Baseball

Now we move on to the section of the diamond with approximately zero remaining starters from Spring Training. The turnover ratio in the White Sox outfield has reached a level usually reserved for Amazon warehouse employees and White House spokespeople. The dearth of injuries has provided quite a few opportunities for guys who would’ve just been role players to step up and help the team.

And then there’s Adam Eaton.

 

ADAM EATON

.201/.298/.642

9.1% BB Rate / 25.3% K rate

5 HR/ 28 RBI / 33 R

.288 wOBA / 82 wRC+ / 0.3 WAR

I only put Eaton here to highlight what an absolutely terrible signing he was to begin with. With Rick Hahn’s yearly attempt to beat out the market by being done with his free agent signings before Christmas, the Sox ended up overpaying for a player that’s produced half the value than a guy that was CUT BY THE FUCKING PIRATES. Getting DFA’ed in the opening weeks of July shows that Rick Hahn can at least admit when he’s made a mistake, but unfortunately he doesn’t learn from them as this is the 2nd year in a row he’s put a band-aid on what was a mortar wound in RF.

GRADE: F….uck off forever

 

ANDREW VAUGHN

.253/.320/.772

8.1% BB Rate / 25.0% K Rate

10 HR / 28 RBI / 36 R

.331 wOBA / 112 wRC+ / 0.9 WAR

I don’t like giving Tony LaRussa too much credit (because I don’t think he does much more than just sit there most of the time), but his handling of Andrew Vaughn this season deserves praise. You can see him developing at an exponential rate as the season progresses, and a good amount is helped by how Tony uses and shelters him in the lineup. Vaughn was already a masher of left handed pitching, but in the month of July his splits against righties has exploded. Just look at his slash line against RHP in June vs July:

June: .182/.191/.487  1HR  27 wRC+ (ouch)

July: .393/.419/1.205  3HR  219 wRC+ (holy shit)

On top of all these offensive corrections he’s making, the defense he’s playing in LF (a position he’d never played before) is slightly above league average. Which, if you think about everything else going on with him is absolutely insane. The kid is going to be a monster, and his new positional eligibility solves a lot of issues for the organization. Awesome.

GRADE: A

BILLY HAMILTON

.230/.253/.667

3.2% BB Rate / 32.3% K Rate

2 HR / 10 RBI / 16 R

.282 wOBA / 78 wRC+ / 0.4 WAR

After Eloy went down with his pec tear back in March, I wrote about potential replacements for him. When I mentioned Billy Hamilton, I basically said that if he was going to be an everyday OF for the White Sox they have bigger issues than that. Just looking at his body of work, what I said still holds true. That doesn’t mean that Billy hasn’t brought value to the Sox, it’s actually quite the opposite.

He’s had some seriously clutch hits, plays excellent defense in the OF, and is still a serious threat on the basepaths. His .253 OBP leaves something to be desired, but that’s been the case throughout his career so it’s not an outlier by any means. He’s also just a really good dude, and very fun to root for. Exactly what you want out of a bench player, and when Eloy comes back I’m hoping he sticks around. He’s the kind of unsung hero that can make memorable moments in the postseason.

GRADE: C+

ADAM ENGEL

.286/.340/.690

2.1% BB Rate / 14.9% K Rate

5 HR / 11 RBI / 10 R

.424 wOBA / 173 wRC+ / 0.7 WAR

Adam Engel has only played in 13 games thus far this season, so the stats as shown are somewhat misleading. Except for the dingers. 5 HR in 13 games (while probably unsustainable) is pretty impressive. What else is impressive is (Much like Andrew Vaughn) that Engel is starting to hit right handed pitching at a higher rate than ever before in his career. In those 13 games he’s played, he’s actually batting .333 against RHP vs .221 against LHP. 3 of his 5 dingers have come off righties as well. Again, a very small sample size…but an encouraging one.

GRADE: Incomplete

BRIAN GOODWIN

.267/.353/.864

11.7% BB Rate / 21.4% K Rate

4 HR / 15 RBI / 17 R

.370 wOBA / 137 wRC+ / 0.6 WAR

All the kudos to Rick Hahn for very clearly having Brian Goodwin on his radar even before every tendon in Luis Robert’s hips exploded like a rubber band ball being chainsawed in half. He really didn’t waste much time signing him to a deal after the Pirates (for some reason) moved on from him at the beginning of the year. Goodwin had a very good run in 2019 with the Angels with 17 home runs in 130 games, but was sent to the Reds in an off-season deal. He had less luck with them, as he was treated as a placeholder for Jessie Winker and Nick Senzel.

His time with the Sox has been successful by any metric that you want to use, but I’m most impressed with his patience at the plate. The 11.7% BB rate would be the highest of his career, and he credits his time in the minor leagues as giving him the impetus to overhaul his approach at the plate. It’s working, and the Sox are reaping the benefits. He’s a keeper for sure.

GRADE: A

LEURY GARCÍA

.263/.330/.699

9.3% BB Rate / 25.5% K Rate

3 HR / 39 RBI / 36 R

.308 wOBA / 96 wRC+ / 1.2 WAR

A lot has been asked of Leury Legend this season with the amount of injuries to Sox starters this year. He had a pretty rough start to the season, but once the calendar month began with “J” he’s come on strong. The power he showed last season really hasn’t appeared yet, but he’s getting on base at a good clip and plays at least league average defense at multiple places around the diamond. Once (hopefully) people start coming back healthy, Leury can be used where he fits best: as a day of rest for everyone on the diamond. You can’t go wrong with someone who is positionally flexible like him, and Hahn did a good job keeping him on the roster.

GRADE: B+

 

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Rained Out

Game 2: Twins 6 – White Sox 7

Game 3: Twins 3 – White Sox 13

Game 4: Twins 5 – White Sox 8

 

Josh Donaldson is a penis, and it warmed the darkest recesses of my heart to see the Sox respond to his borderline insane zoom interview/manifesto by pummeling the Twins pitching to the tune of 28 runs in 3 games. They drummed poor Matt Shoemaker all the way back to the unemployment line when Brain Genius Rocco Baldelli went Full TLR and left him out there to die in the 4th inning. It really was quite the spectacle, and I wish I could liquify it and then inject the solution directly into my brain.

