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2017 Chicago White Sox Team Outlook

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Shawn Childs takes an in-depth look at the Chicago White Sox heading into the 2017 MLB season!

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox season looked promising about five weeks into 2016 when Chicago just completed a stretch with 13 wins and four losses to push their way to a 23-10 record in the AL Central. Within a month, they were already under .500 (29-30) looking for life rafts as the Love Boat was taking on water.

They finished 11th in the AL in runs scored (717) with only 168 HRs (13th).

On one stormy night in July, this franchise changed on a dime. Chris Sale made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of throwback jerseys and requested not to pitch in games that they were being used. On July 23rd, Sale cut up the team’s jerseys leading to a five-game suspension and eventual trade to the Red Sox.

In the Sale trade, Chicago received IF Yoan Moncada, OF Luis Alexander Basabe, SP Michael Kopech, and RP Victor Diaz. Somehow the White Sox organization was able to fleece the Nationals when they moved OF Adam Eaton for SP Lucas Giolito, SP Reynaldo Lopez, and SP Dane Dunning. They signed 3B Cody Asche and C Geovany Soto to improve their bench depth. Their only significant loss was C Alex Avila signing with Tigers.

Chicago had the 6th lowest ERA (4.10) in the American League thanks to a disaster season from James Shields (5.85 ERA). Their bullpen ranked 17th in the majors in ERA (3.77) with 24 wins, 22 losses, and 43 saves. The White Sox were 28th in strikeouts (434 in 469.2) by their relievers.

Their starting rotation will be in transition plus Chicago would like to move SP Jose Quintana as well. I see more downside than upside in the bullpen early in 2017.

The White Sox do have two anchor power bats for their offense – Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier.

1. Yoan Moncada

The White Sox do have a couple of possible weak links as options for the starting lineup in 2017 so Yoan may get a start in the majors from jump street. Over 711 at bats in the minors, Moncada hit .287 with 23 HRs, 100 RBI, and 94 SBs. His K rate (24.2) was plenty of risk early in his career in the minors with a top of the order walk rate (13.4) and speed to burn. He hit .277 over 177 at bats AA with 11 HRs, 28 RBI, and nine SBs before making the jump to Boston. It took the Red Sox about a week to figure out that Yoan wasn’t ready to hit major league pitching (4-for-19 with 12 Ks). His swing will produce a high CTBA (.423 in the minors in 2016), which helps raise his bar in batting average. Yoan could have a 20/40 skill set in the first year in the league if he doesn’t whiff over 30 percent of the time. With Chicago lacking a leadoff type hitter, Moncada may make the majors out of spring training. He has an ADP of 234 in the early draft seasons in 15 team league as the 25th third baseman off the board. His upside in speed is enough of a reason to stash him away on draft day. I bet he comes faster than most believe.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

2. SS Tim Anderson

Anderson didn’t end up being a plug and play option in 2016 as many Fantasy owners hoped he would after being called up from AAA. He continued to hit for a high CTBA (.396), which was supported by his minor-league career, but his approach at the plate still needs work (4.4 percent walk rate in the minors – 3.0 in the majors and 22.6 K rate in the minors and 27.2 in the majors). His swing path produces a high volume of ground balls (54.3) with better than expected success in his HR/FB rate (12.3) when looking at his minor-league resume. Over 1374 at bats in the minors, Tim hit .301 with 19 HRs, 127 RBI, and 94 SBs. His calling card headed into 2016 was his expected value in steals (49 in 513 at bats at AA in 2015). In his four months in the majors, Anderson held his own in three months (June - .314, August - .290, and September – .288). In his second year in the big leagues, he should lower his K rate which gives him a chance offering an edge in batting average. He looks like a 10/30 player while lacking top of the order ability. Chicago lacks the talent to structure their lineup properly in the first and second slot of the batting order, which will give Anderson that expected opportunity to score runs.

