White Sox

White Sox developing what Lucas Giolito says 'can be one of the most dominant rotations in baseball'

White Sox developing what Lucas Giolito says 'can be one of the most dominant rotations in baseball'

General manager Rick Hahn has said since SoxFest that the 2019 season will be judged more on the progress and development of young, core players than it will be on the number of games the White Sox end up winning.

Well, consider Sunday's loss to the visiting Oakland Athletics a perfect encapsulation.

Well, maybe not a perfect one, with the White Sox bats effectively silenced by former White Sox hurler Chris Bassitt. But Lucas Giolito, one of those young, core players, was excellent. He struck out 13 batters to set a new career high in that category and owns a 3.42 ERA in this All-Star season. He's transformed himself from the guy with baseball's highest ERA a season ago to the ace of this White Sox staff.

That's the kind of positive progression that outweighs a loss in another rebuilding season that will end without a chase for a playoff spot.

The White Sox have seen a good deal of that kind of progression lately from its young starting pitchers. Giolito's been doing it all season, obviously, but Reynaldo Lopez is in the midst of a second-half renaissance and Dylan Cease is coming off two of his better starts as a big leaguer.

There's a great deal of focus on what pitcher or pitchers the White Sox might add to the rotation this offseason — and Hahn has made no secret about the fact that the team will be shopping for starting pitching — but the majority of the 2020 rotation is developing right before fans' eyes. And with how they're performing of late, there should be a great deal of confidence that the White Sox starting-pitching fortunes will be much better next season and in the seasons after that than they've been in 2019.

"I think that in the future we can be one of the most dominant rotations in baseball," Giolito said after Sunday's game. "You look at the raw stuff we all have, it's there. It's just a matter of continuing to build confidence, gain experience and at the end of the day, just going out there and executing.

"It's all part of the growing and learning process at this level. For me, I'm really happy to see what Reynaldo's done the second half. He took it upon himself after the first half he had and said, 'This isn't going to happen anymore, I'm better than this.' And he's been showing that. Dylan's learning from each and every outing, getting better and better and better commanding.

"It's great to see. I think with more time and experience, we're just going to continue to get better and better."

Hahn has made it clear that the 2020 rotation will not be entirely homegrown. But four of the five spots figure to be locked up by homegrown guys, pitchers who have been long hyped since arriving in various rebuild-launching trades. Giolito and Lopez both came over from the Washington Nationals in exchange for Adam Eaton following the 2016 season. Dylan Cease was acquired in the midseason Crosstown trade with the Cubs in 2017.

And then there's the heretofore unmentioned Michael Kopech, currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, who was acquired in the Chris Sale trade with the Boston Red Sox in 2016. Kopech will be back from his recovery in 2020 and installed alongside the three youngsters currently pitching at the major league level. There's still plenty of belief that the flame-throwing Kopech could still be the best of the bunch, even with Giolito now an All Star.

Organizational starting-pitching depth has been a crippling deficiency for the White Sox this season, leading to a parade of fifth starters including Ervin Santana, Odrisamer Despaigne, Manny Banuelos, Dylan Covey, Hector Santiago and Ross Detwiler. But with the four youngsters combined with offseason additions, plus the eventual returns of Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert from their Tommy John surgeries and the continuing development of a prospect like Jonathan Stiever, the script could be wildly different.

"You look ahead to the future — if you just go strictly internal, which won't be the case — but if you look internally at Giolito, Lopez, Cease, Kopech, Rodon, Dunning, Lambert, Jonathan Stiever. You've got five really good ones in there, and you're insulated, as well, against potential injury," Hahn said during the White Sox Talk Podcast on Thursday. "That said, when you have championship aspirations, you are going to have to augment that.

"Whether it's the biggest name on the free-agent market or whether it's solid, mid-rotation guys to help stem the tide of any losing streak or give you a reliable output every fifth day, those have value. We like, once healthy, where this organizational starting-pitching depth is going, but we at the same time know if they all click, augmenting it externally makes sense, as well."

Fans will get excited about the team's intent to improve the rotation via free agency or a trade this winter. Gerrit Cole will be at the top of everyone's wish list, though he's expected to have many suitors and demand a monster contract. Elsewhere on the free-agent market, options could include Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Jake Odorizzi, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Wheeler. Trade candidates are obviously much tougher to project, especially this far out from the start of Hot Stove season.

But no matter who Hahn's front office brings in, the 2020 rotation's fortunes will likely be determined more by the homegrown arms who are already here, considering they figure to make up 80 percent of it.

 

Even with the promise of Giolito and Lopez from their days as prospects, Kopech and Cease have more recently been viewed as the two potential aces in the organization. Giolito's terrific 2019 season has put him back in that conversation, as well, and the White Sox still view Lopez as a top-of-the-rotation type guy. So those are four guys with pretty high ceilings who figure to already have claims to spots on the 2020 starting staff.

And that's before the White Sox go out and add anything to that mix.

