The White Sox are still rebuilding, still owners of a sub-.500 record, but progress has been pretty hard to miss through the season’s first two months.
With All-Star balloting officially underway, will that progress manifest itself in the form of multiple All-Star bids for the South Siders?
It’s not a crazy thought.
The team boasted just one All Star in 2018, which ended with the White Sox losing 100 games. Jose Abreu was elected the starting first baseman for the American League, but there wasn’t much argument to be made that the White Sox deserved more than one player on the squad. In fact, 2018 was the worst statistical season of Abreu’s career to this point, but a lack of competition made him the pick at first base.
This year, the level of competition doesn’t matter as much, because there are four or five or more White Sox with great claims to being included on the AL All-Star roster.
Ironically, while the White Sox join every team in baseball in launching their “get out the vote” campaign, the player with the best case for an All-Star nod is an unelectable pitcher. Lucas Giolito has been fantastic in 2019, with a stellar May vaulting him into the category of the best pitchers in the Junior Circuit. His 2.85 ERA ranks eighth in the AL, and his 69 strikeouts rank 12th. He might be on his way to AL Pitcher of the Month honors thanks to a 1.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six May starts.
When it comes to players fans can actually vote for, Tim Anderson probably has the best case for an All-Star bid. He entered Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians still the American League leader in batting average, with a .337 clip. He took home AL Player of the Month honors for April, and he’s been in baseball’s national spotlight thanks to his mission to inject more fun into the game. If the league truly wants to “let the kids play,” then including Anderson in the All-Star festivities would be a good thing.
Abreu is up to his usual tricks again, the AL leader in RBIs when the sun came up on the last day of May. He’s got a .523 slugging percentage to go along with his 15 home runs and those 49 RBIs, and while the first-base competition is a little stronger than last year — Dan Vogelbach and C.J. Cron might have something to say about who ends up starting — Abreu still has as good a case as anyone. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him there again in July.
Positional competition, however, could be a factor in whether or not James McCann gets into the All-Star Game. The White Sox catcher is having an excellent season, no doubt about it, with a .346 batting average and a .384 on-base percentage. Those are some of the best numbers among AL catchers, but there are other worthy backstops, chiefly Mitch Garver and Gary Sanchez. The former is reaching base at an insane .418 clip, and the latter has already mashed 17 homers, almost twice as many as Garver’s nine. But there’s no question that McCann deserves consideration.
Then there’s Yoan Moncada, whose accomplishments to this point haven’t been as gaudy as the previously mentioned quartet of White Sox. But he’s been solid, with a .280/.333/.491 heading into Friday’s game, and he’s one of just five AL third basemen with double-digit homers. Plus, there’s a lot of season left before the All-Star rosters are finalized, meaning a hot streak could make him just as attractive as anyone. We’ll have to wait and see for that. Bottom line: It’s been a good season for Moncada.
Oh, and that’s before even getting to Alex Colome and some of the other shut-down arms in the White Sox bullpen. Colome’s been dominant, with only four AL closers in possession of more saves than his 11. He’s given up only four runs, and opposing batters are hitting just .110 against him. Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall haven’t logged too many innings, but they’ve given up a combined one run on the season. Not too shabby.
It’s unlikely, of course, that the White Sox will send eight players to Cleveland for the Midsummer Classic. But suggesting that multiple players could be representing the White Sox at the All-Star Game is nowhere near out of the question, something that should stand as another example of progress as the 2019 season continues to look a whole heck of a lot better than the 2018 one.
“We've had some guys who've been doing very, very well,” manager Rick Renteria said Friday, presented with the idea of several All-Star worthy White Sox. “I think Pito's doing well. Timmy's doing well. We have some pitchers, Lucas, who's been doing well. Yoan's starting to come around.
“A lot of these guys are putting themselves on the map in terms of who they are as individuals, compared to the rest of the major league scene, in terms of players who play the same positions. I'm glad that at least Major League Baseball and kind of the world is starting to see who these guys are. I think it's exciting.
“They should be excited about it. They deserve it. They're working toward that. But as a Chicago White Sock fan and the manager of the Chicago White Sox, I'm extremely happy that at least these young men are starting to get some accolades, that people are starting to see that these guys can play.”