3. OF Melky Cabrera

Melky is just a nice major league hitter who just lacks the power and speed to make him a key piece of a winning Fantasy team. For the third straight year, he had over 170 hits with mid-teen home runs. His RBI rate (19) was the best of his career with his best CTBA (.354) since 2012 (.402) when he was on the juice. He’s tough to strikeout (10.7 percent in 2016 and 11.9 in his career) while posting his best walk rate (7.3) since 2010 (8.3). His swing played well in June (.321), July (.336), and September (.317 with five HRs and 26 RBI) while having his worst month of the year in August (.208 with no HRs in 96 at bats). Even with minimal growth in power, his swing path did improve leading to a career low GB rate (43.2) and career high FB rate (35.0) while his HR/FB rate (7.6) fell in line with his career average (7.4). Cabrera had the most success against lefties (.322 with three HRs and 20 RBI in 121 at bats). Melky is in a contract year, so he’ll be PUMPED up to post a top-notch season. I’ll stick my neck out and say he hits 20+ HRs with steady production in runs, RBI, and BA.

4. 1B Jose Abreu

There are some interesting hidden anomalies when looking at Jose’s 2016 resume. He finished his third straight season with 100 RBI, but he needs a huge bump in RBI chances (78 more than 2015) to reach that number due to a step back in HRs (25). Also, he fell short in runs (67) partly by the lack of HRs and mostly due to weakness in the lineup behind him. His run rate (29) fell by 12 percentage points in one season. Abreu had his lowest K rate (18.0) of his career while his walk rate (6.8) fell in line with his career average. Over April and May, Jose only hit .242 with six HRs and 27 RBI over 207 at bats. Over the last four months of the year, he hit .319 with 19 HRs and 73 RBI. He did this even with an empty month of production in July (no HRs and eight RBI in 97 at bats). His HR/FB rate (14.8) was a huge step back from his first two years in the league (2014 – 26.9 and 2015 – 19.7) even with a slight uptick in his FB rate (33.3). I don’t love his supporting cast, which will be priced in with his value on draft day. Great 4th piece to a winning Fantasy team with an ADP of 63 in the early draft season in 15 team leagues. Excellent chance at a .300 BA with 30+ HRs and another 100 RBI.

5. 3B Todd Frazier

Todd struggled batting third in 2016 (.191 with four HRs and five RBI in 47 at bats) with only slightly better success batting fourth (.243 with 17 HRs and 44 RBI, fifth (.212 with 12 HRs and 25 RBI in 179 at bats), and sixth (.226 with seven HRs and 24 RBI in 146 at bats). His quest for the almighty HR has changed his approach (24.5 K rate – career high) and swing path (48.7 percent fly ball rate – career high). This led to his highest HR/FB rate (19.0) of his career. He had growth in his walk rate (9.6). Most of his damage in batting average came over the first three months of the season (.203) compared to .247 over the last half of the year. Over the last three seasons, Todd has 104 HRs and 48 SBs, which is a nice combination of power and speed. The change in swing path does lead to a lower batting average due to easier outs via fly balls. His K rate isn’t as bad as many power hitters in the game, so a rebound to his batting average seems reasonable. I see a .260 hitter with 30 HRs and double digit SBs. As the 7th third baseman off the table in 2017, he seems fairly priced with an ADP of 73.

6. 2B Brett Lawrie

For the fourth time in five seasons, Brett has missed time in the majors with an injury. In 2016, his season ended with a bad hamstring injury in late July. He’s missed 265 games during this span (53 per year). In his six seasons in the majors, Lawrie hit .261 with 71 HRs, 253 RBI, and 41 SBs over 2217 at bats. His K rate (28.4) was a huge problem last year after showing more strength in this area earlier in his career (2012 – 16.0, 2013 – 15.4, and 2014 – 17.4). Brett did take a few more walks (7.8 percent). His bat didn’t offer any upside in any months in 2016. Lawrie tried to change his swing path leading to a career low GB rate (38.3 – 46.7 in his career). This led to a jump in his FB rate (42.7 – 32.7 in 2015) with no change in his HR/FB rate (11.7 – 11.6 in 2015). His path won’t lead to a lot excitement for a Fantasy owner and I can’t imagine someone will fight you for him on draft day, but the bar to reach at second base isn’t as high as corner infielder or outfielder. His early resume in the minors (.295 with 40 HRs, 195 RBI, and 63 SBs in 1347 at bats) seems like a distant memory. Possible 20+ HRs with a healthy season while batting average risk has become more of a factor than expected. The addition of Yoan Moncada may push Brett to the outfield.