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

Game 1

-Let’s get this out of the way at the start. Lucas Giolito’s spin rate was waaaaay down in this game, with his 4-seamer missing about 170 RPMs off from his previous outing. It was also a very hot and humid night, with the dewpoint well above 70. Did this have an effect on his spin rate? Probably. That being said, it bears watching going forward to see if it was a one time thing or the new norm. The one K for the night also raises my eyebrows a bit. Gonna wait and see how the next few starts go before we draw any concrete conclusions.

-On the other side of the coin, something is very wrong with Kenta Maeda’s mechanics. I don’t know if he was tipping his pitches or what, but he was supremely hittable on Tuesday night. On top of that, he had trouble finding the zone, and when he was actually in it, the Sox beat the shit out of the ball. Sucks for him, good for us.

-Gavin Sheets, hello.

-Andrew Vaughn and his googly eyes are locked in right now. He’s seeing the ball very well (duh), and most importantly making contact against right handed pitchers. We all knew he can punish lefties, but seeing that same swing against RHP now is exciting.

-Ryan Burr just keeps throwing zeros up there. Gonna need him now that Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer have joined Eloy and the rest up in Sox Heaven.

-Liam Hendriks certainly made things exciting in the 9th, but managed to work around some bad luck and lock down his 21st save of the year.

GAME 2

-LOL TWINS

-The Sox had 7 dingers total in the series and 6 of them came in this game. One of which was the first career bomb from Gavin Sheets, which went an estimated 429 feet. The only one to top that distance on the night was Yasmani Grandal, who’s 447 foot blast showed up on our radar at work:

-Dylan Cease gave up a dinger to Donaldson (of course) in the 1st, but then settled down thereafter and went a solid 6. His 3 walks pretty much guaranteed that he wasn’t going any further than that, but with the bullpen in the state that it’s in you can’t complain about a quality start.

-Garret Crochet looks like he found the heat he was missing on his fastball, striking out 2 in his inning of work and touching 98 mph in the process. Good to see.

-Jose Abreu went yard with a piss missile in the 3rd inning, but still looked out of sorts. Dude needs a week off, and I’m legit hoping he avoids the All Star Game

GAME 3

-Carlos Rodon had more nasty stuff in this game, but ran into trouble in the 5th when the D behind him went into full Benny Hill Mode. Ultimately it cost him the W, but it was all worth it to have him stare Donaldson down when he K’d him with a nasty slider. Baseball is fun.

-Billy Hamilton is back and it’s beautiful. Dude smacked a double into left center field, then stole 3rd underneath a shitty swipe by Donaldson, then scored on a sac fly from Abreu in short right center.

-All was not fun and games, however, as Yoan Moncada hurt his hand on a slide into 3rd. Team is calling it a bruised thumb, and he’s expected to miss at least the series this weekend against Detroit. Realistically they should rest him until after the all star break, but we know that won’t happen. Unless…

-Jake Burger comes up and tears a hole in the universe at 3rd base this weekend. Regardless of how the kid does in his callup, it’s an awesome story for him to come back from not one but TWO torn Achilles’ ligament tears. He’s been mashing in AAA, but the Tigers pitching has looked pretty damn good recently, so I’m excited to see how he does.

-Michael Kopech came back for an inning and looked good enough to vulture the W away from Rodon after the D fell apart in the 5th. Gonna need him.

 

Next up is a weekend series against the Tigers in Detroit, where AJ Hinch has his squad playing much better as of late. They took 2 of 3 from Houston, then swept a double header against the Tribe to take 2 of 3 from them.

Their starting rotation has been pretty lights out, so the depleted Sox lineup will have their work cut out for them. Taking out the stinker in the first game against Cleveland, they’ve only given up 10 runs in 5 games. Tarik Skubal has been dominant since his 11 strikeout performance last series against the Sox, and he slots in Saturday against Dallas Keuchel. Casey Mize takes the bump Friday against Lance Lynn, and the fireworks on Sunday feature Lucas Giolito vs the undefeated TBD.

The Sox lead is now up to 5 games over the Indians, who have a series against the Astros pending this weekend. Good chance to get that up to 7 before the next 4 against the Twins. Get it done.

Let’s Go Sox.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Twins 3 – White Sox 9

Game 2: Twins 8 – White Sox 13

Game 3: Twins 2 – White Sox 4

 

What a wonderful start to the season series against the evil that is the Minnesota Twins. On top of that, the Sox have now swept back to back division opponents and won 8 of their last 10 games in all. Despite that run, Cleveland has gone 9-1 in that same span and is still hanging around one game behind the Sox at the top of the AL Central list. On the flip side is the Twins now sit at the bottom of Shit Mountain, 10 games behind the Sox tied with the lowly Tigers.

The Sox starting pitching has been carrying the load the last few weeks as the offense begins to heat up, so it was nice to see the bats pick up the pitching when Cease and Keuchel had a bit of a stumble in the first two games of the series. The 25 runs the Sox put up boosted their run differential up to +66, good for 1st in the entire American League, with the next closest team being Houston at +45. The numbers look even more impressive when you realize that the Sox are second to last in home runs. So all these runs they’re banging out are being done against the league trend of the Three True Outcomes™ style of offense. Whether this is an adjustment to the deadened balls being trotted out, or a move to a different style of hitting with Luis Robert and Eloy on the shelf I don’t know, but it kicks all kinds of ass.

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-Pitchers of the central beware, Jose Abreu is heating up. He had a killer series, going 5-11 with 5 RBI and his first triple in 2 years. He also added a dinger on Wednesday night, making that 3 in his last 6 games. You love to see it.

