gives Hahn & Co. plenty of options. When Sale and Adam Eaton were dealt in the offseason for huge hauls, most assumed the same would happen with Quintana, a 2016 All Star who had been as good as most American League pitchers over the past few seasons. Quintana’s numbers have significantly dipped in 2017 — he’s got a 4.49 ERA in 18 starts — which has led many to panic that Hahn missed his window. But Quintana is still just 28 years old, has a mighty affordable contract and could be with the team under that contract through 2020. For a guy who’s been among the league’s best pitchers, the prospects of either dealing him for a big contract now, this winter or beyond or having him at the top of the starting rotation for the next three seasons are all attractive.

Rebuild status: Trade chip OR penciled in for 2019

David Robertson

Much like Swarzak, Robertson has been great out of the White Sox bullpen. His 13 saves might not seem like a ton, but he’s converted all but one of his chances. He’s also struck out 46 guys in 31.1 innings of work and has a nice 2.87 ERA. Robertson is under contract for next season, but closers are often an extremely in-demand item at the deadline. Robertson isn’t as dominant as Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were last season, but those guys fetched massive hauls from two teams that wound up in the World Series. Robertson might draw similar interest.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Tommy Kahnle

Kahnle. See Swarzak. Just like Swarzak and Robertson, Kahnle has also been mostly solid out of the ‘pen. "Mostly" because he’s had a rough last couple weeks, with an ERA above 14.00 in his last five outings. But in the 30 appearances prior to that, he was virtually unhittable with a pencil-thin ERA of 1.19. It’s still a more than respectable 2.65 on the season. The difference between Kahnle and the other two aforementioned relievers is that he’s just 27 years old and under team control for a long time. That makes him less likely to be dealt this summer and could keep him in the relief corps for a good deal longer.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Melky Cabrera

Cabrera is also a free agent after this season, and while he hasn’t been stellar by most evaluations, he’s second on the team in runs scored, hits and RBIs with 48, 97 and 51, respectively. And don’t forget those game-winning knocks, too. While you wouldn’t suspect him to net any sort of gigantic return package, you’d also have to think some contender would be interested in Cabrera’s bat. Right?

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Omar Narvaez

While you should give Narvaez credit for having one of the four best on-base percentages on the team, he’s also slugging just .279. Catcher has been perhaps the White Sox worst offensive position this season, boasting an OPS of .655. Only two American League teams’ catchers have been worse. It’s about waiting for Zack Collins at this point.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Adam Engel

Engel’s been manning center field while Leury Garcia’s been sidelined with injury. Engel’s slashing .247/.330/.358 in 27 games.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Chris Beck

Beck’s been fine out of the White Sox bullpen and deserves credit for being much, much better than he’s been in the past. After posting a 6.39 ERA in 25 appearances last season, he’s got a 3.79 ERA in 33 appearances this season. Improvement’s always good.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

David Holmberg

Holmberg was fine as a spot starter, allowing 11 earned runs in 25.2 innings over six starts. He’s been very good as a reliever with a minuscule 1.76 ERA in 15.1 innings out of the ‘pen.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Nate Jones

Yet again battling injuries, Jones is good when he pitches. He’s got a 2.31 ERA the season, his sixth with the White Sox. Problem is, only half those campaigns have seen him appear in more than a handful of games. All that said, he’s under contract for two more years. He’ll be 33 when the 2019 season starts.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Dan Jennings

Jennings has one of the highest ERAs of the qualified throwers out of the ‘pen at 4.14, which goes to show how good the relief unit has been overall this season. It’s a step back from the tiny 2.08 ERA he posted last season. He’s 30, making him look less of a long-term option than someone like Kahnle, but he’s under team control and figures to be part of the bullpen moving forward.

Rebuild status: He might stick around

Tyler Saladino

You’re not supposed to lose your job to injury, but Saladino might’ve been Wally Pipped by Sanchez, who’s done admirable work while the team’s Opening Day second baseman has been sidelined with back issues since late May. Saladino’s numbers have been poor this season, a sharp decline from the .282/.315/.409 he posted in 90-plus games last season. This year it’s an ugly .200/.302/.273 slash line, making Saladino look like less of a long-term option, especially with Moncada and Tim Anderson penciled in as the middle infield of the future.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

James Shields

Finally back from the disabled list, Shields has not done well to make himself attractive to other teams. His ERA is 4.95 in just seven starts, and he’s given up 10 homers in just 36.1 innings. Even though the San Diego Padres are paying a big chunk of his salary, he’s still under contract for two seasons past this one. He’s a good clubhouse presence, but surely the White Sox are hoping he can put together a good stretch at some point that allows them to flip him.