7. OF Avisail Garcia

I haven’t been a big fan of Garcia early in his career due to poor swing path. Over 1429 at bats in the majors, Avisail has a groundball rate of 53.2 percent (55.0 in 2016) leading a low FB rate (25.2 – 23.3 in 2016). If he gets the ball in the air, his HR/FB rate (17.1) does offer upside. His K rate (25.4) remains in negative area with slight pulse in his walk rate (7.5). Garcia gave Fantasy owners a whole lot of empty over the first four months of the seasons (.226 with six HRs and 30 RBI in 283 at bats). He battled a hamstring issue in late April while landing on the DL in August with a knee issue. At no point in 2016 was Avisail able to get everyday at bats. His minor-league resume won’t blow you away (.291 with 46 HRs, 285 RBI, and 78 SBs in 2276 at bats). There’s talent here with a 20/80 skill set once he figures out how not to swing like lady.

8. C Geovany Soto

The White Sox don’t have a clear-cut favorite to start at catcher in 2017. They signed Soto to a minor-league contract in January. Geovany hasn’t had a starting job in the majors since 2012 (.245 with 11 HRs and 39 RBI). His AVH (1.810 in 2016) still projects to deliver double digit HRs with 400+ at bats. Geovany will take a walk (10.9 in his career) while his K rate (24.4) has some risk. He missed more of the last season with a torn right meniscus. Only a backend flier with no real upside in at bats.

9. SS Tyler Saladino

Over two seasons in the majors, Tyler hit .257 with 12 HRs, 58 RBI, and 19 SBs over 534 at bats which is a respectable season in the majors. His K rate (19.4) is about league average with a short walk rate (4.1). Saladino had success in short at bats (43) in May (.372 with two HRs, 10 RBI, and two SBs). Over the last two months of the year, he hit .309 with three HRs, 16 RBI, and six SBs over 149 at bats. Over six years in the minors, he hit .261 with 41 HRs, 251 RBI, and 111 SBs. His resume looks more like a utility player than a starter in the majors, but he may off the most value early in the year in center for Chicago is he can handle the job. His speed is enough where Fantasy owners need to pay attention to his status this spring.

OF Cody Asche

Asche started the year with an oblique injury that cost him just over two months of the year. When Cody returned to the majors in June, he hit .289 with two HRs and 10 RBI over 83 at bats. He hit his way to the bench in July (.143 with two HRs and seven RBI in 77 at bats) leading to a trip back to AAA. His K rate (24.8) remains in a tight range below the league average while his walk rate (8.3) came in at league average. In the minors in 2016, he hit .279 with six HRs and 15 RBI in 111 at bats. Over 1181 at bats in the majors, Asche has a .240 batting average with 31 HRs, 125 RBI, and five SBs. His path points to a bench role with minimal upside.

OF Charlie Tilson

Over five seasons in the minors, Tilson hit .293 with 19 HRs, 154 RBI, and 89 SBs in 1836 at bats. His walk rate (7.0) was just below league average with a low K rate (14.6). Even with 89 steals on his minors leading resume, Charlie isn’t a great base stealer (76.1 percent). The White Sox acquired him in a trade with Cardinals last summer for RP Zach Duke. After one game in the majors in 2016 (1-for-2), Tilson went down with a torn left hamstring. He has weak arm and his overall skill set is below a starting centerfield in the majors. Judy-type batter with the ability to steal 30+ bags. Chicago could sign a veteran bat to take the centerfield job or a player like Tyler Saladino could steal some playing time in centerfield.

Bench Options

C Omar Narvaez – Over eight seasons in the minors, Omar hit .277 with seven HRs, 170 RBI, and 16 SBs in 1543 at bats. Narvaez has an above average walk rate (10.0) with a low K rate (9.5). He hit 2.67 over 101 at bats in the majors with a HR and 10 RBI while taking 14 walks. Possible starter with weak power.

