White Sox

White Sox Team of the Future: Right field

White Sox Team of the Future: Right field

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) over the next few weeks. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

Well, let's move on to right field, where things get a little nuts.

Our 10 voters submitted nine different names for their right fielder of the future, by far the most of any position. The winner, with two votes, is Micker Adolfo. More on the litany of other nominees in a bit.

First let's talk about Adolfo, who is not often mentioned when discussing the White Sox stockpile of minor league talent, passed up for bigger names like Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal. But he probably should be, commonly regarded as the guy with the best outfield arm in the organization and someone who showed, not even at full strength last season, that he can swing an impressive bat, too.

It started in spring training, when he was a part of that must-see batting-practice group that also included Jimenez and Robert. Adolfo held his own among those two highly rated young players and was part of the much-discussed "outfield of the future" in Glendale.

“We were just talking about how cool it would be to one day all three of us be part of the same outfield,” Adolfo told NBC Sports Chicago last February. “We were talking about hitting behind each other in the order and just envisioning ourselves winning championships and stuff like that. It’s awesome. I really envision myself in the outfield next to Eloy and Luis Robert.”

“Actually, just a few minutes ago when we were taking BP, we were talking about it,” Jimenez said at the same time. “Micker and Luis said, ‘Can you imagine if we had the opportunity one day to play together in the majors: right, left and center field? The three of us together and having the opportunity to bring a championship to this team?’ I think that’s a dream for us, and we’re trying to work hard for that.”

So perhaps it's no surprise that our vote turned out that way, with Jimenez, Adolfo and Robert in left, right and center.

Adolfo has his challenges to reach the majors, still on the mend from Tommy John surgery, with that arm injury restricting him to being only a designated hitter last season. He still put up strong numbers: a .282/.369/.464 slash line with 11 homers and 50 RBIs in just 79 games with Class A Winston-Salem. The need for surgery ended his season in early July.

Adolfo might not reach the majors as quickly as, certainly, Jimenez or, probably, Robert, as he's still yet to play above the Class A level. But he's got the talent and the potential to be the White Sox right fielder of the future.

Oh, but so do a lot of other guys.

Other vote-getters

Bryce Harper. Still one of the White Sox big free-agent targets this winter, Harper would most definitely be the right fielder of the future if he signed up to be the centerpiece of the final phase of the rebuilding project. He might command a decade-long deal, even though the White Sox reportedly won't go past seven. Harper is one of the best hitters in the game and would be a no-doubt fixture in right should the White Sox win that sweepstakes. But the way the wind is blowing lately makes them seem a far more likely landing spot for the other mega free agent, Manny Machado, and more of a long shot for Harper. Of course, both of those free agents still have the baseball world playing the waiting game.

Mookie Betts. If the White Sox don't win either the Machado or Harper derbies, the attention will turn to the next couple rounds of free agency. The headliner of the class of free agents following the 2020 season will be the reigning AL MVP, Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts, and one of our voters thinks that's when the White Sox will strike to add their "finishing piece." Betts will be 28 come that winter, a no-brainer of a long-term addition. While a lot of White Sox fans would be rather upset that in this scenario the South Siders miss out on Harper, Machado and 2020 free agents like Nolan Arenado, Betts would surely quell that anguish and team with Jimenez and Robert to make one heck of an outfield. Just some of Betts' other-worldly numbers from his MVP campaign: a .346/.438/.640 slash line with 32 homers, 47 doubles, 30 stolen bases and 81 walks.

Marcell Ozuna. A free agent a year earlier than Betts, here's another guy who could make a big splash in the event the White Sox miss out on Harper or Machado. Ozuna is already a two-time All Star from his days with the Miami Marlins and was a heck of a get for the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason. In his first year in Missouri, his numbers dipped significantly from a remarkable 2017 campaign that saw him drive in 124 runs and win both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. But he won't yet be 30 years old by the time he hits the free-agent market next winter and would be a tremendous upgrade for the White Sox, who would figure to be on the cusp of transitioning from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Yoan Moncada. Someone's doing a little position switching here. Moncada is currently the White Sox starting second baseman, but there's been plenty of talk of the team potentially moving him to third base ahead of next season. That's still up in the air — signing Machado would figure to throw a wrench into the entire infield alignment — but could have a lot to do with what's coming. Madrigal, last year's first-round pick, is a defensive whiz as a middle infielder and moving quickly through the system. But Moncada in right? That hasn't been as common a prediction. Well, one of our voters thinks it'll happen, the White Sox searching for a place for Moncada, not too far removed from being baseball's top prospect, to keep getting at-bats. If Madrigal is destined for second and Machado is in the mix on the left side of the infield, the spots for Moncada to stick long term are getting snapped up. It's all speculation, but interesting speculation.

Luis Robert. Robert's one heck of an athlete — as his scoring a run from second base on a sacrifice fly indicated during the Arizona Fall League — and so center field would be the most logical spot for him long term. But perhaps another guy with a whole lot of athleticism bumps Robert to right. There was only one of our voters who had someone other than Robert as their center fielder of the future, and they picked Tim Anderson. So it's a good bet that in that universe where Robert is a right fielder, it's because Anderson is doing a heck of a job in center field.

