Baseball

BOX SCORES

White Sox 4 – Athletics 1

White Sox 3 – Athletics 5

White Sox 4 – Athletics 6

 

And with that, this weird ass season for the Sox comes to a close. I’m trying to muster up the energy to be pissed off about it, but I’m coming up empty. You could see coming into this series how thin the margin for error for the Sox was, and it bled right over that line in games 2 and 3. Operating as shorthanded as they were bore the expected results, but the Sox battled the entire time and they deserve a lot of credit for that.

Without a doubt this team is on the verge of being something very special, and almost juggernaut-esque. Will the front office do what needs to be done to plug the holes going forward? I wish I felt more positive about it, because their track record with such things looks more like Jeff Keppinger than George Springer.

One last time into the breach, dear friends!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

-Tim Anderson, ladies and gentleman. He was an unholy force at the plate this series, and only just missed out on his 2nd batting title in a row. Not only did he shake the regression monster, he hauled off and kicked it right in the dick. Good for him.

-Jose Abreu was amazing in game 1, then suddenly couldn’t get the big hit in games 2 and 3. Such is baseball, but it shouldn’t take away at all from an MVPito caliber season from the captain. Love him.

-Nick Madrigal…not a great game two. Cost the team some runs that loomed large at the end with some mental mistakes. He’s clearly not a finished product yet, but when he is…he’s gonna annoy the shit out of opposing teams for a very long time. Patience, grasshopper.

-Dallas Keuchel had a stinker at the worst possible time. Not much you can do.

-Ricky Renteria is gonna take a lot of heat for the use of the pen in game 3, but he was only playing the hand Hahn dealt him. If Crochet doesn’t get hurt there, it’s an entirely different ballgame. Speaking of, let us all hope that the forearm strain is just that, and not a harbinger of TJ surgery like it normally is. The kid has some Stuff.

-Poor Eloy. He deserved so much better than having his foot let him down this postseason.

-Lucas Giolito is the ace of this team, and anyone who can’t acknowledge that needs therapy.

-Nomar Mazara was not actively terrible this series. I’d like to think his Rona infection (let’s be honest, we all know he had it) affected his game more than he let on, so hopefully he can battle it out for a starting position next year with whoever Hahn doesn’t sign.

-Yoan Moncada is a warrior. Get healthy, young man.

 

Shorter wrap then normal. I’ll be back after the World Series to break down the Sox roster and talk about who should stay and who should go. Until then, you guys all stay safe and enjoy the postseason baseball that’s being gifted to us. It’s been a really fun season, and a bright spot for me in an otherwise dumpster fire of a year. I wanna thank everyone who took the time to read this stuff, and I appreciate every single one of y’all. Also thanks to Matt McClure and the FFUD hierarchy for letting me continue to write here. It’s a lot of fun, and I hope to continue in the future.

 

Peace,

-AJ

Baseball

Welp, it looks as if MLB is really gonna do this.

 

I struggled coming up with an article announcing the imminent return of my favorite pastime for weeks now. It’s a weird feeling, watching sports during a pandemic. As many of you know already, I watch a boatload of professional wrestling. My favorite company, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has been running empty arena shows along with WWE during the entirety of the crisis. I’m torn, because I know these men and women are potentially risking infection and quite possibly serious health issues or death to bring me entertainment on Wednesday nights. Yet still I tune in every week, and enjoy almost every second of it (unless it’s Raw or Smackdown, in which case I enjoy 1 out of every 10 seconds).

Baseball feels the same way to me, in as much that part of me is thrilled to watch these elite athletes ply their trade for my entertainment but another part of me is terrified that I’m going to wake up and find out that Lucas Giolito is in the hospital hooked up to a ventilator. I desperately want to have the comfort back that comes with watching a baseball game from my couch in the summer while checking my fantasy team’s stats on my phone. Just being able to pull your mind away from the constant stream of terrible news and watch something that’s fun is quite good for your mental health, but there’s also a feeling that by tuning in you’re enabling behavior that’s not helping the country work past this virus. There’s really no good answer to the question of “should we be watching this?” other than to come to grips with this being the new reality, and (for me at least) to just try and enjoy as much of it as I can. That’s not to say you’re wrong for not feeling comfortable with watching the product, far from it. I wouldn’t blame anyone in the slightest, I’m more just presenting my frame of mind going into this season (or whatever you wanna call it).

Speaking of this season, the start of it is merely a few days away. Since MLB is gonna plow ahead with this, I (and most likely Wes) will be here to cover all the Sox Excitement moving forward. This fresh of the heels of the White Sox pummeling the Cubs bullpen last night in an exhibition game that featured a mammoth home run by (seriously) Adam Engel that touched off a 6 run rally in the 6th inning that chased Robo-Hendricks from the mound and gave Jahrel Cotton vertigo from all the spinning around he was doing. Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Luis Robert went back to back to back with doubles to end Cotton’s night and cement the win for the South Siders. More importantly, nobody got hurt and Yoan Moncada is apparently healed up from his bout with COVID-19 and could potentially be ready for the start of the season.

With Friday being a pseudo-Opening Day for the Sox, a few questions still remain heading into the series against the Twins. Here’s a few of them that hopefully will have some positive answers going forward:

What Does the Sox Rotation Look Like Going Forward, and Does Carlos Rodon Have A Place In It?

With Michael Kopech opting out for the rest of this season, the Sox are still left with good (if mostly unproven) depth at starter. As it stands, the rotation looks something like this:

1. Lucas Giolito

2. Dallas Keuchel

3. Dylan Cease

4. Gio Gonzalez

5. Reynaldo Lopez

6. Carlos Rodon?

Rodon, fresh off of Tommy John surgery, has made no secret about his desire to slide directly back into his spot in the rotation. With that being said, Gio Gonzales was signed in the off season specifically to provide depth to an unproven rotation outside of it’s top two starters. Will Rick Renteria go with a six man rotation heading forward, or will Gonzales be moved into more of an opener situation? Most of his success in 2019 was predicated on Craig Counsel of the Brewers keeping him from going through a lineup the third time. How will that fare in a shortened season like this? Will he be able to eat enough innings to be valuable? On top of that…

How Much Effect Will Yasmani Grandal Have On The Sox Young Rotation?

One of the main reasons Rick Hahn signed Yasmani Grandal this past fall was not only to add switch hitting pop to a Sox lineup that lacked it from the left side (Moncada notwithstanding), but to bring his elite framing skills to a Sox staff that outside of Lucas Giolito could desperately use a few extra called strikes. Will Grandal’s framing ability be able to harness the talent that Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez clearly possess? Also…

Is The Regression Monster Coming For Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson?

