Photo Credit: DNAinfo/Justin Breen

Hello there White Sox fans! The long off-season is finally over and the Pale Hose have taken the field to play Spring Training games with very little meaning. We all know that it is going to be a long season with the organization not looking to make the playoffs just yet. They are still trying to evaluate what prospects are worth holding onto and which players are best to trade away that don’t fit the timeline and can bring in younger talent. I asked the great community over at /r/whitesox of reddit for their mailbag questions. So here they are! I thank you all for the questions as it was fun to see what the fans wanted to know after a long off-season.

/u/Lined_em_up: What is your honest long term opinion on Tim Anderson? I want to root for him but his game has some huge flaws and I just don’t think he is a long term starter. Do you feel the same or do you think he can make a real leap this year?

I will start out by saying I disagree that he isn’t a long term starter. There were a lot of issues that Anderson was dealing with last year due to the loss of his best friend. He wasn’t eating right or sleeping normally either. It really affected his game and made people fall out of favor with him. In the middle of the season, Anderson admitted he was getting help and trying to return to the person he once was off the field. Look back at his numbers for the last two months of 2017.

From August 1st on, he batted .293 with 8 home runs and 9 stolen bases on 10 attempts. He will never be a guy that wants to take his walk nor do you want to force him to change his style either. He has great bat to ball skills on pitches inside the zone and as long as he can keep that up, he will be able to keep a decently high batting average. With him finally feeling healthy again, both physically and mentally, I expect Anderson to take a big step forward this year and show us what he can give to the White Sox for an entire season. Remember, he is only 25-years-old.

/u/JustAnotherBoyScout: How much of our current pitching in the farm club do you expect to realistically pan out? Do we really have the arms to win a championship currently in our system?

It really depends on your meaning of pan out. I think as long as they are doing something for the major league club it is considered a win. With how easy it is for a pitcher prospect to flame out completely, it is considered a success if they stick in the majors for 5 or 6 years even if they end up in the bullpen. Relievers are just pitchers that couldn’t make it as starters. If 60% of the current pitching prospects stick in the major leagues, whether it be as a starter or reliever, I would be happy.

Because the White Sox have invested so much in talented pitchers, I do believe they have enough arms to win a championship. If the 2020 rotation contained Rodon, Kopech, Hansen, Giolito, and Lopez, that would still leave Cease, Fulmer, Burdi, Dunning, Adams, Clarkin, and Vieira who could essentially fill out a bullpen. Some of those names listed (such as Cease and Dunning) could end up being switched with Lopez or Giolito if they don’t find a way to continue to grow and solidify their spot in the rotation for the competitive years.

/u/Scinauta: What are the biggest needs for the Sox moving forward? What positions don’t have a workable solution already in the system

As it stands right now, the biggest needs in the farms system would be shortstop, third base, and first base in that order. The White Sox did just draft Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets to cover the corners of the infield, but they still have some growing to do. The growth of Jake Burger were unfortunately stalled by his recent Achilles injury. Gavin Sheets showed some flashes of potential in A-Ball last year with his triple slash of .266/.346/.365, but that slugging percentage isn’t as high as most would like it against the lower competition. His strikeout and walk rates were obviously encouraging because they are indicators that Sheets sees pitches well and knows how to work his strike zone. Sheets is only 21-years-old and he clearly has the frame that projects to be a slugger at 6 foot 4 and 230 pounds.

I am a believer in Tim Anderson sticking in the lineup, but shortstop is clearly the spot in the farm system that is lacking. You always want to be able to have depth on your bench and in the minors in case of injury or a player doesn’t pan out the way you projected them to. Rick Hahn and the front office do believe in Tim Anderson as should the fans, but it doesn’t mean it will work out. It would be best if they could find a young shortstop that can grow in the minors with the question marks still surrounding Anderson.

/u/Rushb87: Do we have enough talent in the field? I feel like our farm system is majorly pitching based with exception to Robert and Jimenez.

As of right now, the team projects to have enough on the field talent to compete in the coming years. Jimenez and Robert are the big names that everyone thinks of, but don’t forget that Moncada is in the majors and should continue growing. The same goes for Tim Anderson. As for the other positions, Sheets and Burger were recently drafted so we don’t know what they will end up being just yet. The more time we get to see them grow, the more we will obviously learn about their skill and what they project to be down the road. Catcher is shored up pretty well between Zach Collins, Seby Zavala, and Evan Skoug in the minors.