Luis Basabe. A guy who could get crunched out of the outfield of the future, there's no reason Basabe can't keep elevating his game and give the White Sox one of those good problems to have: too many good, young outfielders. Basabe made a big leap in the first half of last season, slashing .283/.381/.538 with seven homers and 10 doubles in his first 39 games at Class A Winston-Salem. That hot start earned him a midseason promotion and a trip to the Futures Game, where he homered and showed just how deep the White Sox minor league outfield is. He cooled off at Double-A Birmingham but could still hit his way into the White Sox long-term plans.

Steele Walker. Walker was the White Sox second-round pick last summer and has a bright future after doing big things at the University of Oklahoma. His numbers at the end of the season at Class A Kannapolis weren't very good, but we'll find out a lot more about Walker in his first full season in the organization in 2019.

Daniel Palka. Along with Moncada, an infielder, Palka is the only guy on the White Sox current big league roster to get a vote as the right fielder of the future. While his 27 home runs as a rookie were mighty impressive in 2018, his defense left a lot to be desired, making him seem better suited as a designated hitter. That being said, he's very committed to changing that narrative, working on improving his defense before every game last season. Palka has other areas that need improvement, with a batting average under .250 and an on-base percentage under .300 jumping off the stat sheet. Working perhaps both for and against him is the offseason acquisition of Yonder Alonso, who will split time at first base and designated hitter with Jose Abreu in 2019. That will take at-bats away from Palka as a DH, but it could also force the White Sox to give him a greater opportunity in the outfield. If he can make some big strides, he could work himself into the conversation, as he started doing last season.

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MLB proposing colossal changes to minor leagues, including eliminating dozens of teams

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USA TODAY

MLB proposing colossal changes to minor leagues, including eliminating dozens of teams

If Major League Baseball gets its way, there could be seismic changes coming to the minor leagues.

According to a report from Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, the league has proposed a host of sweeping changes to the minor leagues, including the elimination of 42 affiliated teams.

The proposal is merely the beginning of what are expected to be lengthy negotiations over a new version of what’s called the “Professional Baseball Agreement,” basically the contract that keeps the major and minor leagues connected and minor league teams stocked with players employed by major league clubs. The existing edition expires at the end of the 2020 season, and so a new one will need to be hashed out.

Major League Baseball is looking for control over how the minor leagues are organized, with an eye on improving facilities and clustering affiliates and leagues from a geographic standpoint to cut down on travel costs. There’s also expected to be an increase in salaries for minor league players, which has long been a talking point thanks to the increasing number of descriptions of how financially difficult life can be for those trying to reach the majors.

To accomplish those goals, Major League Baseball is proposing drastic solutions.

The one that will grab the most attention is the elimination of more than a quarter of the existing affiliated teams in the minor leagues, removing affiliated minor league teams from more than three dozen cities across the United States and getting rid of more than 1,000 jobs for minor league players. Simply, the entire short-season rookie ball (excluding squads that play at team-owned facilities in Arizona and Florida) would be eliminated, leaving only four levels of affiliated teams: Low Class A, High Class A, Double-A and Triple-A.

If you’re wondering what would happen to those 42 teams, the proposal is for them to form something called a “Dream League,” which would essentially serve the same purpose as an independent league, allowing players without jobs to keep playing and try to get a job with a major league team.

Additionally, Major League Baseball is proposing radical restructuring of existing leagues in order to cluster teams closer together. That could include changing the level of certain teams, such as making a Class A team a Triple-A team based on the quality of facilities and what makes the most geographic sense. Leagues could also gain or lose a large number of teams, with the Triple-A International League growing to 20 teams and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League shrinking to just 10 teams. One Class A league was described as being reduced to just six teams, while the rest of its current teams would be put into a brand-new league.

As for how the White Sox and their affiliates would be affected, team-specific information was not included in the report. One read of the details of this proposal could see something such as the White Sox affiliates being relocated to Midwestern cities. Another, however, could see the White Sox affiliates mostly staying how they currently are, given those teams are all geographically close to one another, with all but one located in North Carolina.

Buried in all of this is another big change, a proposed move of the draft from June to August, giving players a couple more months to show off for major league teams, and a reduction in the number of rounds from the current 40 to somewhere between 20 and 25. That, and the elimination of short-season rookie ball, would likely prevent draftees from playing minor league baseball in the same year they’re drafted.

It’s all something to keep an eye on, for sure, as many fans across the country who closely follow minor league teams in their hometowns could experience a dramatic shakeup.

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State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

State of the White Sox: Manager and coaching staff

Previous: Relief pitching Starting pitching | Designated hitter | Right field | Center field | Left field | Catcher | Shortstop Third base  Second base | First base

The 2019 season is over, and the White Sox — who have been focusing on the future for quite some time now — are faced with an important offseason, one that could set up a 2020 campaign with hopes of playoff contention.

With the postseason in swing and a little bit still before the hot stove starts cooking, let’s take a position-by-position look at where the White Sox stand, what they’re looking to accomplish this winter and what we expect to see in 2020 and beyond.