-We finally had the Billy Hamilton Game on Wednesday, as he went 4-4 with his first extra base hit when he legged out a triple and nearly caught Andrew Vaughn who went 1st to home and looked like I do after playing 30 minutes of tennis. While I don’t expect to see this again, any offense Hamilton generates is a complete bonus and should be treated as such. Good for him, as he’s a pretty easy guy to like.

-Lance Lynn only went 5 innings Thursday and had to go get his hand x-rayed after a comebacker smacked into it. The x-rays were negative and he shouldn’t miss a turn in the rotation.

-Yermin is only batting .386 now, so I think we can all agree he’s a bust.

-Grandal had a very Grandal series, walking 3 times and going 2-7 with a mammoth 3 run shot in game 1. His OPS now stands at .717 with a batting average of .130 which is fucking wild.

-Ole Googly Eyed Andrew Vaughn smoked his career first home run in game 2. He’s now slashing .263/.380/.775 which is MORE than acceptable for a rookie in his first go round in the league. Especially one who thought he was probably going to be DH’ing most of the time, not filling in for Eloy in LF.

-Dylan Cease and Dallas Keuchel labored through their respective starts, though I will say that the Twins are one of the more patient teams in the league, and they forced the two of them in the zone more often than not. Keuchel in particular (outside of his start against the Reds) has looked very hittable at times. Something to keep an eye on.

-Next up is another 4 games against the tailspinning Royals, who have now lost 11 in a row after getting broomed by the Tigers this week. Kopech will be taking another turn tonight in the second game of the double header. 7 is better than 6 boys, keep it up!

Baseball

VS

 

Gametimes: Thursday 9:05 / Friday 8:38 / Saturday 8:07 / Sunday 7:37 (I don’t get it either)

TV: Thursday-Saturday NBCSN / Sunday ESPN

We Got Rocks In Our Outfield: Halos Heaven 

 

Probable Starters

Thursday: Lucas Giolito (4-3, 3.48 ERA) vs. Dylan “Al” Bundy (6-3, 3.29 ERA)

Friday: Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 1.99 ERA) vs. Andrew Heaney (4-3, 4.46 ERA)

Saturday: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (2-5, 4.30 ERA)

Sunday: Dylan Cease (5-4, 4.01 ERA) vs. Shohei Ohtani (0-1, 37.81 ERA)

 

 

After what seems like an eternity, White Sox baseball will finally return to us tonight as the boys take on Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Southern California But Not Including LA Or San Diego Really Just Disneyland And A 2 Mile Stretch Of The 405. After an off-season that featured the Sox punting on all the good toys except for the closer that is awesome but they really didn’t need, and Eloy going on the IL for attempting to rob a home run in spring training that would’ve required the Silver Surfer’s board to catch we finally get to see what the results of a 4 year rebuild gets us.

Because make no mistake, the ultimate goal for this team in 2021 is nothing short of wresting the division away from the playoff chokers to the North. Anything less than that should (and will) be deemed a failure by the fanbase and hopefully the front office. The Sox have a boatload of homegrown talent, and have spent a little money here and there to address (some) issues to fill out what should be a very fun and powerful lineup, but unless the results are there the misery of 2016-19 will all have been for naught.

Lucas Giolito will take the bump tonight against the best the Halos have to offer, which is Dylan Bundy. While on the surface that statement seems ridiculous, (much like Lance Lynn) Bundy has reinvented himself the past two seasons, dropping his ERA by almost a full point and a half since escaping from Camden Yards. Developing a new approach to attacking hitters with more of his off-speed stuff as opposed to relying on his two seamer worked wonders for Bundy last season. He was able to lower his BB/9 and raise his K rate by more than 1 each with his new approach, and his FIP of 2.92 shows that it probably wasn’t a fluke.

Sunday night will feature the return to the mound of the two-way international star Shohei Ohtani, and the Angels have been waiting quite awhile for his double debut. After being felled by Tommy John surgery back in 2018, Ohtani was able to serve as a DH during his rehab in 2019, though it clearly affected his ability to hit for power. 2020 was supposed to be his triumphant return to the mound, but it ended almost as soon as it began with a flexor strain in his forearm that took over two months to heal. Acting with an overabundance of understandable caution, the Halos shut him down completely. He’s looked pretty healthy thus far in his return to the mound in spring training, striking out 17 in 10 innings pitched. He’s also pounded out 5 dingers from the offensive side of the plate, so all eyes will be on him Sunday night to see if it’s the real deal.

As always with the Angels, however, it’s all about Mike Trout. While he’s had some competition from Mookie Betts recently for the title of Best In The World, he still hasn’t lost it yet. While having a down year (for him) in 2020, he still managed to post a 162 wRC+ rating and a 2.5 WAR season. Having Anthony Rendon and a healthy Ohtani around him should only offer more protection and opportunities to drive in runs, and the White Sox staff will be well aware of his presence in the lineup I’m sure.

As for the Sox, prized prospect Andrew Vaughn had his contract selected by the team yesterday so there will be no service time shenanigans with him. With the loss of Eloy, Vaughn is expected to see time in left field, which will basically involve him standing out there and watching Luis Robert run down anything that isn’t directly on the LF foul line. Vaughn will also fill in at DH, so we will finally get to see how those plus hit tools hold up against legit MLB pitching. He’ll be watching opening day from the bench, however, as Leury Garcia will be manning LF for game 1 against Bundy. Vaughn most likely will get a crack and Andrew Heaney on Friday night, realistically a much better matchup for his first game as a pro.

Luis Robert still has questions to answer about what version of himself was the real one last year. Was it the July and August Luis with the wRC+ of 157? Or was it the September version of himself that slashed .136/.237/.309 with one home run and a 34% strikeout rate? The athletic ability and the hit tools are all there for Luis to be the better version of himself, he just has to get better at working pitchers over to make sure he gets something he can pound. Personally, I fully expect him to rebound back to what he was at the beginning of last season and be hitting in the top half of the batting order. I have no advanced stats to back up my assertation, but hopefully I can tell you all “I told you so” in September.

