White Sox

How Baseball America envisions the White Sox starting lineup of the future

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USA TODAY

How Baseball America envisions the White Sox starting lineup of the future

The White Sox rebuild is going just swimmingly, according to the fine folks at Baseball America.

The publication does its own rankings of each organization's top prospects every offseason, and their top 10 rankings of the players in the White Sox farm system is unexpectedly impressive, what with how general manager Rick Hahn has acquired so much minor league talent over the past year-plus.

But one of the fun things Baseball America also does is project a starting lineup for a few years down the road. That's been a favorite pastime of South Side baseball fans ever since Hahn kicked off the rebuild with those trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton more than a year ago. Now you can see how your fantasy future White Sox lineup matches up with Baseball America's.

They flash forward all the way to 2021, a year past when most White Sox fans have been dreaming about as the apex of the rebuild and when the South Siders start becoming perennial contenders. Notably, Baseball America also expects the White Sox to give long-term deals to Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia — not bad moves by any stretch — who are both currently under team control only through the end of the 2019 season.

Here's how Baseball America sees Rick Renteria's starting nine in 2021:

Of course, Baseball America goes a little more in depth than that, ranking the top 10 prospects in each farm system and laying out their picks for which players have the best tools in each organization.

Here are those respective lists for the White Sox:

Get ready, White Sox fans. The future's coming.

Two baseball players in Japan test positive for coronavirus as Opening Day nears

Two baseball players in Japan test positive for coronavirus as Opening Day nears

One day.

That’s all it took for Nippon Professional Baseball, the top pro league in Japan, to experience its first positive tests for COVID-19.

Two players, including a reigning league MVP, tested positive just one day after the league started playing exhibition games. What happens next is unknown. Opening Day in Japan is set for June 19, just 16 days from now.

Major League Baseball doesn’t have a scheduled Opening Day at the moment, the league and players’ union trying to figure out how players will be paid in a shortened season team owners claim will have disastrous economic consequences.

But as the fiscal fight grabs headlines, the biggest question remains how a season can be safely played in the middle of a pandemic. While it sounds like money still has a greater chance to derail a 2020 season than the coronavirus does — still, though, national reporters seem sure there will be baseball played this year — the players, saving their comments on the matter until they could comment on the economic proposal, as well, said the two sides were apart on health and safety, too.

To MLB’s credit, the league is taking that issue seriously, sending 60-something pages’ worth of health-and-safety proposals to the players that included everything from testing to bans on in-game spitting and on-site showers.

But for as many details as there were, there were questions left unanswered. And now that positive tests have instantly come to pro baseball in Japan, those questions demand answers.

RELATED: Why reported MLB coronavirus testing plan raises some big red flags

MLB pitched a testing strategy that included players being tested multiple times a week, but not daily. Plus, the kinds of tests used for asymptomatic players would not deliver results for 24 hours.

Those two details combined seem to make for a situation in which an asymptomatic player could arrive at the ballpark, get tested, play a game and therefore interact with not only players from his own team but players from the opposing team, get on an airplane, travel to another city and arrive at another ballpark before knowing he tested positive, exposing many to the virus both at and away from the ballpark.

Even more worrisome was the league’s desire not to have a positive test result shut down a team, multiple teams or the league as a whole while recommended quarantining was practiced. Major League Baseball would not require teammates of a player who tests positive to quarantine, flaunting the contact-tracing guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After several players balked at the idea of being confined to hotel rooms and ballparks when a plan for a quarantined season in Arizona was being discussed, the league’s official health-and-safety proposals didn’t mandate that players had to stay in their hotel rooms on the road — even while it did mandate such restrictions on movement for other members of the traveling party — increasing the risk of the virus coming into the league from an outside source.

And let's remember that there are vastly more people than just the players that will be needed to stage a season. The more people involved, the higher the risk of spreading the virus within the game.

So while bans on Gatorade coolers and mound visits are all well and good, even viewed by some players as excessive, the most effective measures for preventing the spread of the virus are perhaps not stringent enough.

It remains to be seen what will happen in Japan, how that league handles these positive tests and whether more positive tests pop up in the wake of these first two. But the coronavirus will not stop at the ballpark gate. And Major League Baseball needs to make sure it’s doing everything it can as best it can to keep its players safe, or risk a season — however long — in which players could get sick and get others sick, too.

 

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2020 MLB Draft: With only five picks, pressure's on White Sox to get them right

2020 MLB Draft: With only five picks, pressure's on White Sox to get them right

It’s no breaking news that the White Sox haven’t always hit on their top draft picks in the last 20 years.

Regardless, Rick Hahn’s front office has put the team on a path to a lengthy, bright future. Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn — the team’s last two first-round picks — hold a lot of promise, but the majority of the work of constructing a team that could evolve into a perennial contender came via trades, international signings, contract extensions and, this past offseason, free agency.

