The Chicago White Sox have made a number of moves this offseason, resulting in quite a different look than last season. Their offense is without leadoff man Adam Eaton and features a number young guys who have yet to play full seasons in the majors. The White Sox may not be expecting to compete this year, but here’s who I think they’ll be sending out to the field on Opening Day.
- Charles Tilson CF: Before you write me off for putting a guy with just two major league at-bats at the leadoff spot, hear me out. The White Sox traded away their star center fielder, Adam Eaton, this offseason, leaving the spot up for grabs. Tilson will take that spot, as well as Eaton’s leadoff spot. He lasted just two at-bats in the majors before pulling his hamstring while tracking a fly ball, but Tilson has the ability to become a successful leadoff hitter in the bigs. His numbers in the minors are impressive, batting .293 over five seasons, while accumulating 89 stolen bases. 46 of those stolen bases came in 2015 where he established himself as one of the top prospects in the White Sox farm system, pre-fire sale. I expect Tilson to be promoted from prospect status and win the starting center fielder and leadoff jobs when spring training comes around.
- Melky Cabrera LF: The Melk Man has been consistent as anyone in baseball the last three seasons, and has proved time in and time out that he belongs at the top of the order. His .296 average ranks highest on the team, and his decent speed makes him a perfect fit at the number two spot. Melky got on base more in 2016 than in his first season with the White Sox, with a .345 OBP. He also cut down on his strikeouts, from 88 in 2015 to 69 in 2016. Melky will get on base and will set the tone for the big power guys from the number two spot.
- Todd Frazier 3B: Frazier hit just .225 last season, but his power numbers were right where they should be. The Todd Father mashed 40 homers and collected 98 RBI, both career highs, all while batting in the fourth, fifth, and sixth spots. Frazier came to Chicago before last season, and while his average wasn’t ideal, seeing 40 homers from a third baseman was something White Sox fans were not used to. I think moving Frazier up in the order will help out his batting average, as he will be faced with less high-intensity situations, while still having opportunities to knock in runs. He’s shown he can get the big hit when it matters, which is why I see him slotting into the third spot when the 2017 season begins.
- Jose Abreu 1B: The Cuban slugger has been exactly as advertised since coming over in 2014. Abreu recorded his third consecutive season of at least 30 doubles, 25 homers, and 100 RBI, becoming the first White Sox player to do so. His 100 RBI in 2016 led the team, making him the guy you want at the plate with runners in scoring position. Still only 29-years-old, Abreu should be in line for a large number of RBI chances when he slots in at the cleanup spot on Opening Day.
- Avisail Garcia RF: The 25-year-old hit .245 with 12 homers and 51 RBI in 120 games last season. Not terrible numbers, but still disappointing considering the hype that once surrounded the Tigers’ 2012 Minor League Player of the Year. He spent three games in the minors last season but showed the White Sox he’s still a valuable bat to have in the lineup. His power isn’t what you would expect from the typical fifth hitter in the order, but Garcia has the best chance of hitting 15 plus homers from the bottom half of the order.
- Yoan Moncada 2B: I’m sure this one will bring up at least one of two questions. The top prospect in all of baseball in the bigs already? Or, the top prospect in baseball batting all the way down at sixth? Well, the answer is yes to both of those questions. The 21-year-old was the centerpiece in the Chris Sale trade, and his impact on the major league club will not have to wait long. Chicago’s infield depth is too thin to be waiting on Moncada, and I could see him starting at second and batting sixth come Opening Day. Sure, it’s a stretch, and there really isn’t much sense in rushing the top prospect onto a team that won’t be competing, but I say why not. Give the kid a chance to make a name for himself in the majors and develop alongside fellow Cuban Jose Abreu. If he does make the team out of spring training and succeeds like many expect him to do, I see him as a top of the order guy, but for now, I see him slotting in the number six spot to start the season.
7. Brett Lawrie DH: Lawrie has not been able to stay healthy throughout his career. Last season he missed the last ten weeks due to a hamstring injury and knee pain after playing in just 94 games. While the injuries deemed his first year with the White Sox a disappointment, Lawrie was actually on decent base before he went down. He collected 22 double and 12 homers in the 94 games he played, both just shy of his totals from 2015, where he played 149 games. He’s shown he has the tools to be an everyday player but needs to stop convincing people he’s made of glass if he wants to make an impact on the team. Assuming he doesn’t hurt himself in Spring Training, I see Lawrie batting in the seventh spot on Opening Day.
8. Omar Narvaez C: The catcher position was a disaster for the Sox in 2016. The backstop duties were split by veterans Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila. Combined they batted .211 with 43 RBI. Fortunately, the two are gone and ready to step up is the 24-year-old Omar Narvaez. He played 34 games in 2016, batting .267 and was solid behind the plate, and for a team that’s going through a rebuild, I don’t see why Narvaez isn’t the Opening Day catcher. He has much to prove, and the recent signing of veteran Geovany Soto should help him develop as a player. I see him slotting in the eighth spot in the order and taking over catching duties when the season begins.[Kenny2]
9. Tim Anderson SS: The 23-year-old shortstop showed he is more than ready to become an everyday player, as evident by his .283 average, nine homers and ten stolen bases in just under a hundred games. His three percent walk rate could use some improvement if he wants to move up in the order, but for now, his consistent bat from the nine spot could set a great tone for the top of the order. On a team that isn’t aggressive on the base paths and lacks power outside of the three-four spots, Anderson could prove to be a valuable part of the lineup, even from the bottom of the order. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bangs out a 15/15 season if he can prove that he can spend a whole season at short.
The White Sox aren’t expected to compete in 2017, but watching their lineup of young guys develop and make a name for themselves should be interesting to follow. Some of these guys may be just working their way into the lineup now but could be big names in the White Sox organization after 2017.