We’re wrapping things up with the manager and the coaching staff.

What happened in 2019

While it’s easy to cruise through the statistical production of players and determine just how well they performed in 2019, that’s a little more difficult when it comes to manager Rick Renteria and his coaching staff.

In the end, managers and coaches are evaluated on win-loss record — or at least how close they came to meeting the expectations in that department. While the White Sox are a gruesome 83 games under .500 in Renteria’s three years at the helm, that’s not really falling outside the expectations he had when he took over a rebuilding club. So it’s pretty hard to argue that because the White Sox lost 89 games in 2019, Renteria did a poor job.

Truly, his performance as a manager can’t be determined until he’s managing a team with expectations of winning. Renteria more than anyone has been the one setting such expectations for 2020, spending much of the waning weeks of the 2019 campaign voicing his opinion that all this losing stops next season.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” Renteria said. “We’re trying to win. We talk about it, we’re going through it. I know there’s still some refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you, we’re coming in, we’re finishing this season, we’re talking about coming into next season ready to battle. Period. Exclamation point. That’s what we’re looking to do.”

Renteria and his staff did plenty in 2019 to continue developing the team’s young players into the core of the future. But the skipper's most memorable on-field moment came in September, when even after he stopped making mound visits because of shoulder surgery, he went out to the mound and had an animated conversation with Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez made a habit of following up stellar performances with ugly ones, lacking consistency in a fashion that made even the optimistic Renteria throw up his hands at times. Renteria utilized that frustration on the mound in Detroit in an attempt to get some points across to the pitcher.


When it comes to Renteria’s staff, certainly they deserve some credit for some of the breakout seasons on the roster. Hitting coach Todd Steverson did offseason work with both Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson ahead of 2019 campaigns that saw them transform into the best all-around hitter on the team and the big league batting champ, respectively. Pitching coach Don Cooper helped oversee Lucas Giolito’s transformation into an All Star. Infield coach Joe McEwing worked with Moncada, who made a smooth transition from second base to third base.

But if the coaches earn some of the credit for the things that went right, they must also be mentioned alongside the things that went wrong. Steverson coached an offense that ranked near the bottom of the game in most categories. Cooper coached a starting rotation that finished the season with a 5.30 ERA. McEwing coached Anderson, who committed a major league high 26 errors.

None of that is to say those guys are wholly responsible for those negative outcomes. Just as the players have to be the ones to turn in the good results, they’re the ones who have to turn in the poor ones, as well. Steverson, however, along with assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks, will not be back for the 2020 season.

What will happen this offseason

The White Sox have already made their coaching moves this offseason, parting ways with Steverson and Sparks and replacing Steverson with Frank Menechino, who after several seasons on the Miami Marlins staff took over as the hitting coach at Triple-A Charlotte in 2019.

Menechino impressed the White Sox with his work there, spent September with the big league club and was quickly promoted once the season was over. At Charlotte, he worked with top-ranked prospects Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, who both had fantastic seasons playing at three different minor league levels and figure to be everyday players for most of the 2020 season.

The change, in the end, seemed to be more about how the White Sox felt about what Menechino could bring to the table than a reaction to the offensive production from a team that didn’t have expectations of doing much more than it did during another rebuilding season.

General manager Rick Hahn announced that the rest of the staff will be back in 2020.

What to expect for 2020 and beyond

There will be a change in the expectations game come 2020. That should be mostly because of the breakout 2019 seasons from so many young players, the pending arrival of Robert and Madrigal and the offseason additions anticipated to be made by Hahn’s front office. But if nothing else, the expectations, when it comes to Renteria, will be different because he’s already said they will be.

“I'm not going to make any bones about it, it's time to turn the page,” he said just last week, “it's time to get us to another level of performance. That goes across the board, it goes with all aspects of our game.”

And so judging him and his staff can reach another level, too, because it will no longer solely be about hard-to-define development but the cold, hard wins and losses. Plenty of fans have taken to Twitter and complained about Renteria during this losing stretch, suggesting he’s not the one to manage this team into a winning era, but those were conclusions that cannot be drawn considering the quality of the rosters he’s managed in his three years on the South Side. How can you judge a manager’s ability to contend when he doesn’t have the tools to do so?

That’s about to change, so there will finally be some actual evidence to back up either side of that argument.

It’s clear where the White Sox stand in that discussion. They’ve been praising the job Renteria has done for three years now, and they’ve expressed nothing but confidence that he’ll be the guy to get it done.

“When Ricky was put in that role, it wasn't with the idea that he was just going to be the right guy for the first stage, the stage that is coming toward an end here, or is at an end here,” Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. “Obviously, the history and teaching and communicating and holding guys accountable is very important now. But even at the time we hired him, we felt he had the ability to not only set the right winning culture but to put guys in the best position to win.

“His ability to communicate with all 25 or 26 guys on a daily basis, to know where they're at, to know what they're capable of doing and putting them in the best position, makes us fairly confident that once that roster is deep enough and strong enough that he's going to be able to maximize the win potential with that roster when the time comes.”

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