There’s a new man in charge of the draft for the White Sox. But Mike Shirley didn’t know what he was getting into when he took the job. No one did, obviously. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and more specifically the economic toll it has already taken on the sport, has shrunk the 2020 MLB Draft to just five rounds.

That’s down from a usual 40.

Yes, teams, the White Sox included, will have the opportunity to sign an unlimited number of undrafted players for $20,000 apiece. But the best of the undrafted bunch might choose to delay their professional careers until economic circumstances are more favorable. High schoolers set to enter the minor leagues might instead opt to play college ball. College juniors who don’t get drafted might return to their schools.

And then there’s the sheer reality of the level economic playing field when it comes to signing those undrafted players. The White Sox, just like every other team, will have to convince the top remaining talent that they should sign up with them instead of 29 other options.

In other words, in those five rounds in which teams will actually be able to select players, the pressure’s on.

“Obviously, you want to get five right,” Shirley said during a Tuesday conference call, “that's for damn sure.”

For the White Sox, and this isn’t necessarily a phenomenon unique to the South Side, hitting on top picks hasn’t been easy. There’s still plenty of excitement about what Madrigal and Vaughn could turn into, but they’ve yet to reach the major league level. Unfortunately, that was the case for several of their predecessors, as well.

Jared Mitchell, Keenyn Walker, Keon Barnum, Courtney Hawkins, Zack Burdi and Jake Burger were all taken with first-round picks between 2009 and 2017 and have played a combined zero major league games to this point. The 21st century is littered, too, with first-round picks who did reach the bigs but failed to make a great impact. Joe Borchard, Royce Ring, Brian Anderson, Josh Fields, Lance Broadway, Aaron Poreda, Carson Fulmer and Zack Collins all have career WAR under 1.0.

There are grand exceptions, obviously, with Chris Sale on a Hall of Fame trajectory and Tim Anderson emerging last season as the big league batting champion and a true cornerstone of the White Sox long-term future. Gio Gonzalez has yet to throw a pitch for the White Sox, but he proved a successful first-round pick, even if his major league success came playing for other teams. The jury is still out on Carlos Rodon, who has shown flashes of brilliance along with some horrible injury luck.

And that’s just a summation of first-round choices. There are often many, many more, and the success stories get lodged in the collective consciousness. Who could forget that the White Sox took Mark Buehrle in the 38th round? Though picked by other teams, Jim Thome reached the Hall of Fame from the 13th round and Jermaine Dye was the 2005 World Series MVP after being picked in the 17th round. Even current key cogs of the White Sox future were found down in the depths of the draft: Aaron Bummer, for example, was the team’s 19th-round selection in 2014.

But there will be no opportunity for those kinds of diamond-in-the-rough finds this year.

RELATED: Top 20 MLB Draft prospects: Who will White Sox pick at No. 11?

With no fans in the stands due to COVID-19, revenues are expected to dramatically decline. While the owners continue to fight with the players’ union over major league salaries, one cost-cutting measure that didn’t require a pitched battle was lopping off the millions spent annually on signing bonuses for draft picks.

So there will only be five draft picks. With the margin for error 35 rounds slimmer than just a year ago, the White Sox, as Shirley said, better get the picks they do make right.

There’s obviously no guarantee in this sport. As illustrated, the list of first-round flops is a mile long. The deeper in the draft, the harder it is to ensure big league success. So what will the White Sox do with the No. 11 pick? Well, that depends what happens when players start going off the board next Wednesday night.

“I think we've looked at this thing from every angle possible,” Shirley said. “We are down to 15 players that we like. … We have those players in order, and we are ready to target and strike those players. We targeted about 24 players when spring training was still going on, and we've narrowed that down to about 15 players that we do like. Obviously, we feel a bulk of that top end is not going to be available to us.

“We have 15 targets, and at the end of the day, based on who I think is going to be gone, do I think it’s down to four or five players? Yeah, I do. We’re excited about all four or five. They come from all aspects of the draft: high school, college, pitcher, hitter.”

Baseball teams don’t draft for immediate major league need like their football and basketball counterparts. MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo has the White Sox taking a college catcher in his most recent mock draft. And yet the White Sox just gave a record free-agent deal to Yasmani Grandal. So there are many players who could fit the bill at No. 11.

If the challenges weren’t already steep — having an entire draft squeezed down to five important picks and trying to buck some unfortunate draft history — the White Sox scouting team needs to try to nail these selections after most of the players’ seasons were abruptly canceled due to the pandemic.

Shirley was able to dig up some silver linings, that his team has had more access to speak with college players than usual and that his first year on the job brought so much exuberance that he did some extra work before the world was shut down.

No team ever wants to miss on a draftee. Players are selected for a reason. But there is a certain amount of failure baked into the process because not every prospect hits. A lot of them don’t. A majority of them don’t.

But with only five chances to get it right, the stakes seem even higher than before.

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