The AL Central teams are up next in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, with the Chicago White Sox, who came in fourth place in the division last season, up first.
The White Sox are clearly looking toward the future, having traded one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball and one of the team’s best hitters this offseason. The team traded SP Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a package of four players highlighted by 3B Yoan Moncada, then a day later traded OF Adam Eaton to the Nationals in exchange for SP Lucas Giolito and two other players. Moncada and Giolito are the players acquired in those deals who are closest to being in the majors, but neither is guaranteed to end up with a roster spot when the season starts. The team signed SP Derek Holland, who will likely slot into the bottom of the rotation while SP Jose Quintana is the definitive No. 1 starter with Sale in Boston. 1B Jose Abreu and 3B Todd Frazier will lead the offensive attack for the White Sox. The offense will be without 2B Brett Lawrie, who the White Sox released in March after one season with the team.
The White Sox finished in the top half of MLB last season with a .257 average, but their 168 home runs were the ninth fewest in the majors. The team’s .727 OPS also finished in the bottom 10 of the league. Abreu was the team’s best hitter overall, hitting .293 with 25 home runs and a .820 OPS. Frazier led the team in home runs with a career-high 40 — eighth-most in the majors — but that went with a career-low .225 average, 30 points lower than what he hit in 2015. Frazier finished the season with a .767 OPS. OF Melky Cabrera hit. 296 with 14 home runs.
The pitchers posted a 4.10 ERA, which placed them near the middle of the league. They finished the season with a below-average 1,270 strikeouts, and the bullpen ended up with 43 saves, which was right on the MLB average. Quintana led the starting rotation with a 3.20 ERA. He also struck out 181 batters in 208 innings in 32 starts. Young SP Carlos Rodon started 28 games and put up decent numbers, a 4.04 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 165 innings. SP Miguel Gonzalez put up a 3.73 ERA. With the Rangers last year, Holland pitched in 22 games — 20 starts — with a 4.95 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 107.1 innings. RP David Robertson saved 37 games in 44 opportunities, to go along with a 3.47 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 62. 1 innings. RP Nate Jones had a good season in a setup role, throwing 70.2 innings with a 2.29 ERA and 80 strikeouts.
There’s a lot of youth in the White Sox lineup this season, with the likes of SS Tim Anderson and C Omar Narvaez expected to get the starting jobs at their positions coming out of spring training. OF Charlie Tilson was also on track to land a starting job, but a recent foot injury will likely prevent that from happening. Abreu and Frazier are likely going to have to carry the team offensively as the young players adapt to major-league pitching. Quintana is a viable ace, but without Sale there’s not a strong No. 2 to slot in behind him. Rodon could eventually be that guy, but he has been pretty inconsistent in his first two seasons in the league. He’ll have to step up if he wants to be that guy to put up good numbers behind Quintana in the rotation. Robertson and Jones should be able to keep a lead when they get one handed to them, if they continue to pitch like they did last year.
Being in the same division as the Twins could be the only thing that saves the White Sox from being a last-place team this year. After trading away Sale and Eaton, the White Sox are clearly going to take a step backwards this season and are probably looking at 70-75 wins after winning 78 games in 2016. It’s a period of rebuilding for the White Sox that is probably going to take at least another couple of years, so White Sox fans should expect sub-.500 teams for the foreseeable future.