White Sox

Why rebuilding White Sox have something to play for down the stretch

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AP

Why rebuilding White Sox have something to play for down the stretch

MINNEAPOLIS -- Who says the rebuilding White Sox don’t have anything to play for in September and October?

Of utmost importance is the potential for development of White Sox rookies who have reached the majors, a group that includes Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Nicky Delmonico, amongst others.

But beyond that is another critical aspect: With 30 games left on the schedule after Thursday, the White Sox are locked in a battle for first. At 52-79 overall, the White Sox are well within striking distance of the Philadelphia Phillies for the worst record in baseball and the privilege to make the first overall pick in the June 2018 amateur draft.

Currently, the White Sox own the third-worst record in the majors. The San Francisco Giants — who come to Guaranteed Rate Field for three games on Sept. 8-10 — have the second-worst mark at 53-82 overall. The Cincinnati Reds (56-77) and Oakland A’s (58-75) round out the top five prior to Thursday’s results.

While it’s nowhere close to as significant as winning a division or, there’s little question about how much impact possessing a top pick and the larger signing bonus pool attached to it can have on an organization. Given the early talk about the 2018 draft class, the White Sox appear to be in great shape to add more impact talent to an already loaded farm system.

“It’s a better draft all around from a depth and impact standpoint,” amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said, adding it’s potentially the best class since 2010.

The potential for adding a top-three talent via the amateur draft could leave White Sox players and coaches and a portion of the team’s fan base at odds for the final month of the season.

With a team full of inexperience, White Sox players are hungry and looking to sew up future roster spots by showing off their talent. The Giolitos and Lopezes and Moncadas are intent upon improvement and highly unlikely to put their own careers in jeopardy in order to secure the franchise a better draft pick. They want to win and do everything they can to make themselves a prominent part of the club’s future.

“Everybody wants to come out, as far as the players are concerned, you want to come out and play to win,” manager Rick Renteria said. “I think the word rebuild adds a connotation of it doesn’t really matter what goes on and it couldn’t be further from the truth. These guys are trying to go out and exemplify what they’re supposed to be as a team and individuals as trying to continue to perform the things that are necessary to win ballgames.”

On the other side of things, many White Sox fans have fully embraced The Tank. They want a high pick so the team can select Seth Beer, Jarred Kelenic or Brice Turang or any other number of players.

One hundred losses and a first pick? Many fans say bring it on.

It’s yet another strange position in a calendar year full of them.

At the same time, this is exactly where the White Sox have been headed all along. You don’t trade Chris Sale and Adam Eaton off a 78-win roster and expect to improve.

General manager Rick Hahn made it clear this spring that the White Sox would keep the big picture in mind all along in 2017. If the White Sox were going to win, they would have to do it with the players they already had. No short-term trades would be made and prospects wouldn’t be rushed to fill voids at the major league level.

Though the White Sox had plenty of zest in the season’s first two months and hung around longer than most suspected they would, Hahn had no qualms about ripping apart the 25-man roster in July with a series of trades.

Still, as much as Hahn might like to hold the first pick come next June, he doesn’t want to sacrifice critical development to get there.

“There’s been no secret made about what we're trying to accomplish as an organization,” Hahn said earlier this month. “That's been clear since well before the start of spring training, and the players have understood the opportunities that are here for them, in the now, based on that long-term approach that we're taking. Again, I can't say enough about the work that Ricky and the coaches have done in terms of preparing this team on a daily basis and making the most out of what they have on a given night on their roster.”

Should make for an interesting month.

2020 White Sox lineup: This looks like what it could be come Opening Day

2020 White Sox lineup: This looks like what it could be come Opening Day

Don't expect any confirmation from Rick Renteria. The White Sox skipper always tries to keep from revealing anything about his strategy. But this sure looks like as realistic an Opening Day lineup for the White Sox as any.

Here's how one of the two teams stacked up for Saturday's intrasquad game at Guaranteed Rate Field, and you can picture this being announced for the July 24 opener against the Minnesota Twins.

1. Tim Anderson, SS
2. Luis Robert, CF
3. José Abreu, 1B
4. Edwin Encarnación, DH
5. Yasmani Grandal, C
6. Eloy Jiménez, LF
7. Nomar Mazara, RF
8. Danny Mendick, 3B
9. Leury García, 2B

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That looks pretty accurate.

The big question, of course, is whether Mendick will be swapped out for a healthy Yoán Moncada come the first game of the regular season. The White Sox placed their starting third baseman on the 10-day injured list Friday, not specifying why he was being sidelined. He hasn't made an appearance during "Summer Camp" workouts, which have been going on for more than a week at Guaranteed Rate Field.

No specifics regarding his health status meant no timeline for his return, either. But if we go simply by the "10-day" portion of the 10-day injured list, then Moncada could be ready to go before Opening Day. But another question then looms: After missing so much of "Summer Camp," how far would he be from game shape?

White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino took a stab at answering that question Saturday, but as with everything that comes with the 2020 baseball season, there are too many unknowns to make an accurate prediction.

"I don't know, to be honest with you," Menechino said. "I think 10, 15 at-bats to see where he's at. And then, probably, I'd say 20 at-bats to get him started in the right direction. As far as days, I don't know what he's able to do while he's not here.

"Listen, he's a great athlete, and I think it's going to be sooner rather than later for him. Once he sees his teammates playing, he'll want to get in there. And that might not be such a bad thing. If he's in shape and he's ready to handle the workload, I think he'll get in there pretty quick."