2B Carlos Sanchez – Over 643 at bats in the majors, Carlos hit only .224 with nine HRs, 57 RBI, and three SBs. His approach is much too weak for his skill set. In 2016, his K rate came in at 25.8 with a short walk rate (3.1). Over eight years in the minors, Sanchez hit .284 with 20 HRs, 238 RBI, and 89 SBs in 2521 at bats. Moved quickly to AAA before stalling. Carlos is young enough to make a step forward, but he has no clear path to at bats.

OF Rymer Liriano – The White Sox claimed Rymer off waivers this fall. Last season at AAA, Liriano hit .292 with 14 HRs, 64 RBI, and 18 SBs over 472 at bats. He’s a .277 hitter in the minors with 68 HRs, 378 RBI, and 190 SBs over 2750 at bats. His K rate (24.3) does have some risk with a league average walk rate (8.9). Possible front runners for the centerfield job with a possible 20/20 skill set.

1. SP Jose Quintana

Quintana is a nice steady asset in Fantasy sports. His game has improved in some way in each year in the league. He has four straight years with over 200 innings pitched while setting a career low in ERA (3.20) in 2016. Jose throws strikes (2.2 walk rate in 2016 and 2.3 in his career) with steady results in Ks (7.8 K rate) due to his high volume of innings pitched. After 151 majors league starts, he’s only 46-46. His arm has almost equal value against lefties (.246) and righties (.247). As steady as his arm looks in 2016, he did have two disaster months (June – 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA and September – 5.30 ERA). In both cases, Jose had a step back in command leading to more hits than innings pitched. His FB rate (38.7) was a career high while setting a career low in his GB rate (40.1). Quintana had the best fastball (92.6) of his career. His sinker (.224 BAA) made a step forward in 2016 as did his four-seam fastball (.243 BAA). In the past, he gained his edge with a plus curveball (.250 BAA in 2016 - .213 in his career). I like his command combined with consistency factor. In a way, he’s a better version of Mark Buehrle. The one negative here is that he doesn’t have a big margin for error if he lost some velocity or he had regression in command. Seems poised to make another step forward helped by more length in his starts. Possible career high in wins with a sub 3.50 ERA and 175+ Ks.

Troy Taormina-USA Today Sports

2. SP Carlos Rodon

After two years in the starting rotation in the majors, Rodon has failed to live up to Fantasy owner’s expectations. He has an 18-16 record over 51 starts with a 3.90 ERA and 307 Ks in 304.1 innings. Last year Carlos was easier to hit (.273 BAA) with RH batters doing the damage (.283 with 21 HR in 519 at bats). His arm should be dominating against lefties (.232 with a 7.4 strikeout to walk ratio) going forward. Rodon was much improved in his strike-throwing ability in 2016 (2.9 walk rate – 4.6 in 2015), which should have led to a bigger spike in his K rate (9.2). His AFB (94.2) was almost the same as his rookie season (94.1), but batters hit .349 against his four-seamer and .304 vs. his sinker. Even with better stats in his command, Carlos struggled to get ahead in the count (54.3 first pitch strike rate). This hurts his ability to put away hitters with his plus slider (.151 BAA). Over his first 17 starts in 2016, he had an ERA of 4.67 while failing to post an ERA under 4.15 in any month. After missing a couple of weeks in July with a left wrist injury because of a fall, Rodon flashed his high upside in August (3-0 with a 1.47 ERA and 26 Ks in 30.2 innings). He carried that success in his first two starts in September (four runs and 16 base runners in 13 innings with 14 Ks) before getting run over in back-to-back starts (12 runs, 21 baserunners, and four HRs in nine innings). The real McCoy shined through in his last two starts of the year (two runs and five hits in 14 innings with two double-digit K games [11 and 10]). There’s a lot to like here when he figures out how to throw more strikes. Carlos needs to fix his command of his fastball in the strike zone to correct weakness in HRs allowed (1.3 per nine innings). Potential breakout candidate with 200+ K ability.

