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2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the New York Yankees

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the New York Yankees

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

Even though the Boston Red Sox remain stacked and the defending World Series champs and a team that has Mookie Betts and Chris Sale, man, these Yankees look good.

This is a team that won 100 games a season ago, only to get dispatched of by the eventual champions in the ALDS. But they're pretty loaded, too, and did a lot of work this winter to make the roster even better — and better able to compete with the rival Red Sox.

In all seriousness, this is a group set up for a new Yankee dynasty. Aaron Judge missed 50 games last season and so was only able to add 27 homers to the jaw-dropping 52 he hit during his Rookie of the Year season in 2017. He still finished 12th in AL MVP voting in 2018 thanks to a .392 on-base percentage and a .919 OPS. Giancarlo Stanton's first year in The Bronx wasn't a duplicate of his 59-homer, 132-RBI season of 2017. But, hey, 38 homers and 100 RBIs ain't bad.

But it's the guys around those two middle-of-the-lineup menaces that blossomed in 2018 to really make this Yankee team look so dangerous in the present and future. The Bombers boasted the two best rookie position players in the AL in Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, who finished second and third, respectively, in the AL Rookie of the Year vote (if only they could also pitch like Shohei Ohtani). Andujar slashed .297/.328/.537 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs, while Torres slashed .271/.340/.480 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs, not to mention an All-Star appearance. And how about Aaron Hicks? The center fielder extraordinaire busted out his bat in 2018 and smacked 27 home runs to go along with a .366 on-base percentage. Gary Sanchez only played in 89 games but still managed 18 homers in an otherwise woeful offensive season.

The common thread through all of this is youth. The average age of all the guys mentioned so far (Judge, Stanton, Andujar, Torres, Hicks and Sanchez) is 25. Those six players are all under team control through the 2022 season, when Judge and Sanchez become the first to hit free agency.

The Yankees will also get Didi Gregorius back at some point this summer once his recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete. He also hit, you guessed it, 27 home runs last season.

And that's without mentioning anything the Yankees did this offseason, which included bringing in an All-Star caliber starting pitcher in James Paxton, one of the best relievers on the market in Adam Ottavino, a potential steal at shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki and a Swiss Army Knife infielder in DJ LeMahieu, who's fresh off back-to-back Gold Glove seasons with the Colorado Rockies.

There are pitching questions, sure, though not in the bullpen, where the Yankees might boast the game's most fearsome relief corps: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zack Britton, Ottavino and Chad Green. You don't realize how impressive that group is until you see all those names written out in a row. The Yankees could watch every one of their starters last just four innings a game and still be in good shape.

But let's talk about that rotation, which doesn't have the initial impression of a dominant group, like the Red Sox might have. But Paxton is an incredible addition for the Yankees. He was blossoming into an ace with the Seattle Mariners, with a 3.52 ERA over the last three seasons. In 2018, he struck out a career-best 208 batters in a career-high 160.1 innings and finished the year with an 11.7 K/9. He'll team with the solid Masahiro Tanaka and the veteran J.A. Happ, who had a terrific 2.69 ERA after a midseason trade to The Bronx last year.

Of course, the two biggest names in this rotation are both unlikely to be on the roster on Opening Day. Luis Severino has made back-to-back All-Star teams and finished in the top 10 in AL Cy Young voting in each of the last two seasons. He put up a 3.18 ERA with 450 strikeouts in 2017 and 2018. He's the ace of this staff, but he'll miss more than a month recovering from a rotator cuff injury. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia has been solid the last two years, too, with a 3.67 ERA, but he's likely to miss Opening Day after having an angioplasty this offseason.

Even with some starting-pitching questions, though, that's a very long list of reasons why the Yankees are very good. The biggest thing standing in their way, of course, is the Red Sox and to a lesser extent the Houston Astros, the AL's other uber team that has championship expectations. But it's possible the Yankees could be better than all of them. A lineup that's being talked about as the most powerful ever. A bullpen that might be baseball's best. And a host of offseason additions that have bolstered a team that already was in the 100-win category.

A lot of folks grew up hating the Yankees for their perennial dominance, but believe it or not they've won just one championship in the last 18 years. And if they don't reach the Fall Classic this year, it will be an entire decade, the 2010s, without a Yankees pennant. The last time that happened was the 1910s. This is a group that could change all that.

2018 record: 100-62, second place in AL East

Offseason additions: James Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, Adam Ottavino, DJ LeMahieu

Offseason departures: David Robertson, Andrew McCutchen, Lance Lynn, Neil Walker

X-factor: While Tulowitzki drew the headlines for his accomplished career, the large amount of money the Toronto Blue Jays gave him to leave Canada and pair of spring home runs he hit, the more meaningful infield addition for the Yankees might end up being LeMahieu. He won three of the last five Gold Gloves handed out to National League second basemen. He's just three years removed from an NL batting crown. He's fresh off a career-high 15 home runs. And he's just one of a host of middle infielders who will contribute to this squad, alongside Tulowitzki, Torres and Gregorius.