With both Moncada and Timmy hitting over .315 last season and TA winning the AL Batting Title, how much regression can be expected for the two? Moncada completely flipped the script from his 2018 season by massively cutting down on his K total and raising his BA from both sides of the plate. Tim Anderson did the same, all while walking approximately -7 times all season. I don’t think anyone believes that Tim is going to hit .335 again, the question is how far will he fall?

What Will Eloy and Luis Robert Bring To The Table This Season?

Eloy had a pretty solid rookie season all things considered, finishing with a .267/.315/.828 slash line with 31 dingers. Unfortunately for him, he spent a decent time on the shelf with varying maladies that kept him from really reaching his true potential. Will he be able to stay healthy and pick back up where he left off? Will Luis Robert be as good or better than Eloy in his rookie campaign? We all saw him rip a dinger off Carlos Rodon while falling down the other day, and that alone made a lot of our pants uncomfortably tight while watching it. How will he fare against pitchers that aren’t coming off Tommy John surgery? Does he have the plate discipline to go head to head with the Mike Clevingers and Josh Haders of the league?

How Good Are The Twins, Really?

As far as competition for the Sox goes this season, the main monolith standing between them and the promised land still resides in the swamps of Minnesota. With the type of offense that gives pitchers night terrors, the Twins are an offensive force to be reckoned with. On the other side of the ball, however, the Twins have a lot of questions of their own to be answered. Jose Berrios is a true ace, but after him the drop off is STEEP. Jake Odorizzi threw above his head in the first half of last season, but came crashing back to earth. Michael Pineda is very good, but also very suspended. Kenta Maeda is solid, but hasn’t been anything more than a super long reliever for the Dodgers in the past 3 years. The shambling corpse of Rich Hill is there, still throwing his 32 MPH curveball. Their bullpen is average at best. Is this the weakness the Sox hitters will be able to exploit? Finally…

Will COVID-19 Make All Of This Moot?

The challenges for this season to get underway, let alone finished are colossal. As of me writing this, the Toronto Blue Jays are still without a park to play in since the Canadian government told them to pound sand. The list of players who are opting out grows by the day, as does the case count across the nation. Testing delays are wreaking havoc across the South, forcing players to sit out without results to their required results. How long before the league has to take a serious look at whether or not continuing the season is viable? We could’ve been a month into the season by now with a decent infrastructure in place for testing if the owners hadn’t decided to be colossal dicks about everything, and now the league is behind the 8-ball. Will the considerable obstacles facing a full season be overcome? I guess we’ll see before too long.

 

Hoping you all and your families are well, and continue to be so. Stay safe everybody, and please for the love of baseball…wear a fucking mask.

 

 

Baseball

We’re rounding out the White Sox 2020 previews with the bullpen…in the middle of a global pandemic!

The Sox pen was a middle of the league unit in 2019, with some very solid returns on a few previously relative unknowns (Aaron Bummer(at least to the national stage), Evan Marshall), a stinker from at least one big signing (Kelvin Herrera) and a tale of two halves from the incumbent closer Alex Colome. Along the way we also got acclimated with storylines about Jimmy Cordero‘s guns and the Ballads of Carson Fulmer and Jace Fry.

So what should/could be expected from a 2020 bullpen that saw very little turnover, a single addition in Steve Cishek, new paper for few of the higher leverage fellas…and a potential 80 game season/29 or 30 man roster? TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP!

2019 Stats

536 appearances over 574 innings

24-21 W-L 33/49 Save/Opp 73 Holds

4.33 ERA  4.69 FIP

8.48 K/9   4.25 BB/9  1.40 WHIP

48.1% GB-rate  73.0 LOB%  15.3% HR/FB

96 ERA-  2.7 WAR

Last Week on Nitro: Bummer rode his nasty sinker to a very respectable 1.7 WAR, on par with the top RP in the league. If he had a K/9 over 11 instead of under 8 he’d probably have added another .5-1 WAR and been discussed as an elite RP, easily usurping Colome on his way to a nice raise and term. He settled for simply obtaining a new 5-year, $16M extension and I have to believe he’s fine with it. Marshall wasn’t quite as electric or outstanding on the eye test, but he was used in bigger and bigger spots as the season wore on and earned his spot in the 2020 discussion. Colome was a force in the first half saving 20 games before the ASB, albeit with some alarming underlying stats that would catch up to him for a much more average 10 save second half.

2019 was not all sunshine and rainbows for the relief corps on the South Side. Fry had a great SO rate of over 11/9IP, but couldn’t keep the ball in the yard enough (22% HR/FB). Herrera and Fulmer were flat out bad, with the former posting a 1.40 HR/9 rate and the latter just atrocious in every facet…yet again. Juan Minaya was fine? Jose Ruiz was solid? Really everyone needs to thank Bummer for buoying the RPs GB rate as no one else broke 60% (Bummer was nearly 73%).

TOO SWEET (WHOOP! WHOOP!): Things are different now than they were a month ago. This post would have hit in late March, and the best case scenario would have involved a four-headed monster closing out White Sox wins with Colome/Bummer/Herrera/Cishek operating as the go to bridge/closer committee and Marshall coming in to keep the other fresh. Fulmer/Cordero/Fry…and Minaya or Ruiz or Ian Hamilton or any number of solid minor league arms would have made up the remaining four spots, in what would be seen as how many contending, successful teams run a bullpen:an innings eater or two and then best arm up with a short leash for awfulness. But what does this look like in our new world post-virus…

The same four make up the go-to options for Rick Renteria to close out games, but the roster behind them is one with a lot more strength. All of the sudden he’s going to have Carlos Rodon and Gio Gonzalez as options, and likely an 11th RP option in the event that rosters expand to near 3o for a shortened season, and especially if we see 7 inning double headers as part of this season. Bummer/Colome are a nasty tandem depending on how the handedness of batters shake out in the 8th/9th, and Cishek, Herrera and Co. build the bridge without issue on most days. Rodon and Gonzalez become serious game changers for the shortened outings/double headers and the White Sox pen is as formidable as any in the AL despite the lack of a true strikeout RP.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: The shortened season could work against the bullpen just as easily, seeing a plethora of options for Ricky to go to but none with enough trust or ability to translate leads into wins. Bummer sees a slight regression, but so does Colome. Herrera does not bounce back in year two, Fulmer/Fry/Ruiz/Cordero stall in place and Gio and Rodon translate terribly to shorter outings. An arm or two from the minors show out, maybe 1-2 of Zack Burdi, Tyler Johnson, Matt Foster or Codi Heuer to be precise, but that’s the silver lining in a frustrating, disjointed campaign out of mostly underperforming pen.

