The Chicago White Sox have one of the most compelling rebuilds in Major League Baseball, and the featured element of that intrigue, their offense, is about to have a breakout season.
The White Sox have been loaded around the diamond for years, and last season their offense showed signs of growth.
Tim Anderson had an electric year at the plate, hitting .335 while posting an .865 OPS and 129 OPS+; the shortstop won the MLB batting title. He’s a scrappy, contact hitter, Chicago’s headman, and is establishing himself as one of the best offensive infielders in baseball.
Yoan Moncada‘s career took a complete 180 in 2019. He was moved from second to third base and endured astronomical growth at the plate. Hitting .315 while posting a .915 OPS and 141 OPS+, he was a force to be reckoned with from both sides of the plate.
Eloy Jimenez destroyed everything thrown at him last season — or at least it felt that way. Blasting 31 home runs while posting a 47.9 percent hard-hit percentage, which ranked in the top eight percent in the sport, he was a vibrant bat in the middle of manager Rick Renteria‘s offense.
Jose Abreu is the 33-year-old ol’ reliable in the room. He remains one of the elite first basemen and most feared hitters in the sport. Abreu is coming off totaling a career-best 123 RBIs and has posted an OPS+ over 115 in each of his six MLB seasons; he hasn’t lost a step.
The White Sox were one of the busiest teams on both the free agent and trade market this past offseason. Around the diamond, they added three big swingers: Yasmani Grandal, Nomar Mazara, and Edwin Encarnacion.
Grandal is one of the best catchers in baseball. He’s a steady force behind the plate and a premier hitter at his position. He has totaled 22-plus home runs in each of the last four seasons, an OPS+ over 100 in each of his eight MLB seasons, and an OPS over .800 in three of the last four seasons.
Meanwhile, James McCann, one of the better hitting catchers in baseball, remains in place. A catching duo of Grandal and McCann could be the game’s best.
Chicago acquired Mazara from the Texas Rangers, and while they surrendered the steep price of prospect Steele Walker, the outfielder’s offense will make this trade worthwhile. Mazara is a towering hitter from the left side. He swings a power bat, is a reliable right fielder, and casually hit a 505-foot home run against the White Sox last season.
What does it mean to be 37 and still raking at a high level? Pull up some Edwin Encarnacion clips. The designated hitter/first baseman inked a one-year deal with Chicago and is coming off an “off year” where he hit 34 home runs and posted an .875 OPS.
Despite those that have been fixtures at the big-league level, as well as the newcomers, no one’s presence on the diamond looms larger for the White Sox than Luis Robert.
Robert is Chicago’s top prospect and one of the best prospects in baseball. Set to make his MLB debut in 2020, Robert projects to be Chicago’s starting center fielder. If he merely swings the bat at a respectable level, it’ll enhance an already electric offense.
This is going to be one of the best offenses from the eye test and a production standpoint in MLB. They have it all: young studs gradually improving, respected veterans, and players who could blossom with direction.
If and when a 2020 MLB season takes place, it will be far below the 162-game standard; that helps a rebuilding team relying on its offense.
How often do we see a surprise team a couple months into the season and the featured aspect of their success is their offense? Then the weather gets hotter, matchups get more intense, and they gradually fade into the summer abyss.
The White Sox have a considerable starting rotation with Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and free agent signees Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez. That said, their offense is transparently more appealing and likely to be leaned on than their pitching staff.
As a whole, this core is yet to contend for an AL Wild Card spot; last season they won 72 games, the most wins they’ve accumulated since 2016. Let’s say there’s an 81-game season. Chicago’s offense can rake for three months, alleviate some of their pitching deficiencies, and perhaps put them in the playoff hunt.
Now, whether the White Sox are guaranteed to make the playoffs and/or capture the AL Central is a different conversation, as the Minnesota Twins are coming off a 101-win season, and the Cleveland Indians have won 90-plus games in each of the last four seasons; the bulk of Minnesota and Cleveland’s cores remain in place.
Chicago’s young core has gradually improved and can only continue to do so.
Imagine what Anderson will look like when he shores up his defense and/or draws more walks. If Moncada duplicates his 2019 production we’re talking about an elite third baseman. Jimenez had a stout rookie season and can improve his plate discipline with more at-bats. Mazara’s production could spike, as he’ll be hitting around a group of well-versed players. If Robert lives up to 70 percent of the hype, he’s an All-Star-caliber player.
The pieces are in place for Chicago to turn the corner, and their offense is at the impetus of that optimism. A shortened season that sees prominent youngsters continue to man vital roles will bring out a new beast in the White Sox.