How Yoan Moncada and White Sox compare to Chris Sale and ex-Sox
Every team has those “ones who got away,” the players they traded before they reached the big leagues or dealt only for those guys to become stars — or even just really good players who left for greener pastures. But rather than simply lament the former White Sox who are playing elsewhere these days, why not pit those ex-South Siders against the current club to see how things shake out?
Here’s a position-by-position look at a lineup of former White Sox players versus their counterparts on the 2020 White Sox roster. Who would you rather have?
Catcher: Yasmani Grandal vs. Omar Narvaez
Grandal, the owner of the richest free-agent deal in team history, has the obvious edge here, an All-Star for what he does both at the plate and behind it. Defensively, he’s one of the best framers in baseball, a useful skill at least until the electronic strike zones invade the game. Offensively, he’s been one of the most productive at his position for years.
But give Narvaez some credit, too. After the White Sox shipped him to Seattle last winter, he had a breakout season, hitting 22 home runs in his one year with the Mariners, including a walk-off dinger off Alex Colome, the pitcher he was traded for.
First base: Jose Abreu vs. C.J. Cron
Abreu is one of the best hitters in White Sox history, with 179 home runs and 611 RBIs in his first six seasons on the South Side. He’s got a new three-year deal in hand after spending the 2019 campaign expressing his love for the White Sox and their blindingly bright future. He also won the AL RBI crown with a career-best mark of 123. He’s still productive after all these years.
Cron was never actually part of the White Sox organization, but the team did draft him in the 44th round back in 2008. Cron had a 30-homer season with the Rays in 2018 before chipping in 25 of the Twins’ roughly one million homers a year ago.
Second base: Nick Madrigal vs. Marcus Semien
Semien’s a shortstop — and he’s turned into a pretty good one after defensive issues plagued him earlier in his career — but he’s manning second base in this fictitious lineup. That gives the ex-Sox their first win, as Semien was sensational last season, truly one of the best players in baseball. He was rewarded for his .285/.369/.522 slash line, 33 home runs, 92 RBIs and 123 runs scored with a third-place finish in the AL MVP vote.
Meanwhile, Madrigal is still waiting on his big league debut, which figured to come at some point during the early portions of the 2020 season. Who knows how the ongoing delay will factor into his major league ascent. But the White Sox used the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft on Madrigal for a reason, and he proved it with an excellent year in the minors in which he struck out just 16 times.
Shortstop: Tim Anderson vs. Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tatis looks like he could end up the worst “one that got away” from the White Sox since Sammy Sosa. But considering he played just half a season last year, Anderson gets the edge here. Anderson won the big league batting title with a .335 batting average up nearly .100 points from where it was at the end of the 2018 season. He led the league in errors, too, but he’s promising defensive improvement to go along with the offensive game he revamped last offseason.
No one’s going to sleep on Tatis, though, after an electric rookie year. He hit .317/.379/.590 with 22 homers and 53 RBIs in just 84 games. White Sox fans are still smarting from the trade that sent him to San Diego in exchange for James Shields nearly four years ago. Even Rick Hahn has called himself a “jackass” for pulling that one off.
Third base: Yoan Moncada vs. Eduardo Escobar
This one’s going to Moncada, who went to work following a 217-strikeout season in 2018 and emerged as the White Sox best all-around hitter in 2019, an All-Star snub who placed in AL MVP voting. But that doesn’t mean you should wave off Escobar, who the White Sox dealt to the division-rival Twins for a half season of Francisco Liriano in 2012.
After many seasons as a decent-to-good member of the Twins’ lineup, Escobar was traded to the Diamondbacks, where he exploded in 2019 as an All-Star type hitter. In his age-30 season, he hit 35 home runs, racked up 118 RBIs and led baseball with 10 triples. Does it mean his next season will be just as good? Who knows. But Escobar deserves some props for an excellent 2019.
Left field: Eloy Jimenez vs. Brian Goodwin
Jimenez went through the not at all atypical growing pains of a player getting his first taste of the major leagues in 2019 — and he still hit 31 home runs, showing off prodigious power and his fun-loving attitude along with it. He might have made a few folks wince during some of his more adventurous plays in left field, but he’s promised improvement with the glove, with desires to be a complete big leaguer.
Like one other member of this lineup, C.J. Cron, Goodwin was drafted by the White Sox but did not sign after his 17th-round selection in 2009. A decade later, he’s a four-year major league veteran who hit a career-high 17 home runs during the finest offensive season of his career with the Angels in 2019.
Center field: Luis Robert vs. Adam Eaton
The Robert hype machine has been in high gear for a long while now, and evaluators around the game believe he could be the best of the White Sox numerous promising youngsters. Even though he’s yet to play an inning of big league ball, I’d still rather have him than a lot of outfielders, meaning this isn’t a knock on Eaton. Robert promises a full complement of game-changing tools, including power, speed, defense and a bat that can just do it all. Big things are expected, and he hasn’t given much reason to doubt he can live up to them.
Eaton, of course, deserves his due, now a World Series winner after last year’s championship season with the Nationals. After a couple injury-shortened campaigns, he finally was able to get into a season’s worth of action in 2019 and had a .993 OPS in the seven-game World Series. He’s only played 20 games in center since leaving the South Side, but he’s got the versatility to slide over to make room for the other corner outfielders in this lineup.
Right field: Nomar Mazara vs. Avisail Garcia
Garcia hit a career-best 20 home runs last season with the Rays. After injuries prevented him from following up his 2017 All-Star season with the White Sox, he had himself a fine season in St. Pete, hitting .282 with a .332 on-base percentage to go along with the power.
Mazara’s averaged just about 20 homers in his four big league seasons, but Garcia’s got him beat in the average and on-base categories — at least when he’s at his best. The White Sox believe we’ve yet to see the best of Mazara, which could quickly vault him into winner status here. But with Garcia coming off a good season, he gets the edge.
Designated hitter: Edwin Encarnacion vs. Todd Frazier
Consistent pop from the White Sox new slugger is enough to give him the edge here, even if Frazier delivered one of the more powerful seasons the South Side has ever seen. Encarnacion has hit at least 32 homers in each of the last eight seasons, including the 34 he hit last season in just 109 games.
Frazier, meanwhile, has seen his power slip significantly since launching 40 bombs for the White Sox in 2016. He’s hit 27, 18 and 21 homers, respectively, in the three seasons since.
Starting pitcher: Lucas Giolito vs. Chris Sale
No one would have thought it a little more than a year ago, after Giolito had the worst statistics in baseball and Sale led the Red Sox to a World Series win, but this is actually a tough one. When he’s healthy, Sale is one of the best pitchers baseball has ever seen, and he’s on a Hall of Fame track. But he’s not healthy right now, having just had Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, Giolito transformed himself into one of the American League’s finest arms and finished sixth in the Cy Young vote last year.
If we’re assuming health, Sale still gets the nod, even if it’s not by much. If baseball is played in 2020, then Giolito can change that by taking his transformation to the next level.
Closer: Alex Colome vs. Daniel Hudson
If we’re just going off what happened since the 2019 All-Star break, Hudson and what he did for the world-champion Nationals probably gets the edge here. But we’re not, and Colome is definitely the more proven ninth-inning option of the two, with his 126 saves since the start of the 2016 season.
Hudson got it done when the Nats needed him last season, but over the course of an entire season, Colome is the pick.