Colome hits FA on a sour note, Bummer makes people (stupidly) question his extension and the 2020 offseason becomes a quest to fix the relief problem. The biggest talking point out of the pen remains Jimmy Cordero’s arms vs. his jersey sleeves.

BAH GAWD, THAT’S (THE BULLPEN)’S MUSIC: The 2020 season will be a success if it’s simply played at this point, IMHO. The White Sox 2020 bullpen will be a success if the BIG FOUR can be passable to above average on a nightly basis, Rodon comes back firing in small sample sizes and at least one of the bottom four/minor league four turn in a 0.1 WAR or above season.

IF we have baseball in 2020, pitching is going to be paramount to success. There will be a ton of variables and I think many can agree that pitching is going to be harder to re-ramp up and succeed at than hitting. A solid Sox pen could be the real difference to a positive springboard off a short season into the 2021 and beyond contention era.

Baseball

September 5th, 2018. A day that will live in infamy, as it was the last major league start where Michael Kopech took the bump for the White Sox. He only lasted 3-1/3rd innings in a game beset by weather delays. The whole start Kopech just didn’t look right. His velocity was down, and none of his stuff was dancing like we’d seen during his first couple starts. After the game came the news he was going for a scan on his pitching arm, and all of us Sox fans knew in our hearts what that was going to lead to.

Two weeks later he underwent successful Tommy John surgery, putting the final nail in the Shit Coffin that was the Sox 2018 season. It wasn’t so much that he was lost for the rest of 2018, that turd was flushed long before he ever came up from the minors. It was more that he was the only bright spot that year. A reminder to the loyal that while this season may suck, it sucks for a REASON. A brighter future awaits next year. Then in a puff of smoke and 6 hours of elbow surgery that brighter 2019 we dreamed of was gone like a hanging Ross Detwiler curve.

Every five days last season I wondered “man, how different would this game have been if it was Kopech starting instead of Dylan Covey-Detwiler-Despaigne?” How much closer to .500 would they have been if Kopech had been firing 99 mph fastballs and punching out chumps instead of us watching yet another Dylan Covey “sinkerball” penetrate the stratosphere with a 300 mph exit velocity? Now, with the 2020 season (eventually) here, (hopefully) we get to see what kind of devastation a bionic Michael Kopech can unleash upon the league.

 

2018 Stats (AAA Charlotte)

Games Started: 24

7 Wins and 7 Losses

3.70 ERA   1.27 WHIP

170 K  60 BB  9 HR

12.11 K/9 Innings  4.27 BB/9 Innings

3.30 FIP

 

Last Week On Nitro: Since Kopech only started 5 games at the major league level in 2018 (and I’m assuming at least a few of those were with his UCL in tatters) I decided to eschew the normal stats and post what he did at AAA Charlotte in 2018. A few of those things jump out at you, the obvious one being the 170 strikeouts in 120 innings for a 12.11 K/9. That strikeout level is cartoonishly awesome, and I have a hard time getting stats like that playing on rookie level in The Show on PS4 (gamertag Ahota88, come at me) (Actually don’t, I’m not very good at all). For comparison his 12.11 K/9 would’ve tied for 4th in the league last year with Justin Verlander. Granted, those stats came against minor leaguers but hitting stats in AAA have been crazy inflated for the past few years since they switched to the plutonium ball, so it’s not totally dismissive.

The other thing that stands out is the 4.27 walks per nine innings. That’s…not great. It would’ve landed him 3rd from the bottom in all qualified starters last year. Looking a little closer, a majority of those walks came in the first two months of the season where (if you’ll remember, and it was 2018 so I’ll forgive you if you don’t) he was famously struggling with his command. Once the calendar flipped to July, he found his command and never looked back. Up through June, he walked 52 batters and then from July through the end of August when he was called up he only walked 8 in 8 starts. That’s WAAAAY more what we would want to see command wise. I’d also point out that despite the crazy high walk rate, his WHIP was only 1.27 and that’s with getting sub par defense behind him as evident by his 3.30 FIP! If he would’ve kept the walk rate that he had in the last few months of his time in AAA his WHIP would’ve been close to 1, which is pretty bananas.

After his stint skull-punching his way through AAA rosters, he finally got the call from Rick Hahn to the big league team on August 21st against the Twins. In what would become an ongoing theme for his short time in the majors, rain cut that start short. In that brief glimpse, however, we saw more of the same stuff he displayed down in AAA with his fastball touching 99 mph and his slider diving away from right handed hitters. He struck out 4 in 3 and 1/3rd innings, and looked every bit the top prospect arm he was billed as. Sadly for us, a little over a month later he was done and we’ve barely seen him since. Before the league shut down due to the pandemic, he logged a single inning down in spring training. In that single inning, he threw 11 pitches, 4 of which were clocked at over 100 mph. *shocked face emoji*

 

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Kopech this year? Honestly at this point it will completely depend on how long we are without baseball. I’m sure he’s back home right now throwing into a net or something but if the season was normal the Sox were not planning on having him with the big league team until May at the earliest. If the league starts play at some point in June the possibility exists that he’s on the “opening day” roster as the Sox 6th starter.

If that’s the case, then the best scenario for him is probably 10 starts or so over the course of the shortened season, with 75-90 strikeouts and a 3.10 ERA.  The possibility exists for him to log more innings than that, given Gio Gonzalez’ recent injury history and need for maintenance days. Really, though, as long as he can stay healthy and take the ball every 6 days or so I will consider the 2020 season a win for Michael Kopech and the White Sox.

 

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Absolute worst case scenario for the Sox here is an injury filled return for Kopech, and he ends up as the White Sox version of Brent Honeywell: infinite talent, but infinite injury. The other issue here is the original Tommy John surgery itself. Pitchers on average are about 78% successful at returning to peak form after a TJ surgery, which while very high, still leaves the possibility that he comes back not as he was.

In this scenario, he’s forced to completely overhaul his approach to challenging hitters. This brings to mind John Danks after his shoulder surgery, and that may have set back Jerry Reinsdorf’s willingness to pay for a pitcher back about a decade. If this were to happen, he goes from a potential ace to maybe a 5th starter or more likely a long reliever. This would make us all very sad, as I don’t want anything other than Kopech destroying the world with 100 mph fastballs.

 

Bah Gawd That’s Kopech’s Music!: If the season starts at some point in June, the odds are either Kopech starts in the bullpen to stretch him out or Ricky Renteria gets with the times and provides him with an opener. In both these scenarios there is no reason not to let him off the chain and have him throw smoke right out of the gate. I would think the Sox are going to try and get him close to 100 innings in a shortened season. A 3.90 ERA with over 100 strikeouts would be acceptable in this situation as long as his velocity and movement is still close to where it was.

