Jose Abreu

White Sox scattered all over All-Star voting update, another sign of rebuilding progress

White Sox scattered all over All-Star voting update, another sign of rebuilding progress

The Midsummer Classic will be played in Cleveland, but it might have a distinct South Side flavor.

Baseball released an All-Star balloting update Monday, showing that three White Sox position players ranked in the top four in voting for their respective positions: James McCann ranked second at catcher, Jose Abreu ranked third at first base, and Tim Anderson ranked fourth at shortstop. Yoan Moncada was eighth among American League third basemen.

As far as the end goal of the White Sox rebuilding effort goes, it’s ultimately meaningless how many of their players make the All-Star team. There’s no rule tying All-Star representation to one’s ability to win the World Series. But having numerous guys in contention to make the team — even if they don’t win starting spots, McCann, Abreu, Anderson and Moncada would still have strong cases to make the AL roster — is a nice sign of rebuilding progress.

It’s another example that the rebuilding project is moving in the direction the White Sox want it to. All these position players plus Lucas Giolito, who’s pitching as well as anyone in the game, and even closer Alex Colome are having All-Star kinds of seasons. Those guys are all part of the team’s plans past the 2019 season (Abreu, who is set to become a free agent at the end of the year, sure sounds like he’s part of those plans, anyway), which means that All-Star consideration is not just a nice nod that things are going well this season but an indication that 2020 could see the White Sox contention window start to open.

“It’s indicative of more the process moving forward,” general manager Rick Hahn said Monday. “Right now, Tim is fourth for shortstops. I’m biased. I think he should be higher on that list. Moncada should be much higher on the list than he is.

“I don’t know how much notice other people necessarily are taking, but I do see All-Star caliber seasons out of young players that we drafted and developed, like Tim Anderson, or we traded for, like Moncada and Giolito, or even free agents we signed, like James McCann. That’s all positive signs for this process moving forward.”

Much like Anderson didn’t concern himself with leading the AL in batting average earlier this season or his chances of being named AL Player of the Month for April, he similarly brushed aside the early results of All-Star voting. Unsurprisingly, the guy who owes much of his current success to the work he’s put in over the years wants to keep focusing on said work. But he couldn’t deny how nice a trip to the All-Star Game would be.

“I don't care about that,” he said. “We'll see what the results are. I only can control what I can control, keep going and keep having fun.

“It'd be a good thing to have under my belt. Why not? But I don't need that to approve of me being a great player. I'm just going to keep working and keep having fun with it.”

Anderson’s received plenty of nationwide attention this season already after he was at the center of the bat-flipping brouhaha with the Kansas City Royals. He doesn’t necessarily need any more of it. But he’s hoping his teammates get some, which would in turn shine a spotlight on the progress that’s happening on the South Side.

“Those guys deserve it,” he said. “A lot of people sleep on this organization. But we're going to keep working and keep bringing attention to us, keep having fun. It means we're doing something good if they're paying attention to us.”

The chances the White Sox land multiple guys in the All-Star Game actually seem pretty good at the moment. Giolito figures to be a shoo-in if he continues pitching like one of the three or four best pitchers in the American League. McCann and Abreu could benefit from playing positions without a ton of competition. Anderson would be a great inclusion as at least baseball’s marketing department seems to want to “let the kids play.” Moncada and Colome are certainly worthy of consideration.

If it’s a large White Sox contingent, that’ll be a mighty good sign for the direction this franchise is heading. If there isn't that much representation, well, the White Sox get to go to Cleveland plenty, right?

“Yeah,” Anderson said, “but one more trip won't hurt.”

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Multiple All Stars for the White Sox? Not a crazy thought through 2019's first two months

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USA TODAY

Multiple All Stars for the White Sox? Not a crazy thought through 2019's first two months

The White Sox are still rebuilding, still owners of a sub-.500 record, but progress has been pretty hard to miss through the season’s first two months.

With All-Star balloting officially underway, will that progress manifest itself in the form of multiple All-Star bids for the South Siders?

It’s not a crazy thought.

The team boasted just one All Star in 2018, which ended with the White Sox losing 100 games. Jose Abreu was elected the starting first baseman for the American League, but there wasn’t much argument to be made that the White Sox deserved more than one player on the squad. In fact, 2018 was the worst statistical season of Abreu’s career to this point, but a lack of competition made him the pick at first base.