Projected lineup:

1. Aaron Hicks, CF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
4. Gary Sanchez, C
5. Miguel Andujar, 3B
6. Gleyber Torres, 2B
7. Luke Voit, 1B
8. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
9. Brett Gardner, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Masahiro Tanaka
2. James Paxton
3. J.A. Happ
4. Domingo German
5. Luis Cessa
*CC Sabathia
*Luis Severino

*pitchers might not be in Opening Day rotation but are expected back after the season begins

Prediction: First place in AL East, wild card

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Eloy Jimenez celebrates new contract with monster day in spring training

Eloy Jimenez celebrates new contract with monster day in spring training

The ink on Eloy Jimenez's contract is still drying, but the outfielder already celebrated with a big game in spring training.

Jimenez and Rick Hahn spoke at a press conference mere hours before Saturday's Cactus League game against the Dodgers took place. Then Jimenez did his thing with the bat in the game.

The 22-year-old opened with a walk then followed with a pair of singles later in the game. He saved his best for last with a home run in the eighth inning.

Jimenez had not been having a good spring training and was even sent down to minor league camp nearly two weeks ago. Saturday's action was his first game in big league camp since March 11.

Before Saturday he was hitting .154/.154/.346 in nine games. The 3-for-3 game moved Jimenez's spring numbers to a much more respectable .241/.267/.517. His walk on Saturday was his first in the Cactus League. He now has two home runs.

During Saturday's press conference, Hahn went out of his way to say they are not making any announcements about the Opening Day roster yet. It is still assumed the Jimenez will start with the White Sox, but Hahn said they would like to have face-to-face conversations with the other players involved when it comes to the 25-man roster decisions.

With that said, Jimenez did bat sixth on Saturday. That could be a glimpse of where he will bat on Opening Day with Yoan Moncada (who continued his hot spring with two doubles and a home run on Saturday), Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Yonder Alonso and Welington Castillo batting ahead of Jimenez in the lineup.

Plenty of eyes with remain on Jimenez for the rest of spring and in 2019. He delivered in his first game since signing his new contract.

 

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Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

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USA TODAY

Nicky Delmonico sent to Triple-A, but do White Sox need to cut another outfielder to clear room for Eloy Jimenez?

The White Sox made a notable outfield cut Saturday, sending Nicky Delmonico to Triple-A Charlotte not long after Eloy Jimenez signed his new six-year deal.

Rick Hahn wouldn't 100-percent confirm during the press conference whether or not Jimenez would be on the team's Opening Day roster, but the new deal eliminates the service-time conversation surrounding Jimenez and allows him to make his major league debut when the regular season starts next week in Kansas City.



If Jimenez is going to end up on the Opening Day roster, the White Sox will need to make room for him. That could mean cutting another outfielder in addition to Delmonico, but not necessarily. More on that in a bit.

Delmonico might have had a tough time making the Opening Day roster even if Jimenez would've started the season in the minor leagues. The White Sox outfield is a crowded one after the offseason addition of veteran Jon Jay. The presence of Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and the versatile Leury Garcia made it difficult to envision a place for Delmonico, who had a disappointing, injury-filled season in 2018 after showing promise at the end of the 2017 campaign.

It seems as if, eventually, the White Sox could have to move another one of those aforementioned outfielders to make room for Jimenez, who figures to be the team's everyday left fielder in 2019. But that decision could be delayed until mid April thanks to a bunch of built-in off days at the start of the regular-season schedule.

Both Hahn and manager Rick Renteria have discussed the possibility of the White Sox using only four starting pitchers at the outset of the season. Thanks to those off days, those four starters can all pitch on regular rest until as late as April 17. So, theoretically, Ervin Santana, who figures to wind up as the team's fifth starter, wouldn't be needed on the major league roster until that finale of a home series against the Kansas City Royals in mid April. That's one less pitcher that needs to be on the roster and one more position player that can be on the roster.

The versatility of Garcia, who has torn the cover off the ball this spring, and infielder Jose Rondon, who has added a little bit of outfield to his repertoire this spring (and is out of options), means they're likely not going anywhere. But instead of having to potentially dispatch of fan favorite Palka before the season even begins, there are potentially two spots available for three players, those two and Engel. Palka brings power, while Engel brings defense. Both have their weaknesses, too, Palka seeming best suited for a DH role that has been given to the combination of Jose Abreu and Yonder Alonso, and Engel the owner of a career .207/.260/.314 slash line.

It's important to note in all of this, too, that Renteria has said that Jay might not be an everyday player. Jay's versatility in the outfield also means he might be playing at one set position all season. So for those arguing that the White Sox could have an everyday outfield of Jimenez, Jay and Palka for the next six months, it might not be so simple. And if Jimenez and Palka are in the corners, that makes Engel's glove all the more valuable.

Jimenez returned to the White Sox lineup for Saturday's Cactus League game, perhaps another sign that he could return to the major league roster after being optioned to Charlotte prior to the announcement of the new contract.

Whether his making the roster would force off another outfielder remains to be seen.

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