In reality, just getting to watch Kopech on the mound again for the first time in almost 20+ months will be enough to put a smile on most Sox fans faces. Shortening the season by a few months and having him ready to go for a late opening day could be the only side benefit of having this awful pandemic sweeping the world. Hopefully we will see him sooner rather than later, and all of you are safe and healthy out there. Cheers!

Baseball

Though he is technically listed here the Sox #4 starter in their 2020 rotation, the reality is the front office (and us as blog writers and fans) see Dylan Cease as at least the #3 starter of this team going forward. If that’s going to happen, however, there are a few things that need to happen both with his delivery and the results associated with them. While there were a few bright spots and moments of dominance for Dylan Cease in 2019, there were also times when his command disappeared for long stretches, leaving his fastball very hittable.

If Cease is to take over the 3 spot in the rotation, the year to state his case (hopefully) is this one. He’s been working in the off-season with Lucas Giolito to hone the control of his fastball (which worked wonders for Giolito this past year), and now has a new weapon behind the plate in Yasmani Grandal which should snag him a few more strikes each start. Honestly the more I write about the pitching staff, my level of happiness with the Grandal signing goes up. Will it be enough to break Dylan Cease out this year? Let’s take a peek.

 

2019 Stats

14 starts  73 innings

4-7 Record

5.79 ERA  5.19 FIP

9.99 K/9   4.32 BB/9  1.55 WHIP

45.7% GB-rate  68.1 LOB%  21.4% HR/FB

128 ERA-  0.7 fWAR

 

Last Week On Nitro: Man, those are some unsightly numbers, aren’t they? Looking at those, you’d think that 2019 was a total bust for Dylan Cease and that all hope was lost, right? WELL FUCK THAT SHIT. Granted, 2019 was definitely not the season that Cease was hoping for when he was called up to start on the 3rd of July. Sox fans hoping for some early fireworks were sort of let down. He went 5 innings, giving up 3 earned runs while striking out 6 and got the win so all good! Except he also walked 4 guys and hit two of them. The start was also against the Tigers, which is basically the baseball version of the Red Wings.

His next 4 starts were all losses, with him never giving up less than 4 runs and him only making it out of the 6th inning once. He got back in the win column again almost a month later (against the Tigers) but was still having issues with his control. Then came the start against the Rangers on August 23rd, and we all got a taste of why Dylan Cease was so highly regarded as he was. The first inning was more of the same, 32 pitches and a 3 run bomb by Willie Calhoun off a fastball that just spun at the top of the zone instead of slicing out of it.

Sox fans had seen this show plenty up till this point, but Cease flipped the script. Those 3 runs were all he was giving, and suddenly the fastballs were unhittable and the curveballs were dropping out of the bottom of the zone. The Rangers had no answers for him, and the Sox bats came alive and reminded Lance Lynn that he was, in fact, Lance fucking Lynn by dropping 7 on his head. Cease struck out 9 and only walked 1 in 5 dazzling innings after the first clunker.

One inning per start seems to be the one that prevented Cease from achieving a solid rookie year in the bigs. One inning where his command abandoned him, and his fastball failed him and his curveball hung there, waiting to be pummeled. The rest of the year was consistently inconsistent. Cease followed up his gem against the Rangers by getting tuned up by the Twins for 8 runs. Then he went 7 against the Tribe while striking out 11. The last 3 starts of the year were positive steps, as he only gave up 1 in each of them, leading us to wonder which Dylan Cease will show up this year?

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Dylan Cease is he becomes Lucas Giolito Redux and breaks out this year in a ginormous way. If he’s able to control his fastball at the top of the zone, there aren’t too many hitters outside of Aaron Judge and Mike Trout who have the bat speed and eyes to catch up to it. Combine that with his spike curveball which, according to Statcast, has the 5th nastiest movement in all of MLB. Seriously, just look at this big bowl of filth.

Throw all those things together and you get a recipe for a big ole Breakout Pie. In what will (in theory) be a shortened season there is hope that Cease can K around 100 hitters and keep his ERA a respectable 3.70. He also won’t have any innings limits, so Renteria can feel free to let him off the chain. More importantly, he learns to avoid the Big Inning and is able to go deeper into games, averaging around 6+ innings per start. That’s a hell of a number 2-3 starter for a team with contention aspirations.

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Worse case scenario here is he actually stays the same as 2019. The Big Inning continues to plague him, he can’t get out of the 5th inning and each start proves that instead of a number 2 starter, his ceiling is actually that of a number 5. Without that bullet in the chamber, the Sox are forced to rely on Carlos Rodon coming back healthy to round out the rotation.

Instead of having a glut of starters and potential trade pieces down the road the Sox are left with merely 5 starters, two of which are coming back off of major elbow surgery. I don’t believe this is going to happen, as the Cease we saw against the Rangers and the Indians is far closer to the one we will get than the guy who got the tar pounded outta him by the Twins. You can’t discount the possibility, though.

Bah Gawd, That’s Dylan’s Music!: I think once Dylan Cease is able to take the mound this season we will all see an improvement over his inconsistencies of last year. The Big Inning will not totally disappear but the 2nd half of his season will be a little closer to what we see. There will still be burps and hiccups where he’s not able to get out of the 4th inning, but he’ll be going deeper and deeper into games the more he pitches. A 4.15 ERA with (more importantly) a 1.21 WHIP is not out of the question, with an increase in his K/9 to 10.55 and a decrease in his BB/9 (which at 4.5 last year wouldn’t take much to be considered an improvement) down to 3.30.

He’s going to be helped quite a bit by Yasmani Grandal, but hindered as well by the defense behind him. The other thing to remember is this is a kid who has all of half a season under his belt, so inconsistencies aren’t surprising in the slightest. All told, this second step in his career as a starter will be considered a success, with his status as number 3 starter of the future cemented. A 40+ home run left fielder and a number 3 starter with upside, all for Jose Quintana. Rick Hahn gets a gold star for this one, as the future continues to be bright for the Sox. Now if we could just have some baseball to look forward to…

 

Baseball

Now we come to (at least statistically speaking) the #3 spot in the Sox rotation and the 4th most exciting off-season signing: Gio Gonzalez. Part of me wonders whether he will ever actually take the mound for the Sox, considering this is technically his 3rd go around with the team and he’s yet to throw a single pitch for them.

The Sox drafted Gonzalez 38th overall in the 2004 draft with a supplemental pick from the Yankees. He lasted in the system a whole year before the Sox sent him to the Phillies for Jim Thome, then got him back from the Phillies with Gavin Floyd in 2006 when they sent the corpse of Freddy Garcia out East. He made it to the AAA level before Kenny Williams in his infinite wisdom sent Gonzalez out to Oakland for the human knock knock joke known as Nick Swisher (vomit emoji). Once he finally made the bigs he carved out a nice career for himself as the 3rd starter for both Oakland and the Nats, averaging around 165 innings a year and about 180ish strikeouts. He ended up with the Brewers in 2018 and spent the better part of 2 seasons there as their 4th-ish starter.