The outfield is obviously strong with the two names of Jimenez and Robert as you stated, but the White Sox still have Micker Adolfo (who has the best defensive arm of all the outfielders), Blake Rutherford (who has the pedigree to be great and had a down 2017 campaign), and Luis Alexander Basabe (who is only 21 years old and has flashed the potential we all heard about during this year’s Spring Training).

I think there is still a lot of talent at each position in the minors and majors that when the time comes to compete, the White Sox will be ready for it. A lot of the positional talents in the minors were overshadowed by the big arms. Catch some of the minor league games this year to watch the names I mentioned and you will see there is still a ton of position player talent in the farm system.

From /u/SHP6: Who is the most attractive player on the White Sox? And why is it Yoan Moncada?

It is almost like the argument of the comfortable older woman or the next door neighbor’s daughter that is really friendly? Which one would you rather choose?

Moncada is attractive in the sense that he is the new player on the team and is fresh in your mind. Then again, he was able to keep the muscle and body that he has even though he would eat Twinkies like it was nothing when he first came to the states. For me if I had to choose, it would be Jose Abreu. He is a born leader and how can someone not love this smile?


Photo Credit: Getty Images

/u/YojimboNameless:
1) Jake Burger injury and how you think it affects his fitness going forward and the system’s in-field situation as a whole.
2) How do you feel about Delmonico going forward?
3) What do you see in Carson Fulmer? I personally think he’s going to be a big piece, but expect him to slide to the bullpen. His start in spring training has me thinking otherwise though. His fastball command was great. What else does he need, besides confidence, to gain a rotation role in 2 years?

1) We don’t know how much the Achilles injury is going to limit him just yet. Burger will turn 22 in a month so there shouldn’t be much concern about him returning to 100%. Before the injury, Burger had stated that he was working on becoming more flexible and athletic this past off-season by doing hot yoga with Nicky Delmonico. It could limit his potential at third base in terms of defense, but Burger does have the arm and reaction time to stick at the hot corner. He could easily move over to 1st base if the injury does have some bigger long term effects. With the great salary situation the White Sox are in, they could make a big move for a third baseman in free agency, such as Nolan Arenado or Anthony Rendon in the next 2 years if Burger is forced to move across the diamond.

2) I am a supporter of Nicky Delmonico. He had a tough start to his professional career with the Orioles and Brewers, but I am very glad the White Sox nabbed him when they did. The batted ball profile of Delmonico shows he has a higher ceiling than we all originally believed. I have some concerns about his contact rates because he makes soft contact about 27% of the time while also, but he hits a good amount of line drives without a heavy ground ball percent. Nicky pulls the ball a ton, which will lead to some lower BABIP luck, since teams shift to counteract heavy pull hitters. If he can start hitting the ball to all fields a little bit more, he could end up as the everyday left fielder or DH once the higher end prospects come to the majors. I am pretty confident in Delmonico for the long term.

3) Fulmer is a tough one to evaluate. The Sox organization believed he was going to slide right into a rotation spot out of college because he has a good four-pitch mix. Ever since he got into the minor league system however, the control has been lacking at every level of the minors and in the majors. The control is what kills him because he quickly gets behind in counts and gives all the advantage to the hitter. Even if his final 5 games in 2017, Fulmer’s ERA was 1.35, but all of his peripherals point to some huge regression. He had 9 walks compared to 17 strikeouts and his FIP and xFIP were 3.76 and 5.51 respectively. His four-seamer and changeup were the pitches that got hit the hardest last year as shown here:


From Fangraphs

His secondary pitches have improved since 2016, but you can’t let opponents hit your fastball and changeup that well. It doesn’t allow you to set up the breaking pitches if you can’t use or locate your fastball well. There is definitely some potential to be a starter there. With Rodon out until June at the earliest, Fulmer will have his chance to settle into a rotation spot and maybe that set schedule will help Fulmer find his groove.

/u/Robification: Do you think Giolito’s ceiling is still top of the rotation? Also what do you think is real about Avisail?

Lucas Giolito is an interesting case. The Nationals really messed him up with the way they toyed with his mechanics along with bouncing him between the minors and majors in 2016. The White Sox have been doing all they can to get him back to his original mindset when he was dominating opponents. The strikeouts aren’t there like they used to be, but in his 7 starts with the ballclub last year he was able to induce a ground ball 45% of the time. That is important in today’s game with the way the ball is flying out of the park over the past year and a half. I don’t think the ceiling is as high as it once was for Lucas, but he could certainly end up as an SP2 with the way he has been growing in the majors. He still needs to improve his curveball a bit as he surrendered an .868 OPS to opponents in his 7 starts in the majors last year.