The White Sox didn't win Sunday. They haven't won very often since the All-Star break, and they were under .500 at the close of the first half. But the positive development is happening. It's happening with important pitchers who hold the fate of the 2020 rotation in their hands. The recent success for Giolito, Lopez and Cease show that rotation could be a strong one.

One of the most dominant in baseball? Maybe one day.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020

0914_yoan_moncada.jpg
USA TODAY

The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020

“The 2020 season, it starts in September.”

Jose Abreu said that before August was even over, looking toward the final month of yet another losing season, yet another season without a playoff appearance on the South Side. Of course, everyone involved with this organization is hoping that changes in 2020, and with his sights on that campaign, Abreu talked about using the last month of this one to get ready for next year.

Well, if this month is really the first month of what’s next, the guys who figure to play the biggest roles on that 2020 team — in this rebuild, in general — are off to a heck of a start.

Friday night, it was the quartet of Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez powering a high-scoring win over the Seattle Mariners. The four combined to go 8-for-18 with two home runs, two doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and six runs scored.

It was a nice microcosm of what’s been happening all month.

In the dozen games the White Sox have played in September, Abreu, Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez have combined for a .363 batting average, a .431 on-base percentage, a .687 slugging percentage, 13 home runs, 18 doubles, a triple, 42 RBIs and 40 runs scored. They’ve accounted for more than 58 percent of the runs the team has scored and more than 61 percent of the runs the team has driven in.

Considering Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez are three cornerstones of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding effort and the elder statesman Abreu, with his constant declarations of his desire to remain with the team, seems a safe bet to be back in black for 2020, this is the core of this lineup moving forward playing at an extremely high level.

It’s exactly what the White Sox and their fans want to see.

Anderson is going to be dominating the headlines the rest of the way as he chases a batting title. He woke up Saturday with the best batting average in baseball, a .334 mark for the 2019 season. In September alone, he’s hitting .400.

Moncada has steadily had the best all-around offensive season of anyone on the team, quite the transformation from a year ago, when he struck out 217 times in a disappointing first full campaign as a major leaguer. In September, he’s hitting even better than Anderson, with a .435 batting average to go along with an insane .500 on-base percentage.

Jimenez has had an up-and-down rookie season, but he’s closing in on 30 home runs after smashing No. 27 on Friday night. He’s definitely in the midst of one of his better stretches right now and owns a .694 slugging percentage with five homers in September.

Abreu has been criticized by certain segments of the fan base for the noticeable dip in his on-base percentage this season. Thanks to a hot finish, it is higher than last year’s at the moment, but if the season ended today, it would be lower than the figures he posted during his first four seasons in the big leagues. But what those critics aren’t focusing on is one of the most productive seasons of Abreu’s career. He also homered Friday and is up to 33 bombs on the season, three off the career high he set as a rookie in 2014. And he’s blasted past his career high in RBIs from that same season, up to 116, which leads the American League. He's got five September homers and a .784 slugging percentage on the month.

In a season judged from the outset based on the development and performance of the team’s core players rather than its win-loss record, that’s all spectacular news for the organization moving forward into 2020. Combine all that with the strides made by Lucas Giolito and James McCann, the arrival of Dylan Cease, the expected return of Michael Kopech, the expected arrivals of Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, plus what’s expected to be an active offseason, and this team is shaping up to have a very promising outlook for 2020.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” manager Rick Renteria said after Thursday’s game, asked if he believed the White Sox string of sub-.500 seasons would end next year. “We are trying to win. I think we talk about it, we are going through it. I know there’s still refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you. We are finishing this season, we are talking about coming into next season ready to battle, period, exclamation point. That’s what we are looking to do.”

If these four guys keep swinging the bats like this straight on into next March, that would go a long way toward proving their manager right.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.

Tim Anderson now leads all of baseball in batting average

anderson-914.jpg
USA TODAY

Tim Anderson now leads all of baseball in batting average

Tim Anderson’s quest for the batting title got a boost on Friday, and his quest for the AL batting title is looking more like reality by the day.

Anderson had a 2-for-5 night in Friday’s 9-7 win in Seattle to raise his batting average to .334. He is nine points ahead of Yankees second baseman DJ LaMahieu.

The White Sox have 15 games left in the season so it’s getting down to the wire.

Anderson not only leads in the AL, but also leads all of the majors in batting. He jumped ahead of Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, who had an 0-for-4 night on Friday to drop to .332.

Anderson’s evolution from .240 hitting in 2018 (and a career .258 hitter entering 2019) to leading the majors in batting average on Sept. 14 is one of the more surprising and relevant developments of the White Sox season. He’s also been fun on the field, and even on social media.

On Friday morning, MLB tweeted out a vote for best bat flip of the year and the only two in contention were Ronald Acuna Jr and Bryce Harper. Anderson (and the White Sox along with plenty of White Sox fans) jumped in the replies to call out the snub.


He then quote tweeted his own notable bat flip for comparison.


Stay fun, Tim.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.