White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.
White Sox fans all in on Rick Hahn’s rebuild aren’t expecting this team to contend for a championship in 2018.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no Opening Day hope.
Plenty of White Sox players, including Nicky Delmonico, who promised that the team would “surprise the world,” and Joakim Soria, who on his first day on the job talked about winning the American League Central, are providing the confidence that maybe the South Side could see a surprise contender in 2018.
But is it really possible for the White Sox to compete with the reigning division-champion Cleveland Indians and the reigning AL wild card Minnesota Twins for a trip to the postseason still so early in this rebuilding process?
This is baseball. Anything is possible.
What if Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez take a big leap in their development and give the White Sox a strong top of the rotation?
What if Avisail Garcia follows up his All-Star campaign from a year ago with a similar performance, providing two strong middle-of-the-order bats with Jose Abreu?
What if the new-look bullpen gets lockdown performances from Nate Jones, Juan Minaya, Luis Avilan and the aforementioned Soria?
What if guys embarking on “prove it” campaigns like Delmonico, Adam Engel and Yolmer Sanchez take the motivation of a spot on one of these teams of the future and excel?
What if Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada form a well-oiled keystone combo in the field and at the plate?
What if Michael Kopech and Eloy Jimenez join the team midseason and provide the spark so many White Sox fans are hoping they will?
That’s a lot of “what ifs,” of course, and that’s kind of the point. Like any team, a lot has to go right for the White Sox to be a playoff team in 2018. And with the Indians seeming almost like a lock for the division crown and the Twins a trendy preseason playoff pick, that’s some stiff competition.
Hahn has said that 2018 will be a developmental season for players at all levels of the White Sox organization, including the major league team, and that comes as no surprise given where the team is in its rebuilding effort.
That means the playoffs might be a long shot, but don’t expect the White Sox to be an AL Central bottom-feeder. Both the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals begrudgingly embarked on their own rebuilds after last season, and both squads look destined for gloomy campaigns in 2018. So a projected third-place finish for the White Sox is nowhere near out of the question.
There are plenty who would argue that finishing third is almost worse than finishing in last place, hurting draft position and whatnot. But a third-place finish for the White Sox with a record approaching .500 would mean that a lot of things did go right for a team that lost 95 games a season ago.
It would mean positive strides for young guys like Giolito, Moncada and Lopez. It would probably mean another consistently excellent season from Abreu. It would probably mean that at least one of the guys looking to prove themselves worthy of future inclusion did just that. It would mean that the plan is working and that free agents could be attracted to a young team ramping up for an era of contention.
There’s plenty of reason to be excited about the White Sox future. And while the future’s not here quite yet — meaning in all likelihood no October baseball in 2018 — fans and observers will get the opportunity to watch the future unfolding before their eyes this season.