Gonzalez has always been a very solid strike thrower in his career, but recently he’s had some trouble staying on the mound. Last season Craig Counsell and the Brew Crew were able to manage his innings pretty well (mostly because their bullpen was fucking nails), but will the Sox have the same luck? Let’s dive in.

 

2019 Stats

Games Started: 17

Record: 3-2

3.50 ERA 1.29 WHIP

78 K  37 BB  9 HR

8.04 K/9  4.04 FIP

 

Last Week On Nitro: The first thing that jumps out at you looking at Gonzalez’ stat line from last season is…there’s not much of it. 17 starts? 3 Wins? Only 78 Ks? What did the Sox pay for? Well (at least this time) the stats don’t tell the whole story. Gio didn’t start a game for the Brewers until the last week of April (which if that happened this year it would be a blessing, but I digress), and then missed pretty much all of June and July with a dead arm. He came back off the DL on the 20th of July, and surprisingly rounded back into formpretty

When he was on the mound last year he very rarely pitched more than 5 innings, with his longest outing coming on July 26th against the Cubs (a whopping 6.1 innings). Most of this is due to what was mentioned above, namely the fact that he wasn’t needed after the 5th inning thanks to the Brewers bullpen being such an unholy terror. Combine that with Craig Counsell’s (correct) thinking that the best way to get the most out of Gonzalez was to manage his innings, especially coming off something called “dead arm” and you can see why his numbers are so far off his career averages.

When he was on the mound, Gio was pretty effective. His 4 seamer could still occasionally touch 92, combined with the movement on his 2 seam fastball and curveball still got the swinging strikes. Oh, and his changeup against righties wasn’t too shabby either.

I don’t care what anyone says, those Brewers unis are hot fire.

The knock on Gonzalez has always been his occasional bouts of wildness, which last year’s 3.81 BB/9 stat showed pretty clearly. He also saw a jump in his HR/9 which was the 2nd highest in his career in 2019. All told, however, he was a pretty valuable piece to the puzzle for the Brewers last year and by then end of the 2020 season he should hopefully be slotted where he belongs in the Sox rotation at #5.

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case for Gio Gonzalez in a Sox uniform is he dials the clock back a few years to when he was averaging around 170 strikouts per year with an ERA in the mid 3’s and a FIP to match. If this version of Gonzalez shows up, the $5 million the Sox committed to him this year will look like a steal. Doubly so if Michael Kopech comes back hurling holy fire upon his enemies and Rick Renteria can manage his (Gio’s) innings appropriately.

If the season doesn’t start until mid June (which right now is looking hopeful at best), Gonzalez can come out firing his best bullets since his workload will have been managed indirectly by the Pandemic. A 3.50 ERA and 99 Ks in half a season from the Sox 5.5th starter will be nothing short of a win for Rick Hahn and have the Sox in the position they need to be rotation-wise to contend for the AL Central.

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Worst case scenario here is one of two things: Gonzalez can’t stay healthy, forcing the Sox back into a “5th starter by committee” role resulting in a loss every 5th day, or his tendency for wildness and change in parks does him in with the long ball.

Playing in Miller Park isn’t exactly like Pac Bell (or whatever the hell it’s called now) in San Fran, but as far as suppressing home runs it’s a darn sight better than The Down Arrow can be on a hot, windy summer day. If Gonzalez can’t find the strike zone and becomes predictable (and the ball is still made with a yellow cake uranium core) you better hold tight to your helmet nachos on the Fan Deck.

In this scenario you’re looking at a 5+ ERA, and most likely getting waived by the short season equivalent of the all star break. Or even worse, the Sox just say fuck it and roll with that sadness in the rotation, figuring Outbreak 2020 isn’t their year.

Bah Gawd That’s Gio’s Music!: What do I think will really happen with his stats this year? I think his FIP for last season (4.04) is a nice clue. Gio pitching with the Brew Crew’s defense behind him and backed up by that bullpen helped him suppress some of his worse tendencies. The Sox D isn’t going to be so kind, and the Sox bullpen probably won’t be that level of awesome (though I am excited to see what they can do, as I’m calling a big bounce back year for Kelvin Herrera).

I think a 4.15 ERA with 97 strikeouts, 33 walks and a 8-8 record would be completely acceptable for the White Sox, and would be right in line with what they’re looking for out of the 5th starter’s role. If they can get 5 innings out of him each start like the Brewers were able to, I think Rick Renteria and Don Cooper will be pretty satisfied.

All’s I know is I won’t believe he’s actually on the team until I see him throw out that first pitch, otherwise I’ll just be waiting for the notification on my phone that they traded him to Philly again.

 

 

 

Baseball

Now to the consensus #2 starter in the rotation and the Sox second biggest free agent signing of the winter, Dallas Keuchel. 2019 was not the highpoint of Keuchel’s career, nor was it the lowest. He spent the first 3rd of the season on the sidelines, waiting for a suitor for his services after not getting any good offers during the winter (mostly due to the compensatory pick associated with his free agent status.)

Once the Braves finally came calling in June after the cost of the pick expired he signed a one year deal with them worth approximately 21 million. He finally took the mound for them on the 21st of June, and went 8-8 the rest of the way with a bunch of unspectacular but solid numbers. While he’s not the same guy who won the Cy Young with the Trashstros back in 2015 he’s still a valuable pitcher who can keep the ball on the ground and out of the bullpen. Can the Sox take advantage of his specialty? Let’s take a look.

 

2019 Stats

Games Started: 19

8 Wins and 8 Losses

3.75 ERA   1.367 WHIP

91 Ks  40 BB  16 HR

7.3 K/9 Innings  4.72 FIP

0.8 WAR

 

Last Week On Nitro: 2019 was a weird year for Dallas Keuchel. For the entire off-season he sat on the sidelines watching pitchers with far worse pedigrees than him get signed to deals that most would consider beneath his level. A majority of industry folks assumed that this was due to the compensatory draft pick that a team would be required to cough up were they to sign Keuchel to a deal. So he was forced to wait until the pick associated with him dropped off at the beginning of June, and on the other side of that line the Braves were patiently waiting.