Rebuild status: Trade chip

Matt Davidson

There’s been good news and bad news with Davidson this season. The good news is he leads the team with 18 home runs, showing the power that made him a projected piece of the White Sox long-term plans. But he’s also cruising for a 200-strikeout season and has an ugly .284 on-base percentage. He’s also mired in a pretty nasty slump at the moment, with one homer and a .122/.140/.220 slash line in his last 12 games. The White Sox are obviously hoping for those numbers to pick up over the second half of the season and into the next few seasons and would like him to produce enough to warrant inclusion in a lineup of the future.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Mike Pelfrey

Another hoped-for sign-and-flip guy, Pelfrey is not doing much to make that possible for the White Sox. He’s got a 4.83 ERA in 14 starts. Despite a promising stretch in May and June in which he had a sub-2.00 ERA in seven outings, his last four outings have been disastrous with an ERA above 10.00 in those games. Doesn’t look the sign and flip is going to work out.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Carlos Rodon

A first-round draft pick that was expected to potentially reach near-ace status this season, Rodon spent almost the entire first half on the disabled list. He’s made three starts in the last couple weeks, the first two featuring just two earned runs in 11.1 innings — including a 10-strikeout performance against the Oakland A’s. But he gave up six in Sunday’s 10-0 crushing in Denver. That one start aside, there’s little preventing Rodon from projecting into the team’s long-term rotation right now. Along with fellow first-rounder Carson Fulmer and top prospect Michael Kopech, Rodon figures a lock for the starting staff of the future.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Derek Holland

Another sign-and-flip looking like it won't pan out, Holland hasn’t been very effective in his 17 starts, boasting a 5.01 ERA at the break. He’s given up 19 home runs, a number surpassed by only seven other American League pitchers.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

Tim Anderson

Given a big-time contract extension before the season started, Anderson has disappointed with a nasty 2017 to this point. In addition to having committed 19 errors, the most in baseball, he’s slashing .240/.263/.369 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 78 games. A few bad months won’t change the White Sox long-term plans for Anderson, which is a lock for shortstop once the rebuild reaches its highest point. Still, a second-half turnaround would be nice.

Rebuild status: Penciled in for 2019

Kevan Smith

As mentioned with Narvaez, the White Sox catching tandem has done little production-wise this season, with a .655 OPS that ranks third-to-last in the American League.

Rebuild status: Placeholder

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

2020 MLB schedule: Chicago Cubs, White Sox could benefit from short trips

Both the Cubs and White Sox may benefit this season from the unique MLB schedule which will have all clubs play regionally, instead of across their leagues. Since the A.L. Central and N.L. Central teams are all fairly close, and Chicago is practically in the middle of the action, both the Sox and Cubs will rank near the bottom for miles traveled over the course of the regular season, according to MLB Network.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest White Sox news and analysis.

During their 2020 schedule release show, MLB Network displayed a graphic saying the Cubs will travel the second-fewest miles at 4,071 and the White Sox will travel sixth-fewest at 4,750 miles. It’s important to note that may not give them an edge in the regular season, as the other teams to round out the list are all Central division opponents as well: the Brewers, Tigers, Cardinals and Reds.

But when it comes time for the playoffs, that rest may pay off-- especially if either team faces off against a team from the West. All of the top-five teams for most miles traveled come from the A.L. and N.L. West, ranging from 11,332 miles traveled for the Rockies to a whopping 14,706 miles traveled for the Rangers. In a condensed season, with significantly less rest, that long travel could take a toll.


RELATED: White Sox schedule release: Slow start not an option with brutal first week

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

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

MLB Network put up the raw numbers, blasting across the screen of anyone watching the league's hour-long schedule-reveal show Monday night that the White Sox had baseball's fourth easiest schedule in the shortened 2020 season.

Really? It doesn't seem that way when you look at it.

I understand the mathematics behind such a declaration. The White Sox nine 2020 opponents — their four division rivals from the AL Central and the five teams from the NL Central — had a combined winning percentage of .477 in 2019. The White Sox, you'll remember, lost 89 games last season, so the nine teams with the South Siders on their schedules got a mathematical boost, too. And it wasn't shocking, then, that the entire top four on MLB Network's list of the easiest schedules this season were Central Division teams from one league or the other.

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The Minnesota Twins were at the top of the list, their group of nine foes unburdened by their own 100-win pedigree from a season ago. The Cleveland Indians came in next, followed by the St. Louis Cardinals, then the White Sox.

What that tells me? Obviously the bottom three teams in the AL Central did not pile up the victories last season. The 89-loss White Sox actually finished third, with a couple members of the Triple-Digit Loss Club behind them in the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. The NL Central wasn't so hot last year, either.

But do last year's records dictate this year's fortunes? Of course not. And certainly that's what the White Sox are hoping after the breakout seasons from core players in 2019 paved the way for an avalanche of offseason additions. Their expectations are sky high on the doorstep of this 60-game sprint to the postseason as they look to leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode.

So to answer the question: Do the White Sox have an easy schedule? I don't think it looks very easy.

