The Chicago White Sox are entering a brand new world as they begin preparations for the 2017 season, with the roster in flux and with a clear mandate to rebuild coming down from the front office.
As a result, some of the biggest names on the team are already gone, with Chris Sale jettisoned to the Boston Red Sox and Adam Eaton shipped to the Washington Nationals, and more are expected to follow before all is said and done.
With all of the movement of players, a new crop of youngsters is ready to take their turn at the wheel, and the 2017 season and beyond will be more about those who aren’t in the show yet instead of those that are.
Even still, there are still some veterans worth keeping an eye on this spring along with the youngsters. To that end, we have picked five players of varying ages and roles to keep an eye on during Cactus League play as the White Sox prepare for the beginning of a new era.
After getting off to a sluggish start last season, Abreu really picked up his performance in the second half of the year, posting a .293 batting average with 25 home runs and 100 RBI as he had a third consecutive strong season at the plate for the White Sox.
This season, Abreu will certainly be a player that teams could eyeball for another power bat in their lineup, but it will be up to him to play through the distractions and to help a young team find its footing by providing a stabilizing presence in the lineup.
As one of the top young players in the team’s system, Anderson is going to be looked to as a building block for the future, and he gave fans plenty of reason for optimism in his rookie season. He racked up 37 extra base hits in 410 at-bats, and he posted a slash line of .283/.306/.432 in his first season in the big leagues.
Now, Anderson will need to take some steps forward in his sophomore season. The key to his success will be in finding more discipline at the plate (he walked only 13 times and struck out 117 last season), and in continuing to develop as a fielder, as the White Sox team defense needs to dramatically improve if the team is going to start their rebuild off on the right foot.
Wherever Moncada ends up on the diamond, the White Sox got one of the top prospects in all of baseball when they landed him in the Chris Sale trade. Moncada has a powerful bat, blinding speed, and an ability to hit for average, and while he’ll likely start the season in the minors, it’s going to be very tempting to call him up if he is hitting the cover off the ball.
Even still, White Sox fans have plenty of reason to pay attention to Moncada in the spring. As one of the crown jewels of the organization, Moncada’s development is going to play a huge role in the team’s future success, and getting off on the right foot with a solid spring training could add a breath of fresh air to a fan base in desperate need of it.
After Chris Sale was traded, Quintana slid into the ace role in the Sox rotation, and it’s a well-deserved promotion for one of the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball. Quintana has thrown 200 or more innings in each of the past four seasons, posting an ERA of 3.52 or better in all four, and he’s racked up 781 strikeouts in 951 innings of work at the big league level.
Even with those gaudy numbers, Quintana’s days in Chicago may be numbered. Many teams, including the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, and New York Yankees, have been sniffing around, and if one of them suffers an injury to their pitching staff, they could blow Chicago’s socks off with an offer (all puns intended).
With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Quintana will not only handle his new role as the team’s ace, but also whether he’ll be able to handle being trade bait as the season gets underway.
If Quintana ends up getting dealt at some point, then it will be up to Rodon to step up and fill his sizable role in the rotation.
Rodon has been solid in his first two seasons in the majors, with an 18-16 record and a 3.90 ERA in 51 starts, but he’ll be looking to take a step forward in the new season. Working closely with Don Cooper, Rodon is actively working on sharpening his command on his pitches while also trying to increase his workload, and both of those processes will be worth monitoring during the preseason.