I know I only check in sparingly on here these days, so for any fan out there that’s taking the time to read my thoughts on our Sox, I really do appreciate it. But enough with the sappy shit. Let’s talk shop.
Things are changing on the South Side. A new face of the team (that stud below), two stars out of town, and a whole lot of high-end young talent headed in – plus, presumably a good deal more of that on the way in over the next 18-19 months.
First, let’s talk position players…
We’re going to get Tim Anderson’s first full season under our belt. If he can continue to improve, the sky’s the limit for the Tuscaloosa kid. Expectations are high, and rightfully so. He’s a huge part of this rebuild. The same goes for Yoan Moncada, who is presumed to be an even more valuable part of this next White Sox ‘Era.’
Outside of those guys, the pickins get slim. Zack Collins, last year’s first-round pick, is intriguing as hell. The lefty can mash and get on base at a high clip. 2017 will be his age 22 season, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him spend a good chunk, if not the majority of the season in Chicago. With that being said, I always try to temper my expectations until someone gets to and succeeds in Double-A ball. Yes, it’s fine to plan in your head that he’s the Catcher or First Baseman of the future … but with somebody still so early on in his professional career, you really just never know.
And it’s certainly nice that the team can head into 2017 with two catchers (Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith) whom, if nothing else, have the potential to serve as bigger assets than the team has been able to assemble at the position ever since Pierzynski left. I don’t think that current catching situation is something to get overly excited about, per se, but it’s nice to have some new toys while the front office keeps their eye out for good more young catching talent. And again, this is all assuming Zack Collins doesn’t prove us wrong and stick at catcher. But the Schwarber treatment seems more realistic and appropriate, as long as you can get him performing passably at some other spot – and there’s always DH 😉
There’s no doubt- the area that Rick Hahn & co. need to address the most moving forward is the offense. And while that will be easier said than done, it’s nice to have ‘building of the future pitching core’ part of this process out of the way. Obviously they’ll never stop trying to improve there, but shifting most of your resources to bringing offense to 35th & Shields is undoubtedly now priority #1, unless until more deals go down.
The reason that’s so clearly the priority is because they’ve done a great job in acquiring Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Nick Kopech – all super-highly touted guys that have very appealing upsides and could/should feature in the Sox’ rotation this season. Add to that list guys like Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon, Carson Fulmer, Spencer Adams, and Dane Dunning (amongst others, as some would argue), and Rick’s #1 goal was clear: set up the team for long-term success on the mound. And again, while we are far from through with this rebuild, it’s nice to be able to feel so confident about one major part of the on-the-field project so early on in the process.
But now back to puttin’ some damn runs on the board…
As mentioned, being optimistic and assuming Collins can fill a traditional ‘slugger’ role to complement the likes of Anderson & Moncada, the Sox still have a lot to figure out 1 through 9. Let’s say one of Adam Engel, Charlie Tilson, and Luis Basabe turn out to be average, or if we’re lucky, anywhere above average outfielders both in the field and at the plate. Sure, maybe none of ‘em pan out, or maybe all of ‘em do … I feel like 1 is a fair assumption, if you trust the team’s player development department, which I myself am more and more by each passing season.
Either way, the Sox will still likely have to fill a few spots: catcher (if the Narvaez/Smith tandem doesn’t work out and Collins winds up elsewhere), third base (Frazier hits FA after this year, though you can likely get an appealing prospect or two for him before then), and either 1B or DH. I wouldn’t mind Jose Abreu staying in one of those spots as a veteran leader in the middle of the order, but if shipped off, there’s no reason the Sox wouldn’t get a nice haul in return for the multiple years of control they have with him.
So, holes are there. Some of those holes are filled short-term (Melky manning LF, Frazier/Lawrie at 3B, D.Rob at Closer – at least for now), which is nice for fans who would at least like to see the on-the-field product be competitive. But even if they get decent hauls for say, 3 of those guys to take care of a couple gaps in the plan, we still haven’t even discussed the team’s largest remaining asset: Jose Quintana.
It was recently reported that when asked about Quintana by Houston, who’d seem to be an obvious fit for a team that needs reliable innings now and in the future, the Sox asked for Francis Martes (their #1 prospect; SP), Mel Tucker (their #2 prospect; OF), and Joe Musgrove (talented young pitcher; got a cup of tea with HOU last year). Yup, that’s asking for a lot. But would it be asking too much for 4 years of Quintana, who’s only 27? I’m sure as hell biased, but I don’t think it’s an outrageous ask. And if it is too much for the ‘Stros to part with, it’s at least nice to know that if and when the Sox do move Quintana, they’re going to do all they can to maximize the (hopeful) profit. A profit that could directly help fill some of the gaps in the Sox’ plan for the future that we’ve been discussing.
Long story short, we’re only in the beginning of this rebuild. And this year could be rough at times, but it’s going to be tough to get a read on 2017 until we know who has and who hasn’t been shipped out of town.
2018, 2019 and beyond should present some exciting times on the South Side. We had bragging rights for (well technically more than this, but you know) 11 years in the city. After watching what Theo did on the North Side of town, it’s tough to defend taking the year-to-year patchwork approach. It rarely works, and it sure as shit hasn’t thus far in what I’ll refer to as the ‘Rick Hahn Era’. What the Sox are doing now is a much more fool-proof plan that sets them up for prolonged success that could be achieved in different ways.
And that’s where we’re at. May the hot stove stay steamin’, and may Spring Training hurry the f–ck up and get here already. I for one am ready to gaze into Moncada’s eyes on a daily basis.