As for Avisail Garcia, there are some things I like. The .330 batting average clearly isn’t for real as showcased by his league leading .392 batting average of balls in play or BABIP. A sustainable BABIP sits between .300 and .320. The power with Avi is real and he could even add to it, if he is able to add some more loft to his swing. He currently hits ground balls over half the time he is at the plate. Avi’s contact profile is excellent with him only making soft contact around 15% of the time, but his biggest roadblock to becoming a better hitter is the ground ball rate. We know Avi is built to be a doubles and home run hitter at 6 foot 4 and 240 pounds, but there needs to tinker with his swing to incorporate more loft to his game.

/u/EzPesos: What are your expectations for Michael Kopech this year?

Michael Kopech is clearly one of the biggest names for the rebuild with the Chris Sale trade being just over a year ago. He has made such strides from the time he was dealt to Chicago in terms of control and pure ability. Sox fans have heard a lot about how badly Kopech wants to be one of the best pitchers in baseball and I think he can do it. It isn’t just because he can throw 100+ mph, but also the fact that he is a real competitor.

Control was a problem for him in 2017 early on, but the Sox front office and Kopech himself kept challenging him to improve his strikeout to walk ratio. He did just that as the time went on and it really shows in his final 6 starts of the year, 3 in AA and 3 in AAA. In those final 6 starts, Kopech had a stellar 46:8 strikeout to walk rate with a 1.50 ERA.

I clearly wouldn’t expect that out of him in his first trip to the majors. I would expect Kopech (and Jimenez) to be up sometime around late July, which would put him around 11 or 12 starts with the club. In those 12 starts, I have my expectations set at him putting up a 9.0 K/9 and a 3.5 BB/9 or less. I am not so worried about the ERA initially because we know he has the talent, but he can’t be passing out walks like hot cakes in the majors. If he is able to put together an ERA below 4.00 and a WHIP below 1.30, I would be perfectly happy for his rookie debut.

/u/Abradolf_Lincler1: Right now Rick Hahn has been regarded as a great GM for what he has done for the Sox in terms of return for MLB talent and ushering in a new vision. My question is where is the line drawn between success and failure? Is it a World Series ring? A playoff birth? A winning season? Overwhelming success is a title, but where does the success point start?

So there are two questions here. Let’s start with the difference between success and failure. The difference between failure and success is ultimately whether or not they are able to win a ring with their core group of players, such as Kopech, Jimenez, and Moncada. If they can’t win a ring, then this whole rebuild will be a waste. Every team wants to win a championship, but the first thing you have to do to get there is make it to the playoffs.

That is where the success point starts. The point of the rebuild is to build the team from the minors on up. You want to use the minors as a ground floor so when they get called up together, they have the experience of playing together while knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Then when the youth gets to the major leagues, you continue to draft well and add to the depth of the organization so you don’t have to constantly buy middling guys in free agency, the way the Sox used to. Success begins by making the playoffs for the first year, which could realistically be in 2019. After that, the bar for success changes every year because you don’t want the team to stall in the same spot, like the Washington Nationals. Once you make the playoffs, the bar moves to winning the ALDS, then the ALCS, and so on until you win the whole thing. The whole point of a rebuild is to give yourself as many opportunities to win the World Series as you possibly can.

/u/bullsfan94: Probably not a fun one to answer but…. there will almost certainly be at least one of these White Sox top prospects that ends up being a “bust”… if you had to guess one, who will it be and why?

If I had to pick someone that was currently in the White Sox top 10 prospects that ends up a bust, it would be Carson Fulmer. I know a lot of people aren’t that high on Blake Rutherford because of his down year in 2017, but he is only 20 years old and has more room to grow.

As for Carson Fulmer, he was touted to be a great college arm that could slide into the major league rotation shortly after being drafted. Unfortunately, we have seen how that has worked out. He has a great mix of 4 different pitches as I mentioned earlier, but he hasn’t fooled batters with his fastball or changeup. That coupled with the inability to throw his secondary offerings for strikes allows opponents to sit on the fastball every time they come to the plate. Fulmer likely ends up in the bullpen as a middle reliever, which to me would be a bust because of the hype that surrounded him when he was drafted. He could still be an effective bullpen piece once the Sox are competitive, but that starter potential is fading quickly it seems.

 

The season is nearly upon us and the White Sox front office and fans are ready to see Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and the rest of the kids take the field in games that actually matter. I will be back next month to cover any questions that White Sox fans might have. There are always new storylines being made every day as the season progresses. You can follow me on Twitter @DadSox for all the White Sox news and fantasy baseball news. Thank you once again /r/whitesox for all the great questions!

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