The road to the playoffs for the White Sox starts tonight in Anaheim. Most betting outlets set the Over/Under for the Sox win total around 91. Were that to be the case, it would most likely be enough for the Sox to win the AL central, squeaking it out by a game or two over the Twins. Personally I feel like the 87-89 win range is more likely, setting up a showdown with Minnesota and quite possibly Cleveland as well (who’s pitching is nothing to be sneezed at and pretty much owned the Sox last season). So much hinges on the Sox not only being able to stay healthy (because of the zero depth), but Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon being able to rebound from last September. There’s a lot that has to go right for this team, but if it does….look out. It’s been 6 long months with only the dark of winter to keep us company, but now the sun is shining out and the Sox take the field tonight. Hope shines eternal, LFG.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

We open the outfield previews with the young goofball set to hit all the dingers, Eloy Jimenez. Hi Mom!

Eloy kicked off a trend of signing in the Spring so as to avoid being a victim of service time manipulation ensure a place in the starting lineup and Left Field to open the 2019 campaign. Eloy started slow, had trouble with the curve/anything breaking and seemed to be trying to hit 10-run homers the whole first month+ before injuring himself in the field (which would become his unfortunate recurring theme). Then around June something clicked and in the second half he become the baseball mashing monster we all hoped, while improving his on-base skills in the process.

Jimenez is primed for a true breakout in 2020, ready to build on his incredible final month of 2019 (1.093 OPS/184 wRC+). The Big Baby spent the offseason determined to improve his very sub-par defense and emphatically squash talk of moving to DH any time soon (“No, fuck that”).

2019 Stats

.267/.315/.513

6.0 BB% 26.6 K%

31 HR 79 RBI 69 R

.343 wOBA 114 wRC+ 1.9 WAR

-11 DRS

Last Week On Nitro: 2019 saw Jimenez open his MLB account and it was most definitely not the greatest of debuts, much to the chagrin of Sox fans. Eloy piled up ugly strikeouts and ugly routes in the outfield, telegraphing the pressure he felt as the rebuilds golden boy. Jimenez took his sweet time adjusting to Big League breaking balls, which were the bane of his existence for a good two months. These are the type of things you expect from rookie hitters, even the best of them, but the expectations were unfair and it clearly weighed on the young slugger. The good news is he was able to make adjustments and improve and excel as the season went on. He settled in, going on a tear through June after returning from his first IL stint in May to the tune of 11 HR/25 RBI in 36 games. July saw another rough stretch (and second IL trip), which coincided with the club as a whole hitting the proverbial wall, before the Big Baby compiled a strong final 50+ games to see his 2nd half numbers reach 35/15/41/.292/.328 with a 128 wRC+/.870 OPS. The overall numbers above in just 122 games make for a very encouraging overall debut, especially factoring the abysmal start.

The real sore spot for Eloy’s rookie season, literally and figuratively, was his play in LF. Sox Machine’s Jim Margalus chronicled Jimenez’s season of OF gaffes in a twitter thread and it does not disappoint in all the worst ways. To his credit, Jimenez headed to Winter Ball in the Dominican with the sole purpose of working to improve his defense and stay in the field as long as he can. The Organization seems to think he’s making progress, given that they gave a three-year extension to the aging Jose Abreu, signed Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion and still employ plenty of other DH-adjacent bats like Zack Collins. Eloy is clearly averse to the idea and he’ll get the opportunity to prove his worth for the foreseeable future. He really doesn’t have anywhere to go but up from that -11 DRS metric, one that likely cost him a top three AL ROY finish.

TOO SWEET! (WHOOP WHOOP):  Eloy flies out of the gates in March, continuing his Sept/Oct 2019 assault on American League pitching, producing something like a .365 OBP/900+ OPS and swatting over 50 HR. The work in the field shows enough improvement to keep his DRS around -3-ish or better, helping him into the conversation for AL MVP on a White Sox team that threatens to crash the October party. He starts to pull the ball in the air more to LF, he keeps the K% closer to 20-22 and improves the BB% to 8-10 and the rest of the lineup benefits because of it. I party nearly every night.

Say Eloy improves his stat line to .310/.345/.540 and that’s still a marked improvement and a force. Combine this with what would be the baseline for the likes of Abreu, Grandal, Encarnacion, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and you have a very, very dangerous lineup. Eloy could hit anywhere from the 3 hole to 7th, but ideally Ricky will spot him up somewhere and leave him so as not to mess with any improvements we’ve seen. This Spring he’s seen most of his time in the 5th spot, so we can assume that’s where he slots most of the year although you never really know with Ricky Renteria and his lineup blender.

There is some real speculation as to whether Jimenez will improve enough in the OF to get that DRS down so much, but he has put in the time and was much better later in the season (after he surely got a talking to for running himself into an elbow injury in July after karate kicking a wall earlier in they year). That and the addition of him making it a priority last Winter at least gives hope for a solid positive regression.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: The big numbers seen over the final two months were a mirage. Eloy slowly starts his season, forgetting the pitch recognition he picked up as 2019 wore on and yet again finds himself on the IL early because of a misplay in the field. He languishes through a sophomore slump, hits a paltry .240/.285/.460 and turns in an empty 25-30 HR along the way. He continues playing LF like the ungraceful elk he is while attempting to call off his CF often, who is now Luis Robert – a guy that will definitely hurt more running into that Charlie Tilson. I cry every night.

This scenario sees the fanbase and media start to question the long extension Jimenez inked in March 2019 and ponders if it’s really that great of business to dole out that kind of coin to players with no MLB ABs to their name (it still is). I do think that anything less than a slight improvement over Eloy’s final line from last season will be packaged as a disappointment from the media/fans and could hurt his mental development. This is a very tight knit core, though, one that has signed basically the entire lineup save RF for at least the next three seasons and has reinforcements in Andrew Vaughn (1B) and Nick Madrigal (2B) very close to being here for at least another six with everyone but Abreu and Grandal. Any adversity Jimenez or his teammates find will see the rest rally around them and that has to count for something.

