The White Sox were 13th out of 15 teams in the American League in runs scored in 2019. In order to field a competitive team in 2020, the offense had to get better.
At least on paper, it figures to be much improved. The White Sox have added three bats to their lineup this offseason (Yasmani Grandal, Nomar Mazara and Edwin Encarnacion) and have two prospects (Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal) who figure to become regular starters early in 2020.
Most of the everyday regular lineup figures to be different from what it was last season. Manager Rick Renteria goes from having major question marks in right field and at DH to having to figure out how to fill out his batting order with a number of quality bats.
Forgetting any delays in seeing Robert and Madrigal come up, let’s figure out how the lineup could look like when those two arrive on the South Side. Positionally, it seems somewhat clear.
C Yasmani Grandal
1B Jose Abreu
2B Nick Madrigal
SS Tim Anderson
3B Yoan Moncada
LF Eloy Jimenez
CF Luis Robert
RF Nomar Mazara
DH Edwin Encarnacion
All-Star James McCann can spell Grandal at catcher with Grandal and Encarnacion filling in for Abreu at first base when needed. Abreu played 34 games at DH last season, Grandal made 16 starts at first base and Encarnacion only played 109 games so there will still be openings for McCann to get playing time.
Now for the tricky party: What will be the batting order?
The only sure thing would appear to be Abreu hitting in the No. 3 hole. Abreu hasn’t been anywhere else since 2017 (and even then he made most of his starts batting third) so until we see otherwise, Abreu stays in that third spot.
There aren’t any obvious leadoff candidates. Last year’s primary leadoff hitter was Leury Garcia, but he figures to be a bench or platoon player once Robert joins the team. Robert led off for Triple-A Charlotte, but that’s asking a lot for his rookie season, especially for a player who doesn’t really profile as a leadoff hitter. Robert has leadoff caliber speed and might be able to hit for enough average, but he doesn’t walk much. He’s more of a power hitter than an on-base guy.
Tim Anderson just won a batting title and also has enough speed to put at the top of the order, but also doesn’t walk much. He moved around in the batting order in 2019, including four games at leadoff, but was used most in the No. 2 hole.
Madrigal was often hitting second behind Robert in Charlotte and also could be a decent all-around leadoff hitter, but like with Robert, the White Sox might hesitate to put that much pressure on him so quickly.
For argument’s sake let’s say Renteria goes with Anderson leading off. Robert could go after that, but Moncada played most of his games batting second last season and is the team’s best overall hitter. The top three is Anderson, Moncada, Abreu.
The bottom third is easier than the middle third. Robert, Mazara and Madrigal are the least proven hitters in the lineup so they start at the bottom. Robert can start batting seventh with Mazara behind him and Madrigal batting ninth as a secondary leadoff-type hitter when the lineup rolls around for Anderson and Moncada, who both have some pop.
That leaves Jimenez, Encarnacion and Grandal for the 4-6 spots. Encarnacion had the highest OPS of the trio (.875) last season, but Jimenez has the highest upside and projects as an elite cleanup hitter. It might be aggressive to place him in that spot this early in his career in a strong lineup, but if he takes a step forward in his second year he’s the best hitter of this group. After that, Grandal fifth and Encarnacion sixth to stick the switch-hitter (Grandal) higher in the lineup.
So there you have it, a totally made up lineup for the White Sox to play ball with in 2020:
This doesn’t factor in how different the lineup could look against lefties as opposed to righties. For example, Mazara struggled against lefties last year and is a likely candidate to have someone platoon with him in right field.
As it is listed above, Mazara, the lone lefty, and the switch-hitters, Grandal and Moncada, are spaced out enough. There’s speed at the top, power for the next several spots and no clear weak spots assuming the rookies don’t struggle too much when they come up.
Of course, there are numerous permutations with numerous talented hitters. No matter what order they are in, that will be a pleasant change of pace for White Sox fans.