This year, the level of competition doesn’t matter as much, because there are four or five or more White Sox with great claims to being included on the AL All-Star roster.

Ironically, while the White Sox join every team in baseball in launching their “get out the vote” campaign, the player with the best case for an All-Star nod is an unelectable pitcher. Lucas Giolito has been fantastic in 2019, with a stellar May vaulting him into the category of the best pitchers in the Junior Circuit. His 2.85 ERA ranks eighth in the AL, and his 69 strikeouts rank 12th. He might be on his way to AL Pitcher of the Month honors thanks to a 1.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six May starts.

When it comes to players fans can actually vote for, Tim Anderson probably has the best case for an All-Star bid. He entered Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians still the American League leader in batting average, with a .337 clip. He took home AL Player of the Month honors for April, and he’s been in baseball’s national spotlight thanks to his mission to inject more fun into the game. If the league truly wants to “let the kids play,” then including Anderson in the All-Star festivities would be a good thing.

Abreu is up to his usual tricks again, the AL leader in RBIs when the sun came up on the last day of May. He’s got a .523 slugging percentage to go along with his 15 home runs and those 49 RBIs, and while the first-base competition is a little stronger than last year — Dan Vogelbach and C.J. Cron might have something to say about who ends up starting — Abreu still has as good a case as anyone. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him there again in July.

Positional competition, however, could be a factor in whether or not James McCann gets into the All-Star Game. The White Sox catcher is having an excellent season, no doubt about it, with a .346 batting average and a .384 on-base percentage. Those are some of the best numbers among AL catchers, but there are other worthy backstops, chiefly Mitch Garver and Gary Sanchez. The former is reaching base at an insane .418 clip, and the latter has already mashed 17 homers, almost twice as many as Garver’s nine. But there’s no question that McCann deserves consideration.

Then there’s Yoan Moncada, whose accomplishments to this point haven’t been as gaudy as the previously mentioned quartet of White Sox. But he’s been solid, with a .280/.333/.491 heading into Friday’s game, and he’s one of just five AL third basemen with double-digit homers. Plus, there’s a lot of season left before the All-Star rosters are finalized, meaning a hot streak could make him just as attractive as anyone. We’ll have to wait and see for that. Bottom line: It’s been a good season for Moncada.

Oh, and that’s before even getting to Alex Colome and some of the other shut-down arms in the White Sox bullpen. Colome’s been dominant, with only four AL closers in possession of more saves than his 11. He’s given up only four runs, and opposing batters are hitting just .110 against him. Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall haven’t logged too many innings, but they’ve given up a combined one run on the season. Not too shabby.

It’s unlikely, of course, that the White Sox will send eight players to Cleveland for the Midsummer Classic. But suggesting that multiple players could be representing the White Sox at the All-Star Game is nowhere near out of the question, something that should stand as another example of progress as the 2019 season continues to look a whole heck of a lot better than the 2018 one.

“We've had some guys who've been doing very, very well,” manager Rick Renteria said Friday, presented with the idea of several All-Star worthy White Sox. “I think Pito's doing well. Timmy's doing well. We have some pitchers, Lucas, who's been doing well. Yoan's starting to come around.

“A lot of these guys are putting themselves on the map in terms of who they are as individuals, compared to the rest of the major league scene, in terms of players who play the same positions. I'm glad that at least Major League Baseball and kind of the world is starting to see who these guys are. I think it's exciting.

“They should be excited about it. They deserve it. They're working toward that. But as a Chicago White Sock fan and the manager of the Chicago White Sox, I'm extremely happy that at least these young men are starting to get some accolades, that people are starting to see that these guys can play.”

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The winning White Sox? Maybe not playoff bound, but progress evident during four-game streak

The winning White Sox? Maybe not playoff bound, but progress evident during four-game streak

Four in a row.

Four games account for just a little more than two percent of a 162-game Major League Baseball schedule, a number that ought to illustrate just how pointless it is to attempt to glean season-long declarations out of the White Sox current winning streak.