BAH GAWD THAT’S JIMENEZ’S MUSIC!: I’m going to predict Eloy at .302/.341/.560 with 44 HR and a league leading 118 RBI. The lineup around him is vastly improved and so is his plate discipline, which leads to the breakout he’s capable of. He plays a slightly improved LF, enough so to stay out of Robert’s way and keep himself off the IL multiple times.

He could see time in a few different lineup spots, but it won’t be to his detriment as he finds cover no matter where he hits. Encarnacion dubs him his large adult son as Eloy edges him for the team lead in HRs. We all party.

 

 

Baseball

Jose Abreu and the White Sox did what we all thought they were going to do and agreed to a multi-year contract in lieu of the qualifying offer the Cuban first baseman accepted just over a week ago. With his countryman Yasmani Grandal now in the fold too, Abreu’s signing makes things more complicated than the QO reality of a few days ago.

The three-year, $50M pact was met with a mostly collective “sure. cool. whatever.” Not everyone was willing to congratulate Abreu and look ahead in what’s become a pretty active early off-season for the Sox, though. A vocal sect of media and fans are a bit sour on going to a three-year commitment with the streaky 32 year-old slugger when the team had him for one year, seemingly the preferred position from an analytical standpoint.

But this deal isn’t really about analytics, and if you can’t see the intangibles at play you’re really not even trying. Abreu and Jerry Reinsdorf apparently have a pretty great relationship, because his new paper represents the same kind of loyalty that Jerry shows his front office. Abreu has done a lot to keep the Sox relevant through the failed runs earlier in the decade and the subsequent tear down and rebuild they find themselves in at the end of it. Declining wRC+ be damned, Jerry decided he was going to welcome Jose into the family.

So is this going to be the regret that the un-silent minority thinks it is? Are the leadership and RBI binges, Cuban mentor/ambassador qualities all enough to justify the term/dollars? Is it really even that much in dollars? What does it mean for the future at first base and DH, specifically Andrew Vaughn?

First, the doom-and-gloom outlook. Yes, Abreu hasn’t been the same hitter the last two years that he was in his first four stateside. He dealt with many a nagging injury in 2018, but his 116 wRC+ across 2018-19 is more than 20 points worse than his 2014-17 average of 139. Sure, a continued decline is a possibility for a slugger on the fringes of his prime. But the underlying numbers say his 2019 wasn’t as bad as the surface suggests (highest hard-hit rate in his career, 2nd highest barrel rate) and FanGraphs Steamer projections have him at 32/89/.332 for 2020. Another addition to the lineup via RF could help improve/protect Abreu further as he ages.

The 3/$50M price looks a bit rough, again, on the surface, but I don’t need to delve further into how Abreu is the heart of this team, looked up to by many of the young players set to take the Sox to the next level. Eloy said he’s like a father. Yeah, an $18M cheerleader doesn’t look great in 2022, but the dollars here are all more complicated than they appear as well. Abreu will collect on that $50M, but he won’t see the last payment of it until 2026 with $4M in deferred money. Add to that a $5M signing bonus, and the deal is actually $11M/’20, $16M/’21, $14M/’18 for 3/$41. This could’ve definitely been worse in terms of loyalty deals, and as stated Abreu might justify this with his bat regardless.

So where does that bat fit across these next three seasons? This is where it gets interesting. The Sox don’t lack for players that will push Abreu through this deal, especially with Grandal onboard through ’23. Abreu, Grandal, James McCann, Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes look like they’re set to create a timeshare between 1B/DH/C in 2020. 2019 third overall pick Andrew Vaughn looks set to push for work with the big club by the end of 2020 but you can argue they’ve got plenty of cover to keep him in minors regardless, barring injury to at least two of those five; and even that would have to coincide with Vaughn forcing the issue in a major way with his bat. Like with Eloy, Robert, and Nick Madrigal the Sox have shown they’re willing to let the kids marinate. Maybe it’s different if they’re pushing for the playoffs, but that’s a bridge to be crossed when it approaches.

So what of the two years beyond next season? Well, while everyone wants Vaughn, or even Gavin Sheets for that matter, to force the issue we all know nothing is certain. So Vaughn can’t just be expected to be mashing in the MLB by the end of 2020. Given the track record, there are many worse options than having Abreu, with the aforementioned contingent, making up the playing time at first base. This gets real muddy if Eloy can’t stay in the field, but with reports that he’s headed to winterball this week to specifically work on his defense (“his goal is to win a Gold Glove in the MLB” says Hector Gomez) he appears seriously committed to improving that aspect of his game and staying in Left.

Basically, you can’t sort out how to deal with Abreu and his time at 1B/DH and who else is pushing for those ABs until they get there. And the Sox absolutely need him in 2020 at the very least, and at first for the most part. Easing him into more DH time helps the team solve its problems there as well, possibly to the point of moving him there full time by the end of this deal. 30 HR and a 116 wRC+ from the DH position in ’21-22 would be the best DH season Sox fans have seen in…half a decade? longer?

Rick Hahn has also been a pretty complimentary of Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes since the end of the season, going as far as to protect former AAA Rule 5 draftee Mercedes with a 40-man spot after a strong offensive season in Charlotte’s bandbox of a stadium. Collins very well could find himself in another organization if the right(fielder) fit is available via trade. I’d think they look to dangle guys like Collins, Sheets, Blake Rutherford, players they know have tough paths to real roles with this team that could help improve them elsewhere. If you’re banking of using Abreu as a bridge to Vaughn, six years of control on Collins might be better used by another team, but 2020 will also see the addition of a 26th roster spot – conceivably making room for everyone for a year, at least (whether that space is best used for a 1B/DH/C collective is probably a whole other post).