Let's say Moncada is ready for Opening Day. How would Renteria's lineup look then? Well, it's probably an easy swap of Moncada and Robert, moving the third baseman into the No. 2 spot in the order and bumping the rookie center fielder all the way down to the No. 8 spot. Renteria said earlier during "Summer Camp" that he's still planning on Anderson and Moncada being his 1-2 punch at the top of the order, something he's been talking about since spring training.

RELATED: What Michael Kopech skipping season means for White Sox in 2020 and beyond

While Robert has been discussed as having top-of-the-order potential, Renteria has asked for patience to allow Robert to get used to facing major league pitching. Someday, maybe. But if all his teammates are healthy, Robert might dip his toes into the big league waters near the bottom of the order.

"I still look at Timmy and Moncy being the 1-2 guys right now," Renteria said earlier this week. "I’ve played with a lot of different lineups in using different scenarios. But I have to be very mindful. As gifted and as talented as that young man (Robert) is — you all see the explosiveness and the gift that he has — I have to also be mindful in that everyone can see what he can do. I want to make sure he transitions into a place where he’s competing and put him in there in the best possible way to allow him to gain confidence in doing what he does.

"The question is: Will he ever be moved up through the lineup? ... As he continues to evolve, he’ll be a guy who can hit anywhere from 1 through 5. That’s the type of talent he has. Right now, he’s still barely breaking into the big leagues, and if his body of work in a short period of time starts to show us that, man, he can impact us in a significant way somewhere throughout the lineup, we’ll do that."

None of that would have been terribly difficult to predict, considering what Renteria has been saying for months. More mysterious was how the middle of the order would shake out after Abreu. Well, Saturday's intrasquad lineup might be the answer. And though Renteria will likely shake things up throughout the 60-game season based on pitching matchups, hot hands and everything else that regularly jumbles up baseball lineups, here's what to expect for Opening Day, assuming a ready-to-rock Moncada, that is:

1. Anderson, SS
2. Moncada, 3B
3. Abreu, 1B
4. Encarnación, DH
5. Grandal, C
6. Jiménez, LF
7. Mazara, RF
8. Robert, CF
9. García, 2B

Two more points before we go.

First, Lucas Giolito is the extremely logical choice to be the Opening Day starting pitcher. Renteria, again not wanting to reveal anything, would not even commit to trotting out the All Star and no-doubt ace of the South Side staff for that date with the division-rival Twins. But Giolito wants the assignment — something that comes with being the leader of the pitching staff, something else he wants to be — and it would be wildly shocking if he doesn't get it.

"I absolutely want that. The way I look at it being the ace of the staff, you are setting an example not just with what you are doing on the field but also taking a more vocal role, which I feel like I’m trying to continue to get the feel for that," Giolito said earlier this week. "That’s pretty much what I want. I want to be that leader of the pitching staff, taking the ball in the first game, kind of setting the tone."

RELATED: Aaron Bummer praises White Sox in all aspects, ready for team to 'catch fire'

Second, Nick Madrigal. It's a complicated situation for the highly touted prospect. If you'll dial your memory all the way back to September of last year, Rick Hahn said he expected Madrigal to be the team's second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 season. Well, the bulk of the 2020 season has since been wiped away by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fruitless negotiations between Major League Baseball and the players' union. White Sox brass said early this year and as recently as spring training that Madrigal had a little left to show in the minor leagues before he was deemed ready for the major leagues. Well, now there are no minor league games to play in, complicating things.

The White Sox have never said, nor will they ever say, that service-time considerations are part of their decision-making process when it comes to bringing players up to the bigs. But until it's negotiated away in a new collective-bargaining agreement, it remains a reality of the game. With service-time rules matching the squeezed-down schedule this season, the White Sox could gain another year of team control on Madrigal if his major league debut comes just about a week into the regular season.

But this most unusual of seasons presents further things to think about. Is it possible Madrigal stays away from the majors all year long? Keeping him away from a brief season could mean the White Sox could wait to start his service-time clock until not just next season but a couple weeks into next season — when they could be better positioned to contend for a title than in this weird season full of unknowns — extending their team control and their contention window even more. That doesn't seem super likely, but it's something to think about, at the very least.

Bottom line: García seems a safer bet to be the White Sox second baseman on Opening Day.

So there's the probable Opening Day lineup. Maybe Renteria throws another wrinkle or two in there, we'll have to wait and see. But this is what comes with entering contention mode: People suddenly care a great deal about what the lineup looks like. Get your pencils and scorecards ready for July 24.


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White Sox intrasquad scrimmages to stream live on MyTeams app, air on NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox intrasquad scrimmages to stream live on MyTeams app, air on NBC Sports Chicago

The White Sox have been hosting intrasquad scrimmages behind closed doors as the team prepares for the 2020 MLB season at Guaranteed Rate Field.

But now, fans will get a peak inside.

Starting Monday, the White Sox intrasquad scrimmages will be streamed on the MyTeams App. Wednesday and Thursday's instrasquad scrimmages will also be aired in prime time on NBC Sports Chicago, in addition to streaming on the MyTeams App.

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

While it won't be a full regular season game broadcast, Jason Benetti will be in the booth with Chuck Garfien to break down what's happening in the scrimmage, but also provide insight on storylines heading into the 2020 MLB season.

Intrasquad scrimmage schedule below:

Monday, 7/13: 1:10 p.m CT start
Tuesday, 7/14: 10:10 a.m. CT start
Wednesday, 7/15: 7:10 p.m. CT start (7 pm broadcast start)
Thursday, 7/16: 7:10 p.m. CT start (7 pm broadcast start)

RELATED: What the White Sox line up could look like on Opening Day


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