The White Sox 2016 season left a lot to be desired but one shining point was an infield that can only get better in 2017.
I couldn’t have been the only one to feel a little disheartened when an aging Jimmy Rollins took his position at short stop on Opening Day of 2016. Weeks later when rookie Tim Anderson joined the team the intentions of the White Sox organization became a bit more clear – wait for the prospects.
The 2017 offering most likely won’t look too much different come Opening Day. Jose Abreu will play first base, Brett Lawrie signed a one-year contract and will play second, Tim Anderson will look to improve upon a great rookie season at short, and third baseman Todd Frazier will try his hardest to slug his way to a .220 batting average. The difference maker in 2017 will be newcomer Yoan Moncada.
The White Sox have already made it clear that they’re going to allow their prospects the time they need to develop so Moncada most likely will not contribute right away. Whether his situation will be handled like Rollins/Anderson is obviously yet to be seen but the potential for a similar scenario is there. Until then the rest of the White Sox infield will be untouched and familiar to the handful of Sox fans who will watch the team in 2017 but don’t write for The Loop Sports.
1B – Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu‘s 2016 started out rough but ended up right on pace with what we’ve come to expect from him. 25 home runs, 100 runs batted-in, and a .293 batting average were all great numbers to finish the season with. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to expect a bit of a breakout year in comparison to what Abreu had in 2016. 35 home runs, 110 batted-in, and a .300 batting average should be well within the realm of possibility. Look for Abreu to assume the role of mentor once Yoan Moncada does finally join the big league team. Abreu and Moncada were teammates in Cuba and have a good relationship with each other.
2B – Brett Lawrie
Lawrie spent a good portion of the 2016 season on the disabled list, playing in 94 games for the White Sox. Despite the fact that some people can’t stand his fiery personality and his tendency to act like someone who wants people to think he’s tough but he kind of isn’t, I actually like Brett Lawrie and hope to see him succeed. Unfortunately once Moncada comes up to the White Sox it will be either Lawrie or third baseman Todd Frazier stepping aside to make way for the future. With Frazier’s name linked to recent trade rumors it would appear as though Moncada may be poised to take over third base responsibilities, though Moncada and Anderson turning double plays together does sound quite magical. In the mean time, Lawrie’s defense is serviceable and while his production could be better he has the potential to be a table-setter. With Adam Eaton and his 91 runs scored now sporting Washington Nationals threads the White Sox will need all of the help they can get in the run production department. For the White Sox to salvage some of 2017 they need Lawrie to stay healthy and contribute. (Also what’s up with the Nationals and lefties named Adam?)
3B – Todd Frazier
Whether Todd Frazier will be a part of the White Sox Opening Day roster is still undecided. Frazier’s name has been bounced around in several trade rumors so far this offseason and with Yoan Moncada able to play third base it makes a Frazier trade seem all the more likely. Frazier is your typical slugger, hitting 40 home runs and driving in 98 runs while posting a batting average of just .225 in 2016. Fellow TLS writer Owen Schoenfeld and I exchanged many texts regarding Frazier last season, and one thing we agreed on was that we would like to see Frazier’s doubles total increase in 2017. Todd has averaged about 20 doubles in all of his seasons so far except for 2015 when he hit a whopping 43. A doubles total in the 30’s should be just what Todd needs to bring success to the team.
SS – Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson was the best part of 2016 for me. His arrival on the scene made an impact both offensively and defensively. He is an absolute joy to watch at short stop and it’s amazing that he will only get better. Over 99 games with the White Sox Tim had 33 multi-hit games, 9 home runs and 30 runs batted-in, but 117 strikeouts to just 13 walks. His plate discipline could use a lot of work but even then Anderson still managed to hit for a batting average of .283. Tim looks to be the Anthony Rizzo of the White Sox in the sense that he’ll be able to shape the future of the team and establish the new generation. I’m expecting big things out of Anderson in his first full season as the White Sox starting short stop.
The White Sox also have a couple players who will be able to fill in off the bench when needed. Cult hero Tyler Saladino and utility man Carlos Sanchez are two guys that saw a lot of playing time in 2016, and both players had a few games where they contributed in major ways. Saladino was able to play in 93 games for the White Sox in 2016, and Sanchez played in 53. Saladino’s batting average of .282 impressed a lot of people and was part of the reason he kept seeing playing time. The kid likes to hit. Matt Davidson may also see some playing time if he recovers from his injury and the White Sox are willing to give him another shot.
Of course, as was the running theme of this article, Yoan Moncada is waiting in the wings. Baseball America ranked Moncada as the #1 prospect in all of baseball last July so to have that kind of weapon waiting in the minor leagues is a fun feeling. He isn’t listed on the White Sox depth chart just yet so where he will play is a mystery at this point. Just know that when he does join the team, if he’s what people say he is, he will be a superstar for years to come. Plenty of reasons to be excited for the future of the Chicago White Sox.