If you want to get crazy maybe Vaughn himself becomes expendable for a Mookie Betts deal, but I’d sooner expect the Bears to win the Super Bowl this season. Vaughn is a part of the plan moving forward, Abreu deal or not. Collins is the guy who just had his path to more at bats immediately affected by the signings last week. Maybe Abreu invited him to the celebration in Miami before he changes teams. It’s the least he could do for making him expendable.

Baseball Everything Else

Now that we have arrived at the MLB All-Star Break, it’s about as good a time as ever to review the list of the White Sox’ top prospects, because outside of the obvious candidates at the major league level, it’s not like there is too much more to get excited about with this team. So AJ and I took a stab at ranking our own personal top-15 prospects, drawing our line at 15 because getting there is hard enough and trying to get beyond it is splitting hairs, especially given all the long-term injuries in the Sox’ system.

Our lists matched up in some places but varied a lot in others, so we will divide this up into tiers and just have our individual rankings and justifications attached, along with MLB Pipeline’s ranking for the players for a bit more context. Please remember that neither of us are scouts but also might be the smartest Sox Writers you know. Also the Pipeline rankings are gonna change a lot soon but we are doing this now. Thanks.

The Cream of the Crop

Luis Robert, OF

Ranks: Adam – 1; AJ – 1; Pipleine – 1 (5 in MLB)

Adam: I have thought for a while that Robert, along with Yoan Moncada, has the highest ceiling in the entire system, even higher than Eloy’s. Robert basically grades with 60’s across the board and probably has 70 grade speed. He’s gonna be a great hitter and an excellent defensive center fielder that might find his way into MVP conversations in the future if it all goes according to plan.

AJ: This one pretty much sets itself as Robert continues to own every level he’s sent to now that he’s healthy. The only things holding him back from making the September callups is his health and Service Time Manipulations.

The Elite Arms

Michael Kopech, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 2; AJ – 3; Pipeline – 2 (16 in MLB)

Adam: Kopech is probably close to as good as any pitching prospect in baseball on pure talent, and the only real questions about him are how he will bounce back from Tommy John surgery and, to a lesser extent, how much his control issues will hold him back. If he gets back on his trajectory from before the surgery, this is a future ace.

AJ: Elbow or now, we’ve seen what he can do. The only question is which category he falls in: Successful Tommy John or Not.

Dylan Cease, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 3; AJ – 2; Pipeline – 3 (18 in MLB)

Adam: Everything I said about Kopech might just apply to Cease, minus the TJ and with a bit more concern about the control. If his change flashes as good moving forward as it did last week, the control will matter less.

AJ: We saw Wednesday what that nasty curveball can do when it’s thrown at the bottom of the zone. Once he starts locating his fastball, his off speed stuff will make him something else.

The Future Big Leaguers Who Could Be More

Nick Madrigal, 2B

Ranks: Adam – 5; AJ – 4; Pipeline – 4 (39 in MLB)

Adam: I liked the Madrigal pick in 2018, but in some ways it lacked imagination. There’s little doubt about his bat and glove, and he’s practically a lock to be a big league regular, but if he can’t hit for power there are legitimate questions about this ceiling. If he does hit for power, he could be a star.

AJ: The kid can flat out hit (though not for much power), and his eye for pitches is Joey Votto-esque. Seems like he plays plus defense at 2B, which pretty much sets the Sox infield in stone for the foreseeable future. I’d expect him to compete for a job next year.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B

Ranks: Adam – 4; AJ – 7; Pipeline – N/A

Adam: Pipeline hasn’t ranked him on the Sox top 30 yet because they haven’t added the 2019 draftees to the league and team rankings. But Vaughn can mash, and might be something of an Eloy clone in the bigs. If he can play plus defense, this guy is another potential star. At the very least he should be a good or very good player.

AJ: I wasn’t super excited about Vaughn being picked up in the first round by the Sox, but by any measure he was the best player available at the time and that’s my strategy for every draft ever. Vaughn can hit for power, has a good feel for the zone and plays average D at 1B. He profiles out to a Konerko type player, and I’m OK with that. Worst case scenario is he’s moved in a Reverse Quintana for controllable pitching assets later (Hello Marcus Stroman!)

Dane Dunning, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 7; AJ – 6; Pipeline – 5

Adam: Doesn’t have the lively stuff of Cease and Kopech, but every pitch is solid or plus and his plus command should make him a lock as a starter in the bigs, with the only real question being how high his ceiling is. Shares the TJ recovery concerns, though.

AJ: Another elbow casualty. Dunning was mowing people down in 2018 before the elbow strain, and was looking like he’d be in Charlotte by the end of the year with a possible September call up. Now we’ll have to wait till Spring Training next year to see if he’s still got it. The tools are all there, however.

Zack Collins, C/1B/DH

Ranks: Adam – 8; AJ – 5; Pipeline – 11

Adam: I have a lot of concerns about Collins, mostly about his defense and K-Rate, which are pretty big concerns for me. But the elite plate approach feel for the strike zone, along with his power, will keep him an MLB lineup for years, I think.

AJ: Another player with an excellent eye for the strike zone. Pity Renteria would rather play Palka than give him time in the field. There’s still questions as to where he plays in the field, but we will never know until he gets consistent playing time.

Steele Walker, OF

Ranks: Adam – 6; AJ – 9; Pipeline – 10

Adam: Walker strikes me as an MLB regular all day. He can almost definitely play center field but hopefully won’t have to, and a a move to left will benefit him well. He has a plus hit tool with average power and has performed well against Low-A and High-A pitching this year. He’s the non-top-tier guy I’m most excited about, as my ranking makes obvious.

AJ: Walker has been destroying the ball lately, and plays a solid corner OF spot. Walker should be in AA by the end of the year, and start the season in AAA if he keeps hitting at this pace.

Other Guys That Made Both Lists

Micker Adolfo, OF

Ranks: Adam – 11; AJ – 8; Pipeline – 7

Adam: If Adolfo could’ve stayed healthy these past few years, he could’ve been a top prospect in baseball and in the bigs already. He has huge pop and a cannon of an arm to match, which will play in right field if his fielding stays solid. He just needs to stay healthy and his ceiling could be sky high, but with the health issues there are too many questions here raised by so much missed time.

