The White Sox finally have fans starting to believe and buy-in after a promising first half of the season. Chicago currently sits in third place (42-44) in a rather surprisingly tough AL Central. We have experienced career changing years and much promise from players like Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, and Yoan Moncada, who suddenly don’t have the “bust” term hanging over their head anymore. We have watched the baseball world explode over Timmy’s bat flips (which we need many more of). And we have seen the last of “rebuilds” players like Adam Engel and Odrisamer Despaigne. The once prospects are slowly turning into cornerstone pieces as we all thought they would be just three short years ago. But what can we fully expect out of this ball club moving forward?
To start with the obvious, a playoff push doesn’t seem likely with the way our rotation is set up. We are currently 12.5 back out of first place and 7 back from a wildcard spot. What is more likely is the potential to finish over .500 for the first time since 2012. I can see the Sox finishing in the 82-84 win range, but in order for that to happen, the Sox need their starting rotation to step up big. In the first half of the season, pitching has been a huge let down in key moments. Out of all 30 teams, the White Sox are ranked 26th in overall pitching with a 5.03 ERA while batters are hitting with a .266 AVG.
The Bullpen did struggle in the month of July but we should start to see them coming into their own. Alex Colome has been fantastic in the closer role as he is 20-21 in save opportunities with a 2.02 ERA. Rick Hahn is going to have quite a few teams calling in about his availability, and the Sox could get a decent prospect out of the deal with Colome being controllable for the next year and a half. In his last eight starts, Jace Fry has been looking like the Jace Fry of 2018 and with the suprise of Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer turning into absolute studs, Sox fans can expect this bullpen to quickly turn around into the best in the AL Central.
The main problem of the first half as mentioned earlier is starting pitching. Yes, I am talking to you Reynaldo Lopez. Losing Carlos Rodon to Tommy John Surgery earlier in the year meant others needed to step up. We all know what Giolito has done since then and we received help with Dylan Cease, but what happened to Reynaldo? Believe it or not, Lopez led the White Sox with a 3.1 WAR last season. Reylo now sits with a 6.34 ERA and continues to give up too many runners on base. For the rest of the season, Lopez will keep his job as a starter (due to a lack of talent), but starting 2020 it is looking like he will come out in relief situations. As fans, we shouldn’t expect much more from Lopez and hopes he gets his ERA to sub-five and a half but he will be nothing more than an innings-eater this second half.
Is Dylan Cease going to have an exception second half of the season? No probably not, but he will be decent enough to be our number two guy behind Giolito. Looking at his first start, his fastball control was well, out of control. It is an easy fix once he dials in and takes a few MPH off, but the walk problem is there. The off-speed looked fantastic at points. If Cease can execute that breaking ball as a wipeout pitch those strikeouts will be piling up. My prediction: Cease will wind up 5-7 with a 4.35 ERA while most likely being tracked for innings toward the end of the year.
As for the rest of the staff not named Giolito and Cease, don’t expect much at all. The rotation won’t get any help at the trade deadline as they shouldn’t because it is not time for the Sox to be buyers. But as long as Ivan Nova isn’t pitching against the Cubs and guys like Ross Detwiler are pitching for the South Siders, there is going to be not enough quality starts.
On the other side of the diamond, we can start to expect A LOT more. Moncada is a super-star, Eloy Jimenez is healthy and starting to swing the bat very well, Moncada is a super-star, Jon Jay has entered the lineup, Timmy will be back soon, and did I mention Moncada is a super-star? It is a shame Yoan wasn’t represented in the All-Star game. He is having a breakout season while slashing .308/.364/.544 with 16 HR. Moncada won’t regress this second half he will just progress. The same goes for Jose Abreu. As the temperature starts to heat up, so does Pito. This offense with everybody healthy and ready to go are in fact, The Bridgeport Bombers.
Eloy has progressed so well, as we all know he would, from the first few weeks of the season. He has started to lay off more of sliders away and is starting to absolutely mash baseballs. Yet another shame for the MLB to not put this young phenom in the home run derby. That average and OBP is only going to climb higher and higher. As for his home runs, I am expecting Eloy to hit 24 more to hit 40+. That is my bold prediction, and he will do it as long as he stays in the lineup. The only two players who have hit 40+ home runs as a rookie? Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge, although it looks like Peter Alonso will be joining that group as well.
It has been a fun year so far to be a fan of this talented young team. And to think it is only up from here. All I can say is sit back, relax, and strap it down because White Sox baseball is on the rise.
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