But it’s a winning streak, nonetheless, and those have been few and far between during the first two years of this franchise’s rebuilding project. The South Side saw a combined 195 losses during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The current four-game streak is the first at Guaranteed Rate Field since August 2017. So some giddiness over four consecutive victories can certainly be excused.

The question is: Is it warranted?

Just how realistic is an unexpected surge from these White Sox, an overtaking of the Cleveland Indians for the second-place status in the AL Central and a potential lingering presence in a top-heavy and uncrowded American League playoff race?

Obviously, the White Sox aren’t there yet, still under .500 even after defeating those Indians in the first of a four-game weekend set Thursday night. But a win Friday would even the division rivals’ records. As the Minnesota Twins proved with three straight poundings of the White Sox last weekend in the Twin Cities, there’s an awful lot of daylight between the Central leaders and everyone else in the division. But such is not the case in the AL wild-card race, where the White Sox, at 27-29, are just two games out of the second wild card.

It’s still May, obviously, so don’t start scoreboard-watching just yet. But this is a team that came in with almost no expectations, from outside the clubhouse, anyway, of crashing the postseason. And while their sub-.500 record and minus-47 run differential shouldn’t force anyone to go canceling their October plans, there are plenty of positives on this team that, when the competition is the kind they’ll get from 60 percent of this division this season, can result in wins like Thursday’s.

The White Sox got to Carlos Carrasco, finally, after he had thrown a combined 12.1 shutout innings in his first two starts of the season against them. Thursday, they tagged him for six runs on 10 hits, part of a bigger 10-run, 15-hit night for the offense. Five White Sox hitters had multi-hit nights, Leury Garcia got his batting average back up over .300, Yonder Alonso put together one of the performances the White Sox expected when they traded for him in December, Eloy Jimenez had three hits, and Jose Abreu added his 15th homer and upped his RBI tally to 49. He leads the AL in the latter category.

All good things, enough of them to inspire confidence, too, that while a playoff push might not be in the offing, at least a nice streak like this is no fluke.

"I think that the youth, the new blood, the new kids have meshed with the old guys, with the veterans. We have a good atmosphere here,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “We go out every day, try to win games, try to do our best, try to fight, and at the same time try to have fun. We have been working with Ricky (Renteria) and the coaches, trying to improve, trying to do the little things to win games, to be consistent with what we know that we can do.

“I think we're going in the right direction. We're working hard, and I think we're going to be good."

That’s the plan, of course, even if it doesn’t happen this season. White Sox fans asked to be patient during this rebuilding process likely won’t notice the corner being turned. That’s likely to be a gradual occurrence rather than one that comes with fanfare.

But that end goal looks a lot more achievable when Moncada and Jimenez keep having big nights, when Abreu — who sure seems to be in the White Sox plans past 2019 — continues to show he can be one of the game’s top producers, when Tim Anderson still leads the AL in batting average and Lucas Giolito might be on his way to AL Pitcher of the Month honors.

All of those things are reasons to feel giddy, much more so than a sweep of a woeful Royals team and a four-game winning streak in late May.

Of course, there are plenty of reminders that the White Sox are still in a rebuild. The starting pitching outside of Giolito has yet to reach reliability. Dylan Cease and Luis Robert are tearing it up in the minor leagues rather than on the South Side. Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning and Carlos Rodon are all recovering from Tommy John surgery.

And with a seven-run lead heading into the ninth inning Thursday, there was unwelcome drama, Jace Fry allowing a pair of base runners before an Anderson throwing error brought one of those runs home. Renteria made a pitching change with the bases loaded, and closer Alex Colome even stirred despite a six-run lead on the scoreboard.

But those things that defined the 2018 season are not the dominant traits of the 2019 edition of these White Sox to this point. The win-loss totals on the final day of May are dramatically different: 16-37 at this point last year, as opposed to two games below .500 right now.

But Rick Hahn has been talking since January about how the win-loss total will be less important than how the White Sox get to it by season’s end. And how they’ve gotten here has been promising for this future-facing franchise. It’s been thanks to Anderson and Moncada and Giolito and Abreu -- guys who are expected to be key contributors to the next contending group of White Sox.

That next contending team might not be this one. But the bright spots have been bright enough to make it feel like that team might not be too far away. So go ahead and get giddy over this four-game winning streak. It might just be a sign of things to come.

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