It was kind of an odd fit at first look, as the Braves boast what might be the deepest glut of young pitching possibly in the entirety of MLB. Much of that pitching is untested, and the Braves felt that having an excellent veteran like Keuchel in the locker room could help shorten the incubation time on some of those arms considerably. So Keuchel signed with the Braves for $21 mildo (pro-rated for the half season he actually pitched, the total came to just over 13 million actually paid out) and spent a few weeks in AAA before joining the big club at the end of June.

Over the season he went a solid 8-8 with a respectable 3.75 ERA, but the 4.72 FIP behind those numbers shows a lot of batted ball luck, and quite a bit of excellent defense behind him suppressing that ERA. As Fangraphs takes FIP instead of ERA when calculating WAR, his FIP is the biggest reason why he was only worth 0.8 in their eyes. He pitched in 2 postseason games and ended with a no decision in both starts, giving up 4 runs in 9 innings combined.

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Dallas Keuchel would be for him to find the groove with his sinker again and the Sox infield behind him continue to improve on their minimal gains from last season. For someone like Keuchel who is neither a fireballer (his 4-seamer tops out at about 92 MPH) nor a strikeout pitcher, his pitch to contact style generates a TON of ground balls. Out of the last 5 seasons, he’s second in all starters for ground ball percentage with 59.2%. Only Marcus Stroman has a higher GB% and it was a whopping .3% higher than Keuchel’s.

So for Keuchel to have the kind of success he enjoyed with the Astros, the defense behind him has to be ready to field. Having Nick Madrigal come up at some point (though with the plague we’re all currently dealing with, who knows if/when that will happen) would definitely help as he and Moncada would both be plus defenders behind him. Tim Anderson‘s continued improvement would go MILES to helping Keuchel’s ERA stay below 4. Anderson has been quoted as saying he’s been working hard on his defense this winter. Hopefully that’s true, as with Keuchel on the mound he’s going to see a lot of action.

I would consider the following stat line for Keuchel to be a complete success:

12 wins 9 losses/3.45 ERA/1.18 WHIP/155 K/44BB/3.99 FIP

 

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Conversely, the worst case scenario for Keuchel is twofold: the Sox defense behind him gets worse, resulting in a ton of unearned runs, and his sinker stops sinking and he becomes an infinitely more expensive version of Dylan Covey. Because when you have a sinkerballer who throws that pitch more than 70% of the time and it doesn’t sink that’s exactly what you get. A whole shitload of balls leave the yard at a very high rate of speed and frequency.

At that point the Sox have to hope that Gio Gonzalez is able to pick up more of the slack, adding a bunch of unnecessary innings to his plate. This causes his pitching arm to go dead in July, forcing Kopech into the rotation much sooner than everyone hoped. This causes more damage to his elbow and he turns into the Sox version of Brent Honeywell: all promise and zero ligaments. Or we all get COVID-19 and the season is canceled, which would fucking suck too.

 

Bah Gawd That’s Keuchel’s Music!: In reality I think we can probably expect a slightly better version of Dallas Keuchel than the Braves got last season. A 3.65 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and 10-7 record with a 4.10 FIP seems about right. He’s going to have a little trouble with the long ball, especially since it looks like the league won’t fire up until late May at least. That removes the cold weather factor, which usually suppresses home runs during the first month of the season. Plus pitching at the down arrow naturally inflates HR totals due to it’s tiny confines and the heat from the Dan Ryan, which causes air (and baseballs) to rise to the heavens.

All in all the Sox have themselves a solid #3 or 4 starter locked in for the forseeable future, which with the glut of young arms (Cease, Kopech, Dunning, Lopez etc) and one returning high draft pick in Rodon, is exactly what this team needs. Someone to keep the ball on the ground, eat innings, and give the bullpen a rest for the days when the young guys lose command of their fastball and they have to leap to the rescue. All for the low, low price of 18 million per year. Good work if you can find it.

 

Stay healthy out there everybody.

Baseball

With the position players all wrapped up, we come to the spot on the diamond that will matter the most to the playoff hopes of the White Sox, the pitcher’s mound. From where things stand offensively for the Sox with additions made in the off-season, run production is not going to be an issue for the team moving forward. If the Sox truly have deigns of making the playoffs it’s the pitching rotation that’s going to have to step up and mow some people down.

Since we’ve gone all in with the pro wrestling analogies so far, we may as well keep it going. Every good faction in wrestling needs a leader. Evolution had HHH. DX had Shawn Michaels, and the nWo had Kevin Nash. I guess that makes Lucas Giolito the Kevin Nash of the White Sox rotation.

 

2019 Stats

Games Started: 29

14 Wins 9 Losses

3.41 ERA 1.064 WHIP

228 Ks 56 BB 24 HR

11.62 K/9 3.43 FIP

5.1 WAR

 

Last Week On Nitro: 2019 for Lucas Giolito was an amazing leap forward from his status in 2018 as “World’s Worst Starting Pitcher” (at least according to Fangraphs) to “Top 10 Starter In MLB Worthy of Cy Young Votes” (Also according to Fangraphs). He bettered his stats from the previous year in every meaningful category, but none more impressive than his K/9 rate, which jumped from 6.49 to 11.62. Giolito credits this jump to work he did in the previous off-season to completely overhaul his mechanics and delivery to give his fastball more movement and allow more pinpoint accuracy at the top of the strike zone.

The results were nothing less than phenomenal, as his 5.1 WAR was second on the team only to Yoan Moncada‘s 5.7 tally. The stats could’ve been even better, but a lat strain caused him to be shut down early and miss his final 3 starts of the year (2 of which would’ve been against the moribund Tigers offense). That likely cost him a few AL Cy Young votes, but ultimately his progress in 2019 is far more important than any award and he’s cemented as the White Sox ace for the next 5 years unless a resurgent Michael Kopech takes it from him.

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Lucas Giolito this season is he continues his upward rise towards the top of the American League pitching lists. He’s able to stay healthy, and avoid the post All Star break slump that ended up costing him about a half point of ERA in 2019. He breaks the 275 K plateau, bumping up his WAR for the season to above 6, making him the first Sox player to crack that ceiling since Mark Buherle almost did it in 2005 with a 5.9 season. He also finishes top 3 in AL Cy Young votes, and secures his 2nd All Star Game appearance.

If his delivery arm slot holds up and he’s able to replicate the successes of last season, I’m certain Rick Hahn will reach out to Giolito’s camp and begin discussions for a contract extension. While I don’t think the deal would end up nearly as team friendly as the one signed by Chris Sale back in 2013, there would still be value for both sides of the aisle by having the team buy out his remaining arbitration years. Keeping Giolito in a Sox jersey for as long as possible would reduce the sting of being forced to send the team’s previous young ace away.