They'll see the Twins 10 times, and though, in a fit of somewhat inexplicable unbalanced scheduling, seven of those games of will be played on the South Side, home-field advantage will be minimized with no fans in the stands. The Twins might have questions about whether their starting rotation can be as menacing as their thunderous lineup, but my god, is that lineup good. The Twins launched 307 home runs out of big league ballparks last season, including a whopping 27 of them out of Guaranteed Rate Field. And now Nelson Cruz has a new slugging buddy in the middle of that order, with Josh Donaldson signing up this winter. The perennial MVP candidate was back to his productive ways with the Atlanta Braves last season after a few injury-impacted campaigns, and his career numbers against the White Sox are scary good: a .333/.435/.686 slash line — that's an 1.122 OPS! — with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 44 games.

They'll also see the Indians 10 times, and that same unbalanced scheduling works against the White Sox this time, with seven of the 10 games played at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The South Siders have struggled to win games there in recent seasons, dropping 18 contests at The Artist Formerly Known as The Jake in the past three years. The Indians might have dealt away both Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber in the last 12 months, but they still have what is arguably baseball's best starting rotation: Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac and more. Yes, the lineup is not nearly as formidable, but they still boast two MVP types on the left side of the infield in Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez. The road to the AL Central crown runs through the Twin Cities, but the White Sox have to leap over the Indians, too, to get to the top of the division standings. And that's no small feat. The White Sox penultimate series of the season is a four-game set in The Cleve.

While we already knew the White Sox were going to play a bunch of games against the Twins and Indians this season, these ones are magnified. The shortened season means that instead of their games against the Twins and Indians making up 23 percent of their schedule, they account for a third of it. Every game holds more weight in the 60-game setup, but none will be more important than these 20.

Getting to see the Royals and Tigers an equal amount is a positive, sure. Those teams combined for 217 losses last season and don't figure to be much more of a threat this year, even though the 60-game schedule could make for some truly wacky shenanigans. Even still, the White Sox lost their season series with the Royals last year, going 9-10 against them.

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

But it's those games against the NL Central that really don't hold up to the idea that the White Sox have it easy in 2020. There are four teams in that division that not only look capable of giving the White Sox some fits but look capable of winning the NL Central altogether.

That includes the Cubs, who the White Sox play six times, accounting for 10 percent of their 2020 schedule. That includes a three-game set on the South Side to finish off the 2020 regular season, when playoff spots could be on the line, setting up potentially the most meaningful Crosstown series since the 1906 World Series. The Cubs have questions like any other team, particularly when it comes to how much they can get out of their starting rotation. Already, they're down former White Sox hurler José Quintana after he injured himself while doing dishes. But if first-year manager David Ross gets enough from his pitching staff, a lineup featuring MVP types like Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo seems to be strong enough to do a good deal of damage.

The defending champion Cardinals are the White Sox opponents in the Field of Dreams game, and while that will be mostly a showcase for Major League Baseball's ability to construct a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield, it will also be the first of a three-game series between two teams with playoff hopes. Almost certainly the White Sox will run into excellent young pitcher Jack Flaherty, who's not only the Redbirds' ace but also Lucas Giolito's former high school teammate. There's a no-brainer of a pitching matchup for the nationally televised game in Iowa.

The Cincinnati Reds are a trendy pick to rise up and even win the division — it's my prediction, so make of that what you will — after an offseason of splashes that brought sluggers Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to the banks of the Ohio River. White Sox fans — and White Sox pitchers — likely don't have fond memories of either's time in the AL Central. Eugenio Suárez led the NL in home runs last season, and that Joey Votto guy has put up some gaudy numbers in his career that some might argue are verging on being worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. But it's that 1-2-3 in the Reds' rotation that really sparkles: Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, who have all gone to the All-Star Game once in the last two seasons.

The Milwaukee Brewers could be sliding backward with their seeming refusal to go out and acquire impact starting pitching, but that hasn't stopped them from making the postseason in each of the last two seasons. Christian Yelich is going to be around for a long while after getting a big contract this offseason, and they still have some real good bullpen pitchers. Two of their offseason acquisitions this year should be familiar to White Sox fans: Omar "The Narv Dog" Narváez and Avisaíl García, who both reached career highs in homers in 2019 and combined for 42 of them. The whole team should be somewhat familiar by the team the White Sox play four straight games against them in early August; the White Sox will play hosts to the Brew Crew in an exhibition game July 22 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The Pittsburgh Pirates should not strike fear. They're rebuilding again, and the White Sox will gladly take four games against them, even if Josh Bell could cause some headaches for White Sox pitchers. But absent the Bucs, the NL Central is no joke of an opposing division for the White Sox or any team looking to win the AL Central title by the end of September.

With a heavy dose of the Twins and Indians and a smattering of dates against as many as four contenders in the NL Central, I wouldn't call the White Sox schedule easy. Are they better off than they were back in March? Probably, as this 60-game slate doesn't feature the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays — potential playoff teams, the lot of them.

But the White Sox have a lot of questions still to answer about themselves and little margin for error with every game meaning as much it does. Buckle up, folks. Players are already describing this shortened season as possibly having a playoff atmosphere from Day 1. And with few exceptions, the opposition could have that feel, too, for a group of South Siders looking to snap the franchise's postseason drought.


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