3. SP James Shields

This train wreck pulled into the disaster station on May 31st when he allowed ten runs and 12 base runners in 2.2 innings in Seattle. Over his first nine starts of the season, James had a 3.06 ERA with 56 Ks in 64.2 innings. The Padres were able to move after his explosion to the White Sox. Shields ruined Fantasy teams over his next three starts when he allowed 21 runs, 33 baserunners, and five HRs over 8.2 innings. He somehow strung seven good starts together (2.10 ERA over 47 innings with only 24 Ks). With another Fantasy owner proud of his success after picking him up off the scrap heap, James crashed another Fantasy owner’s ERA over his next four starts (27 runs, 41 baserunners, and nine HRs over 14 innings). He finished the year with a poor September as well (5.79 ERA). Shields pitched scared over the last four months of the seasons leading to the lowest first-pitch strike rate (54.5) of his career by a wide margin. His K rate (6.7) lost almost three Ks per nine from 2015 (9.6) with a disgusting walk rate (4.1) and HR rate (2.0). His AFB (91.1) was the lowest of his career while also losing over one mph on his changeup and 1.5 mph on his curveball. Even with his disaster season, batters only hit .241 vs. his changeup and .227 against his curveball. If you like throwing darts, his number lies off the dart board so proceed with extreme caution. Not DOA and he does have an ERA under 4.00 in his previous five years in the majors.

4. SP Lucas Giolito

Giolito is one of the best young arms in the Nationals' system headed into 2016. He fell out of favor leading to him almost being gifted wrapped to the White Sox. Lucas is 25-15 in his 4+ seasons in the minors with a 2.73 ERA and 397 Ks in 369 innings. His walk rate (3.4) was a step back in 2016 while having success in this area over seven starts at AAA (2.4). Lucas had TJ surgery in 2012, which limited his innings in 2013. His AFB came in at 94.2 in his brief stint in the majors. Last year he struggled at AA (4.69 ERA) over 14 starts, but he pitched at a high level at AAA (2.17 ERA with 40 Ks in 37.1 innings). Giolito couldn’t throw strikes in the majors (12 walks in 21.1 innings) leading to a bunch of poor numbers (6.75 ERA and 1.781 WHIP). Lucas allowed seven HRs in the majors with six coming off his fastball. His curveball should be an asset while also offering a developing changeup. Ace upside with an excellent chance of starting the year in the majors. His spring training success will be key to his draft value. Giolito threw 136.2 innings in 2016, so 180 seems like a reachable number in 2017. Possible 3.50 ERA with 175 Ks with 28 starts in the majors.

5. SP Reynaldo Lopez

Over five years in the minors, Lopez has a 3.16 ERA with 303 Ks in 307.2 innings. In 2014, he dominated hitters at two level of A ball (1.08 ERA with only 42 hits allowed in 83.1 innings). His K rate (11.8 – 8.9 his career) made a step forward in 2016 at AA. In the majors, Reynaldo allowed too many walks (4.5). After struggling in his first two starts with Washington (nine runs and 20 base runners in 8.2 innings), he flashed some upside in his next two starts (two runs and 13 base runners over 14 innings with 13 Ks) highlighted by his start on August 18th (one run over seven innings with 11 Ks). His arm had less value in the bullpen in September (six runs and 12 base runners in 6.1 innings). Lopez has an elite fastball (96.7 in the majors) while relying on a curveball (.208 BAA) and changeup (.273 BAA). Intriguing arm with substantial upside when he develops better command of his fastball in the strike zone at the major-league level. Reynaldo should win a starting job out of spring training, but he’ll have some disaster risk early in his career.

6. SP Miguel Gonzalez

Gonzalez failed to make the Orioles opening day roster leading to him signing a minor-league contract with the White Sox last April. His arm doesn’t blow hitters away, but he now has success in four of his five years in the majors. Over 125 games in the big leagues, Miguel has a 44-41 record with a 3.80 ERA and 512 Ks in 715.1 innings. His walk rate (2.3) was the best of his career in 2016 while his K rate (6.3) remains in a weak area. Gonzalez has about the same success in his career against RH (.251) and LH (.253) batters. Over the last three months, he had a 2.72 ERA with 51 Ks in 79.1 innings. Miguel did miss a couple of weeks in August with a groin injury. His AFB (91.8) is below par, but batters only hit .231 against it. Gonzalez has the most success with his slider (.230 BAA) and split-finger fastball (.177 BAA). Boring arm with enough strength to give short-term value in a double start week if his matchups look favorable.