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Worst case scenario for Lucas Giolito has already happened, and it was called the entire 2018 season. I’ll throw up his stats from that godawful year as a comparison to the 2019 ones above:

Lucas Giolito 2018 Statline

Games Started: 32

10 Wins 13 Losses

6.13 ERA 1.48 WHIP

120 K 90 BB 27 HR

6.49 K/9 5.56 FIP

Just looking at those numbers sends a cold shiver down my spine. Having personally watched multiple Giolito starts in 2018, I can say those numbers were all very well deserved. Thankfully, Giolito’s underlying numbers last season supports his turnaround as being genuine. He actually had worse batted ball luck in 2019, based on his .273 vs .268 BABIP numbers. While nothing is impossible, I certainly would bet on the 2019 Lucas Giolito showing up this year as opposed to the 2018 version.

The other thing that could derail his season would be injuries, but seeing as though he’s already had Tommy John surgery the odds of that recurrence would be pretty low. Other than that, he’s been pretty durable throughout his career with the last few weeks of September being the only extended time missed. Fingers crossed this trend continues.

Bah Gawd That’s Giolito’s Music!: This season is going to be more of the same for Lucas Giolito. I would fully expect any innings restraints to be off him, so barring any major time missed for injury I would think he’d eclipse the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career.

Adding in the new high in innings would also give him the chance to blow past the 250 strikeout line, which when factoring in the framing skills of Yasmani Grandal seems all the more likely (I also feel like I’m going to be talking about Grandal a lot during the pitching portion of the previews, in a very good way).

My final stat line for Giolito looks something like this:

17 w 8 L/3.32 ERA/1.14 WHIP/266K/64 BB/25 HR/3.38 FIP/6.1 WAR

Home runs are always going to be an issue for pitchers who ride the top of the zone like Lucas does, aided and abetted by the bandbox nature of The Down Arrow. As long as he can keep those under 30, I see no reason for a huge jump in any of his peripheral stats. The defense behind him could definitely be an issue, as outside of Luis Robert in center field there isn’t much in the way of plus defenders there until Nick Madrigal makes his triumphant entrance at second base.

With some reinforcements coming in behind Lucas in the rotation, this season looks like it could be the sequel to his triumphant coming out party in 2019. Strap in, everybody. Looks like it’s gonna be a fun year of baseball on the South Side.

 

Everything Else

We’ve reached the end of the position player portion of these previews and let me thank you, dear reader, for coming this far. The following list will include a few guys that might never see an at bat with the big club, but dang it the MLB added an extra roster spot and I wanna write about THE YERMINATOR. The 2020 team may finally resemble an actual Major League Baseball™ club, which means that guys like Adam Engel and Danny Mendick won’t need to try and make you stop hating them because they were forced into more playing time than they should’ve ever had. No, we finally get to see them in roles that they’re suited for, supplementing the roster, playing every few days and dare I say…maybe excelling at it???

Adam Engel

2019 Stats

.242/.304/.383, 6 HR 26 RBI 26 R

.296 wOBA 84 wRC+, 0.8 WAR +2 DRS 

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: Engel found his way into 89 contests last year and posted a mildly respectable 84 wRC+ in his 248 part-time at bats. He found himself part of a five-six headed OF monster as the Sox churned through Him, Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell to fill space and eat time until they would employ real MLB players in their positions with Engel pacing the field (not that there was much of a bar). His real value was realized, as always, in the field where he was one of few Sox to actually SAVE runs in 2019.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: So as I stated above, Engel should finally be in the role that best suits him – fourth outfielder. His defense in the OF is still the best on the team until Luis Robert proves it otherwise. He should not eclipse 75 at bats. He will see plenty of time as the late inning replacement for one of the corners, and for my money it’s Nomar Mazara being lifted. Maybe he’ll get some pinch running chances too and can boost his lackluster three SB from 2019. The only way Engel hurts the team is if he’s forced into another 250+ ABs somehow, and with Garcia the real super utility on the team I don’t see how that’s possible.

Danny Mendick

2019 Stats (AAA)

.279/.368/.444, 17 HR 64 RBI 75 R

.355 wOBA 109 wRC+, 0.2 WAR

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: Mendick put together a very fine season at Charlotte, earning himself a September call up and 40 plate appearances with the big club. The audition was successful enough to keep him on the 40-man and in the conversation for a bench spot, something that became a near lock when the team decided to non-tender all-around great human/fan and clubhouse favorite Yolmer Sanchez. Danny showed a keen batting eye, with a very respectable 66:96 K:BB ratio while displaying decent power in a .166 ISO. He’s also versatile in the field, capable of manning any INF position and doing it well (+1 DRS combined at 2B/SS/3B).

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: Mendick is in a slightly different position than Engel in that he could see more playing time early, especially if the highly touted Nick Madrigal struggles to open the year. The way this Spring is going, no one has staked their claim on the 2B job and that means Mads is likely ticketed for Charlotte until May. Mendick will see more opportunities early since his main competition at 2B is Leury Garcia, and he’ll be spelling Robert/Mazara more than I think many want to believe. Mendick could keep Madrigal down for longer than anticipated with a hot start and some of that power he displayed in 2019; he could also see himself demoted to spelling Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson very infrequently if he’s terrible and Madrigal earns a promotion sooner than anticipated or Leury take the gig in full.

Yermin Mercedes

2019 Stats (AAA)

.317/.388/.581

23 HR 80 RBI 54 R, 153(!!!) wRC+

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: The Yerminator burst into Sox fans hearts with his towering moon shots straight out of BB&T Stadium in Charlotte. Mercedes has worked his way from the AAA phase of the 2017 Rule 5 draft into the conversation for a roster spot in Chicago via his ability to absolutely destroy pitches, something he’s never really struggled to do. The issue is that our pal Yermin here hasn’t really had a position to call home on the diamond, though Rick Hahn and Co. will tell you he’s REALLY worked on his receiving and if a totally capable backstop. Yermin himself would tell you he can handle 3B, too, but Yoan needn’t break out a different glove. If Yermin did enough in 2019 to secure a roster spot it’s to pinch hit and be the emergency catcher.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: Yermin finds glory in 2020 simply by making this team. Zack Collins is what he is and that isn’t changing IMO, but he’s wasted without regular playing time so he’s headed to Charlotte leaving Mercedes in pole position for the newly minted 26th spot. Say he clubs 8-10 dingers in 70ish at bats, a few of which come as walk offs and Yermin reaches Sox legend status. I don’t really see a scenario in which this goes south; he’s either good enough to make the team or he’s back putting on a show for the Knights faithful in AAA.

