The 2018 Chicago White Sox finished their season in disappointing fashion losing their last five games to post the first 100 loss season since 1970.
The 2018 season was dedicated to their younger talent establishing a full year in the major leagues, and even though their performance struggled at times, their upside along with other factors build optimism for 2019. The young core of players acquired by general manager Rick Hahn in the winter of 2016 benefited the most from playing time in 2018. Pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Michael Kopech saw either a full season or extended time this season.
Although he struggled mightily to start the season, Giolito found his stride in the summer as he recorded eight quality starts in a span of 10 as he lowered his walks drastically. Lopez demonstrated durability and consistency as he finished the season with 188 innings pitched and an ERA of 3.91 which was a team best.
When promoted in late August, Kopech was one of the more anticipated White Sox prospects to be called up. Even though three of his four starts were cut short due to rain, he did manage to impress in his limited time as he only allowed one run in 11 innings. On September 7th, the team confirmed Kopech had torn his UCL ligament requiring Tommy John surgery.
Michael Kopech with his first career strikeout on a dirty slider pic.twitter.com/ItVIMUuijZ
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) August 22, 2018
From a position player standpoint, the team had the young tandem of Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada come on strong in the second half of the seasons to build towards next season.
Anderson’s power numbers have gradually improved in each of his first two season as he became the first White Sox shortstop to hit 20 home runs, 20 or more doubles, and steal 30 or more bases. Moncada’s struggled historically with strikeouts nearly breaking the league record for most strikeouts in a season. He did show promise in September as he began to hit consistently from both sides of the plate recording nine doubles in the month.
The player who surprised the most in 2018 and who could be the main contributor in 2019 is outfielder Daniel Palka.
Palka led the team with 27 home runs in just 124 games. Called up in late April, Palka became a regular down the stretch due to his ability to hit the long ball and drive in runs. He could be the team’s future designated hitter due to his important left-handed power enabling the White Sox to balance out their lineup.
Due to the team’s low payroll, Hahn is expected to target either one or two potential high priced free agents this off-season. Third baseman Manny Machado has been one of the more talked about free agents the White Sox could sign as they were interested in trading for him last off-season at the winter meetings. Adding Machado would provide the team a perennial 30+ home run hitter and one of the best defensive third baseman in the entire league.
Similar to 2017 and 2018, next season will be ripe with anticipation for another round of White Sox prospects to make their major league debut. Outfielder Eloy Jimenez will most likely be promoted the second week of the season as he will meet service time. Fans and the media clamored for Jimenez to be promoted this season, but by keeping him in the minors the team gained another year of contractual control.
Pitcher Dylan Cease could be in line to also make his major league debut in the middle of the 2019 season. Cease impressed this season as he was promoted to Double-A Birmingham mid-season and was named Pipeline’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the 2018 season.
As the 2018 season was dedicated to the team’s young starting pitchers to establish a full season’s worth of experience, 2019 could be the same for the bullpen. Young relievers Caleb Frare, Ian Hamilton, Thyago Vieira, and Ryan Burr could see extended time to determine if they apart of the long-term plans.
One player that could make his debut as the team’s closer is Zach Burdi who spend this season recovering from Tommy John surgery. When drafted in 2016, Burdi was being fast-tracked to the majors and was expected to be called up towards the end of last season as the White Sox future closer, but suffered the arm injury that required surgery.
The 2019 season will be similar to the 2018 season as it will be dedicated to the White Sox’s rebuild with a focus on player development over wins or losses. Another bright side is that the team will be drafting third overall in next year’s amateur draft.
With another year of experience for their young core, the addition of a high level free agent, and the promotion of more prospects, the White Sox 2019 season could finally excitement with the expectation of winning in 2020.