AJ: Man I like this guy, but his elbow is made of paper mache and elmer’s glue. We haven’t really seen him at full strength, but I feel like when we do it’ll be Robert-like.

Luis Gonzalez

Ranks: Adam – 9; AJ – 12;  Pipeline – 9

Adam: While he’s struggled a ton in AA this year, that’s a hard league to hit in, especially with Regents Park in Birmingham as your home field. He’s only a year removed from murdering both levels of A-ball, though, so there is still reason for optimism here. I imagine he will make his MLB debut for a team other than the White Sox, though.

AJ: Another Sox prospect having difficulty putting the ball in play down in Birmingham. I like what little Ive seen of him so far, especially the 4 triples this year. I feel like this time next year he will be hovering around #5.

Luis Alexander Basabe, OF

Ranks: Adam – 10; AJ – 11; Pipeline – 6

Adam: Another guy with a high ceiling being dragged down by injuries. Similar to Adolfo, if he’d stayed healthy he might be in the bigs. Instead he’s been hurt, and then struggled at AA this year. Still could project as a solid RF in the future though, especially with a solid profile at the plate as a switch-hitter.

AJ: Is constantly hurt, and hit so shitty to start he got demoted to A ball from Birmingham. All the shiny tools are there to be a solid CF for the Sox but he needs to hit. The trip to Kannapolis woke him up, but he promptly got hurt again.

Konnor Pilkington, LHP

Ranks: Adam – 12; AJ – 14; Pipeline – 19

Adam: Similar profile to Dunning but the stuff is not as good. The control is not a concern, meaning if the stuff can play up he is back-end starter. At worst, he’s a fine bullpen buy or decent trade chip.

AJ: Every time I see his name I think of one half of The Ascension tag team in WWE. He’s moved pretty quickly through the lower levels, but probably tops out at “5th Starter, 7th inning” kinda guy.

Blake Rutherford, OF

Ranks: Adam – 13; AJ – 10; Pipeline – 8

Adam: I have a feeling that Pipeline ranking is going to keep with the trend and plummet again at the next update. He’s come on a bit more recently, but the power that some projected in the past hasn’t been there, and he can’t play center field. An outfielder who can’t play center and can’t hit for power is something of a bad outfielder. Another guy I think debuts for another MLB club.

AJ: Rutherford has rebounded from a disatrous start to the season and gotten himself to a respectable .262/.298/.371. That being said, the Sox have seemingly hundreds of OF who can OBPS their way to a sub .700 so the power is going to need to show up soon.

Made One List But Not The Other

Gavin Sheets, 1B

Ranks: Adam – 14; AJ – N/A; Pipeline – 17

Adam: I did not like this draft pick at all, and for a few years it just kept looking awful. He’s a 1B-only guy who hadn’t mashed when the one thing 1B-only guys need to do is mash. The bat is finally catching up, though, and he actually has finally been mashing the past few months. He’s another guy I think gets traded, specially now that he’s blocked by Vaughn. Getting him to AAA with the golf balls soon to boost his trade value could be wise.

AJ: Another 1B only Sox prospect, Sheets has decent pop but hadn’t shown it until this season.  Solid D at first, but hasn’t done anything to dissuade the Sox from taking Vaughn this year.

Alec Hansen, RHP

Ranks: Adam – 15; AJ – N/A; Pipeline – 14

Adam: Hansen went from potential top pick, to plummeting down the draft boards, to pitching like a top prospect, to getting hurt and then struggling (something of a theme, no?). I still have some hopes he can be effective in the bigs, maybe as a bullpen guy at the very least. And maybe some other team still likes the ceiling enough to take him in return for a piece the Sox will eventually need.

AJ: I didn’t choose Hansen for my top 15 as his control seemed to dive off a cliff.  If he can gain some semblance of it back, the stuff he possesses would max him out as a high leverage reliever in the Josh Hader vein.

Zack Burdi, RHP

Ranks: Adam – N/A; AJ – 13; Pipeline – 15

Adam: He was a first rounder because the Sox thought he’d be quick to the majors as a reliever, but then he got hurt and wasn’t quick to the majors. I can’t keep him in my top 15 due to injuries, but he could still be a future closer.

AJ: Plus fastball with control issues and Tommy John surgery. It’s like they’re all following a script. The initial reports of Burdi’s velocity demise may be unfounded, but his control issues persist.

Jake Burger, 3B/1B

Ranks: Adam – N/A; AJ – 15; Pipeline – 12

Adam: Too many injuries. At this point I just think of him as the guy the Sox got after missing on Jo Adell by ONE PICK!!! AJ says it better than I could, anyway.

AJ: Missing and presumed dead.

Guys Not On Our Lists That You Should Watch For

Danny Mendick is an intriguing guy to me. He’s something of a non-prospect and doesn’t show up on many lists, but all he’s done since being a 22nd round pick in 2015 is hit at every level he’s been to and consistently rise through the system. He also can play all over the infield. If the Sox non-tender Yolmer this winter, which I can see happening, Mendick is an intriguing potential replacement.

Bryce Bush is a 3B/OF who made noise after being picked in the 33rd round last year and then dominating rookie ball. He has struggled in Low-A this year and also battled injuries, but has had flashes of brilliance as well and is still just 19 playing at a full season affiliate, so there is hope yet. RHP’s Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist were taken in the 2nd and 3rd rounds this year and have high ceilings, though they won’t pitch for affiliates this year. James Beard is an OF they grabbed the 4th round this year who can flat out fly and has a progressing bat, and has drawn Andrew McCutchen comparisons because his swing is similar and he has the hair to match. Bush is currently on Pipeline’s top 30 list for the Sox, and the other three should all be on the list once they update it in the coming weeks.