Nicky Delmonico

[FILE NOT FOUND 404]

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: Ol’ Nicky D would like for you to believe 2019 did not happen. He labored through an atrocious stretch to open the year in Chicago that lasted just 21 games, got demoted to Charlotte for another 17 forgettable contests and finally called mercy and had shoulder surgery before being released in June. The Sox brought their familiar face back on a minor league deal in December and have seen him work hard in Spring to throw his hat in the ring for that final 26th man spot.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: Keeping with the theme here, simply finding his way onto the MLB roster would be the top of the mountain for Delmonico. Returning to the MLB after the disastrous year and a half he spent with the Sox that preceded this Spring is enough, and he’d simply be asked to spell an OF here or there, maybe pinch hit a time or two. You fucked up if you’re actively rooting against him for some reason. Get a life.

PALKAMANIA

LOL, if Palka is somehow on this team, we’re all gonna be so fucking sad at what became of the 202o season that I’m not even going to entertain the idea of writing about it. He’ll always have #fromthe108 from 2018, I guess.

Prediction: Mengel will make up the main bench spots behind James McCann and Leury and I’m going to go ahead and anoint Yermin Mercedes the first ever White Sox 26th man. He can catch in a pinch, he can flat out hit, and he’s an absolute unit. TOUCH ‘EM ALL, YERMINATOR!

(Feature Photo credit to @zsoxwood)

Everything Else

Continuing our trip trough the outfield, we now come to the most exciting White Sox prospect since, well, last year in the form of Luis Robert. Although, with all due respect to Eloy Jimenez who is universally loved by myself and all Sox fans with a right mind, Robert represents much more hope and potential than Eloy did at this time last year. Similar to Yoan Moncada, the growth and play of Robert is going to be the true key to the White Sox reaching their goal of winning a championship, be that in 2020 (however unlikely that may be) or in the future.

2019 MiLB Stats

.328/.376/.624, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 32 SB

5.1 BB%, 23.4 K%

.396 wOBA, 136 wRC+ in AAA (29 games)

4 Total Errors across all levels

Last Week on Nitro: Robert basically became a real life video game character in 2019 posting just stupidly good numbers at every single stop he made in the minors. As a 21-year-old repeating High-A, he was a pitcher’s worse nightmare put up an obscene .453/.512/.920 slash line with a 305 wRC+ (!!!!!!!!!) in 19 games there to start the year. None of that was a typo. Go back and re-read it. Okay, now catch your breath, because it doesn’t exactly get less impressive. In AA at Regents Park (the one that suppresses offense) he slashed .314/.362/.518 with a 155 wRC+, and then he moved to AAA where all he did was go .297/.341/.634 with a 136 wRC+. Ho hum.

The more Robert tore up the minors last year, the more I wrote about calling him up immediately. In the end, the Sox did not do that obviously, which we can argue about until we are blue in the face but they ultimately *sorta* made it okay by signing him to an 8-year contract extension that virtually guarantees he will be on the Opening Day roster. These contracts are basically the Sox bread-and-butter, as they’ve now done these with Robert, Eloy, Moncada, and Tim Anderson after having done it with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana which then allowed them acquire a great deal of those players. But in Robert’s case, it’s especially good because A) the Sox have their guy with “best player in the world” potential locked up for 8 years and B) we as Sox fans get to enjoy the shit out Robert’s torrid start to Spring Training (.370/.433/.603 line in 30 PA’s) without the grain of salt that he’d be starting 2020 in the minors. Robert is far from the only source of hope Sox fans have for the future of this team moving forward, but he is perhaps the greatest personification of the hope that this will finally come to fruition.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): Let’s just go full-torqued for this one, because it’s best-case scenario after all. How incredible would it be if Luis Robert just… didn’t stop hitting? Imagine this guy comes up and just posts his 2019 AAA slash line with his 2019 MiLB home run, RBI, and stolen base total? He’d be damn near a 7-win player! Fuck a Rookie of the Year, he’d be in consideration for the fuckin’ MVP. The thing about this is that it is kinda… not all that unrealistic. Okay, the 7-win player is a bit aggressive, but even for a rookie with a lot of swing and miss in his game and walk numbers that are not huge, a lot of projection systems just keep pumping out huge projections for Robert. PECOTA projected him as a 4.0 WAR player. Steamer projects him at 3.0. ZiPS has him at 2.5, but that’s with a 100 wRC+ projection as well. If he hits above league average, these projetion systems are saying his *floor* is a 3.0 win player. His ceiling is astronomical.

I am going on  a limb andthe record here – if Robert is a 4-win player or better in 2020, the White Sox are winning 90+ games. That may be a bit optimistic, but I truly believe it. This will be dependent on Eloy turning his late 2019 production into full season 2020 production, Moncada hitting the numbers I droolingly predicted he will last week, the pitching holding up, as well. Again, optimistic. But I believe these things can happen – hell, it happened for the 2015 and 2016 Cubs for the most part, if you use the proper parallels – and if they do, the Sox are gonna be fucking dangerous this year.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Firstly, I fucked up because I got vacation brain and thought that this post was supposed to go up today, but it was actually supposed to be yesterday. So, apologies, dear reader. For Robert, though, fucking up in 2020 is both unfortunately a realistic possibility and also somewhat easy to diagnose how it would go wrong. For all of his incredible traits as a hitter, Robert is just not patient. He’s aggressive almost to a fault, and that has subsequently led to some speculation on how he will translate to MLB as a rookie. The fact of the matter is that he really is just too good and too advanced as a hitter to have ever been challenged by minor league pitching.

The somewhat silver lining there is that we cannot be 100% sure if the low walk rate and hyper-aggressive approach were an all-out lack of patience or just the result of being better than any other hitter those MiLB pitchers would face. Essentially, was he just not willing to walk, or did he just decide that hitting a dinger was way more fun so he was just going to put the pitcher out of his misery? To that end, Robert has shown a good amount of discipline in spring training so far, but I also am not going to put a ton of stock in that beyond simply hoping that it will continue into the year. If he can’t show some discipline, I think we are looking at situation similar to what happened to Eloy early in 2019.

BAH GOD, THAT’S ROBERT’S MUSIC: Is it too much of a cop-out for me to say I think he splits the difference here? Normally I don’t buy into projection systems too much because, while I am a fan of using the advanced stats and analytics, I also am a “let them play the damn games” guy, but I do kinda like the Steamer projection for Robert in 2020 – .273/.318/.488 with a 111 wRC+. I am cautiously optimistic he can walk more than 5% to get that OBP up a bit, and think he will steal more than Steamer’s projection of 22 bases to bring the wRC+ up, but overall I think that is a solid prediction for Robert this year, so I will just go with that. More generally, I think he will be in the realm of .270/.330/.500, which really would be an amazing rookie season, in my opinion. Although don’t rule out the whole 7-win player thing either, cuz it could happen. Let’s hope!