7. SP Michael Kopech

Over 2+ seasons in the minors, Kopech has a 2.61 ERA with 172 Ks in 134.2 innings. His walk rate (4.6) is well below being major league ready with strength in his K rate (11.5). In 2016, his season started with a broken right hand due to a fight with another player on his team. In late June, Michael suffered a calf injury that cost him a couple of weeks of action. His fastball can reach triple digit while his curveball still needs better command. Kopech will need his changeup to show growth if he wants to become a front-line starter. Nice arm with high upside, he does have some character issues with plenty of fine tuning needed with his mechanics. He’ll start the year at AA.   

CL David Robertson

Robertson was a tough ride in 2016. His command appeared to be on the rise after posting a career low in his walk rate (1.8) in 2015. Last year David reverted to his first four years in the league by walking 4.6 batters per nine. Surprisingly, his ERA (3.47) finished in a respectable area while regressing for the third straight year. His failure came in May (6.30 ERA) and July (7.45 ERA with five HRs allowed over 9.2 innings). Robertson did save his season by pitching at a high level in August and September (1.89 ERA with 24 Ks in 19 innings). His arm lost value against RH batters (.252) with a poor strikeout to walk ratio (34:22). He throws a cutter as his number one pitch, which had the lowest velocity (92.3) of his career. Batters only hit .143 vs. his curveball. In a way, he was a little lucky in 2016 as batters hit a low percentage of line drives (14.1). Even with a spike in his FB rate (40.3), David had his lowest HR/FB rate (9.7) over the last four years. Robertson had minor left knee surgery in early November, which may be the underlying issue with his step back in command. Solid, steady closer with more warts than expected after his 2015 season.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

RP Nate Jones

Nate missed most of the 2014 season due to TJ surgery leading to short innings in 2015 as well. His arm was back in top form last year when he set career low in his ERA (2.29). He finished with an elite walk rate (1.9) with a solid edge in his K rate (10.2). Jones has a big fastball (97.4), which was a step back from his best season in 2013 (98.3). Batters struggled to hit his plus slider (.094 BAA). Nate had strength against both RH (.184) and LH (.200) batters. His only bad month came in May (7.27 ERA and 1.731 WHIP). He finished the year with an electric September (no runs, one walk, and 12 Ks in 9.1 innings). Jones looks poised to steal the closing job if Robertson stumbles out of the gate in 2017.

RP Carson Fulmer

Fulmer was also selected in the 15th round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, but he decided to go to Vanderbilt. Over three years in college, Carson went 24-3 with a 1.99 ERA and 313 Ks in 271 innings with his first two years spent between the bullpen and starting rotation. In 2015, Fulmer blossomed in his 19 starts (14-2 with 1.83 ERA and 167 Ks in 127.1 innings). His walk rate (3.5) in college showed risk. The White Sox selected him 8th overall in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft. They gave him some token innings last summer (1.96 ERA with 26 Ks in 23 innings), which led to similar concerns with his walk rate (3.5). Carson struggled in his second season in the minors (4.63 ERA with 104 Ks in 103 innings) due to a poor walk rate (4.9) with his failure coming at AA (5.3). Despite his struggles, the White Sox promoted him to AAA where he threw the ball much better (3.94 ERA with only five walks in 16 innings). His arm proved to be worthless in eight relief appearances with Chicago (8.49 ERA, 5.4 walk rate, and two HRs allowed in 11.2 innings). Fulmer had success with his fastball (.240 BAA and 93.1 mph) in the majors with his cutter grading as an asset (.111 BA). On the positive side, he pitched better in September (4.26 ERA) than July (13.50 ERA) in the majors, which is step in the right direction. My sense is that Carson has a better chance of becoming a closer than a top starting pitcher.

References

Baseball America Prospect Handbook. (n.d.).

Baseball-Reference. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.baseball-reference.com/

Brooksbaseball.net. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.brooksbaseball.net/

Fangraphs. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fangraphs.com/

Roster Resource. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rosterresource.com/mlb

Rotowire. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotowire.com/

RotoWorld. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rotoworld.com/




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