Getting real deep (and way off any top prospect lists), in the Arizona Rookie League, SS Jose Rodriguez has a .283/.306/.633 slash line, OF DJ Gladney has a .324/.366/.620 line, and 3B Bryan Ramos has a .375/.463/.625 of his own. Gladney is a former Sox ACE guy drafted out of Illiana Christian in the 16th round this year, while Rodriguez and Ramos are both former international signings. They’re all far away from the bigs but all could potentially be on this list in the future.

Our Lists, TL;DR’d

RankAdamAJ
1Luis RobertLuis Robert
2Michael KopechDylan Cease
3Dylan CeaseMichael Kopech
4Andrew VaughnNick Madrigal
5Nick MadrigalZack Collins
6Steele WalkerDane Dunning
7Dane DunningAndrew Vaughn
8Zack CollinsMicker Adolfo
9Luis GonzalezSteele Walker
10Luis Alexander BasabeBlake Rutherford
11Micker AdolfoLuis Alexander Basabe
12Konnor PilkingtonLuis Gonzalez
13Blake RutherfordZack Burdi
14Gavin SheetsKonnor Pilkington
15Alec HensenJake Burger
Baseball

Regardless of how you feel about “amateur” drafts in professional sports, they’re probably never going away in America because of the spectacle they bring. The NFL Draft is their second biggest cash cow to the Super Bowl, the NBA and NHL are able to steal the attention of their audience that cares twice because they have the lottery, and even baseball has one of the more intriguing draft formats that opens the possibility for chaos under the right circumstances. But baseball essentially needs the chaos for it to be any fun, because there are a small number of people who care enough about learning who might play for their team in two or three years enough to pay attention, and MLB Network insists on making the draft itself unwatchable by forcing Harold Reynolds upon us.

Unfortunately for White Sox fans, the lack of chaos last night resulted in two losses – the loss of a dream (kind of) and the loss of three hours of your life if you continued to watch much longer after the Sox picked at #3.

You may not have to pay a great deal of attention to college baseball and/or MLB draft news to have known that Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman was the top prospect in the draft this year, and with the Sox picking at #3 there was always a snowball’s chance in hell they would end up with him. But because of the Slot Value system MLB uses in the draft, which assigns a value to each pick but doesn’t necessarily require teams to pay the player they take that exact amount, there was some thought Baltimore might try to save some money on their first pick and go in a different direction. Given Baltimore GM Mike Elias’ history of doing so as souting director in Houston, it wasn’t exactly a stupid thought, especially since they’re at least 5 years away from contention and Rutschman is little more than 18 months away from being a star at the MLB level. Had they taken someone besides Rutschman and Bobby Witt, Jr. at number one, the thought was that the Royals loved Witt enough to take him at two regardless and the Sox would have Rutschman gift wrapped to them at three.

However, in something of a turn of events for them, Baltimore wisely did not screw up their golden opportunity and took the switch-hitting star in Rutschman. Instead, the White Sox ended up with California 1B Andrew Vaughn, who mashed his way through college and won the Golden Spikes award as the top player in the NCAA as a sophomore in 2018.

Vaughn earns high marks for his bat, with MLB Pipeline giving him 60 grades on both his hit and power tools. He’s coming off a junior campaign in which he hit .381/.544/.716 with 15 homers and 50 RBI. That line was down a bit from his 2018 campaign in which he hit .402/.531/.819 with 23 homers and 63 RBI, but that’s most because those insane numbers made him a prime candidate to be pitched around in an otherwise-normal Cal lineup. Despite playing in just two fewer games than his 2018 campaign, Vaughn had 23 less hits and 15 more walks in 2019, which shows just how much this guy scared the shit out of college pitchers and coaches alike.

The thing about Vaughn that is simultaneously encouraging and terrifying is that it’s hard to find a scouting report that doesn’t rave about his bat. This guy has been called the best college hitter since Kris Bryant, so there is little doubt that this guy is going to hit and hit and hit in the majors. Jim Callis from MLB.com said on MLB Network this week that Vaughn is the safest bet to be a 35 HR per year guy in this draft. Some people have said he could easily do that while hitting .300. He’s also probably gonna be in the majors quickly, possibly even sooner than Rutschman. Basically, this guy is pretty close to a sure bet to be a middle of the order bat, and fast. Those don’t grow on trees, so you take them where you can. Where it’s terrifying is that if history tells us anything about White Sox prospects, it’s that he will assuredly suffer some debilitating injury and throw off his timeline.

This pick also raises a few questions for the Sox’ system moving forward. Vaughn worked out at third base for teams during the draft process, and I am certainly not opposed to the Sox trying him there in the minors at the start, because if he can have that kind of bat and play the hot corner, his value as a player or trade asset skyrockets. But if that doesn’t work, he doesn’t have near the speed or glove for the outfield, so it’s back to first base for him creating a log jam of sorts in the system. Jake Burger Zack Collins are both bat-first prospects who might need to move to 1B, and Gavin Sheets is another 1B-only guy in AA at the moment. In Collins’ case, he’s got the kinda bat you just want in the lineup, so he’d be fine as a DH, and he can probably stick behind the plate well enough to catch 60-70 games for you, so if he ends up as a guy you move around between 1B/DH/C, that’s actually fine. But Burger and Sheets now look like they might be little more than trade chips, and not exactly intriguing ones.

And while middle of the order bats are not easy to come by, there are some legit concerns you can raise with drafting a guy who’s likely to end up at first base in the top-5 of a draft. If he hits the ceiling and ends up as that .300-hitting, 30-dinger mashing guy, no one will care where he was drafted. But if he doesn’t and a guy like CJ Abrams, whom the Sox were heavily linked to in the week prior to the draft and ended up with the Padres (because of couse the guy the Sox were linked to ended up with the Padres), turns into a stud SS/CF, we’re gonna be left with another “what could’ve been” moment.

For now, though, the Sox are looking at a future 1-2-3-4 lineup of Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, and Vaughn. That’s four guys who should hit around .270 or better and combine for 80-100 homers a year if all goes according to plan. I very much like the sound of that.