The Chicago White Sox will open their abbreviated 2020 schedule this Friday night against the Minnesota Twins, and the excitement level surrounding what this talented team could do is at an all-time high, at least for the sake of recency.
But before Lucas Giolito toes the rubber of a (nearly) empty Guaranteed Rate Field to open the most anticipated White Sox season in the last decade-plus, we reached out to handful of the most talented minds on White Sox Twitter to gauge their opinions on a bevy of topics regarding the 2020 season.
For this roundtable season preview, we have Josh Nelson (Sox Machine), James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox), Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen), and everyone’s favorite drunk uncles of White Sox Twitter and one of the three guys that call Section 108 home at Guaranteed Rate Field, Chorizy-E.
There’s been plenty of discussion on the validity of this 60-game season thus far, what are your thoughts on the season. Does it hold any more or less significance than others, regardless of how the team performs?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): To me, whether this season carries more or less significance is irrelevant. We are more than halfway done with the 2020 calendar, and in my 35-plus years on this planet, it’s been the oddest. The fact MLB is going to play 60 games during a pandemic that is not letting up is an achievement in itself.
I’m still unsure if this is a good thing. While it’s great to watch baseball again, the reality is Coronavirus cases are still rising in the country and the players will be put into uncomfortable situations. I hope for their sake nobody gets sick.
The best question for everyone who covers this sport is to ask “Was playing 60 games in 2020 worth it?” Circle back to me for that answer in October.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): I think it holds less significance in regards to counting stats obviously, and if someone were to hit .400 or break the ERA record, it wouldn’t carry as much juice as it otherwise would.
Every team is playing by the same rules though, so I think the season in regards to team success will be taken seriously. If every team is playing with the same rules and they are planning on crowning a champion at the end, you might as well try and win the whole thing.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): Depends on your definition of “significant.” The fact that there’s still a baseball season happening during a deadly pandemic is still strange to me, and we’re all just kind of approaching it with a, “what’s the worst that can happen,” question lingering in the backs of our heads. I’m not so sure if “significant” is the right word — maybe historic is better, given the context of everything else happening in the world.
Though the season itself is just weird and unprecedented, some things will still hold true: seeing the team perform well is still going to be nice to see, and if they fall flat on their faces, that’s going to be unenjoyable. Whether or not those feelings will be amplified given the time frame and the global backdrop, I’m not really sure. Regardless of what happens, what’s happening right now – the pandemic, social injustice, systemic racism – all bigger than baseball, and we need to recognize and discuss those things.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): Personally, I am viewing this as the completion of the 1994 season. So not only do I fully expect a Nats (Expos)/White Sox World Series, I also expect to drink a Big Hurt Beer in celebration of our championship. That’s the kind of thing MySoxSummer can find me on eBay, for sure.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): I haven’t heard one player or coach say anything along the lines of 2020 being looked at by them as illegitimate or less special, so if the players and coaches don’t see the season any differently from a legitimacy standpoint, then why should we?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): I think it’s Dylan Cease. Speaking to Cease at SoxFest, he had a good understanding of how his pitch mechanics were causing his fastball to cut and sail out of the strike zone. Paired with Yasmani Grandal, we should see Cease take a pretty big step forward in his development.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): Dylan Cease and Luis Robert are the obvious names. Cease could benefit greatly from the everyday presence of catcher Yasmani Grandal. He has been impressive so far in summer camp. It all comes down to fastball command with Cease and if he can command the fastball and throw the breaking stuff he’s shown so far, he could be in for a big jump.
Everyone wants to see Robert play obviously. He could struggle some with the bat and his 21 percent swinging-strike rate in Charlotte could be exposed some in the major leagues. He’s a plus defender in CF though with plus speed and an above-average arm. He can make a difference defensively even if he struggles on offense.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): If Dylan Cease has fixed the control issues he’s had, it’s certainly him. I would really enjoy seeing Carlos Rodon bounce back nicely from TJS, and hearing stories about his regaining Velo during bullpen sessions during the break was highly encouraging. The 3-5 spots in the starting rotation still make me a little uneasy, so to see these two step-up would be nice to see.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): I think Eloy is only partially broken out. We saw the cute little dinosaur head hatching from the egg. This year, it’s full-on Jurassic Park style devastation of the league.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): I’m going to go with Dylan Cease. I think that Cease’s raw stuff is as good as any pitcher in the organization, and I think that he’s on his way to figuring some things out at the major-league level. The scary part for the rest of the A.L. Central is, even if he does take a step forward in 2020, I think his ceiling is still higher than he can reach this year.
Conversely, who might potentially see some regression in 2020?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): Keep a close eye on Kelvin Herrera. His pitches don’t have the same zip as he had with Kansas City and Washington. I don’t think it would be a good idea to have Herrera pitch in high leverage situations to start the season.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): It’s easy to point to Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada in regards to regression because of the unsustainably high BABIP totals but I’m not going to go with them. Alex Colome and James McCann are the guys I worry about the most.
McCann is a strange roster fit and won’t be afforded that many opportunities to play, and when he does it should be primarily against left-handed pitching. Colome’s peripherals were worrisome last year, and I’m not convinced that the smoke and mirrors will work again in 2020.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): Would it be too pedestrian to mention José Abreu? There was much talk about his potential regression during the offseason, especially around his contract extension. Fangraphs projections have him being a 0.1 WAR player in his age 35 season, 0.5 WAR this year. But maybe the shortened season will have the opposite effect. Craziness. Anything goes.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): Lucas Giolito is set up for some regression because he was just so amazing last year. But I think a slightly worse version of himself with this lineup won’t feel like much of a drop-off.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): I have almost zero confidence in Alex Colomé pitching in high leverage situations. He posted good numbers in 2019, but his stuff looks worse every time I watch him pitch. He scares the crap out of me in the late innings, and I think he could be in store for a rough 2020.
Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert have looked good in Summer Camp, do you see either of them making an impact in some capacity at the major-league level this season?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): I don’t. If either Dunning or Lambert joins the White Sox during the regular season it means that a starting pitcher got hurt. They both have a good pitch arsenal and will eventually pitch in the majors, but I don’t see either being an upgrade over Gio Gonzalez, Carlos Rodon, or Reynaldo Lopez at this point.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): I actually do. They are both on the 40-man roster so they could theoretically get called upon in a pinch. I think Dunning and Lambert are probably the seventh and eighth starters if the need arises.
Dunning could pitch in a bullpen role similar to how he was used at Florida if needed. The 60-man player pool will be interesting, but one thing not being discussed enough is that players on the 30-man have to be on the 40-man in order to be used, and the White Sox 40-man roster is at 39 players
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): Maybe, depending on how effective/healthy the rotation stays. Dunning, I think, will be interesting to watch. His success, especially in last night’s game against the Brewers has been nice to see, given he hasn’t faced batters above the Double-A level, let alone in two years.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): I don’t expect to see either of them. If we do, there has likely been a series of injuries that lead to it. Which means I’ll be too drunk to remember much of it.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): I think that the biggest question mark on this ballclub is the bullpen. Bummer, Cishek, and (ugh) Colomé are the three names that immediately jump out as late-inning guys, and beyond that, you have an unproven Jimmy Cordero.
Outside of those four names, no one makes me feel great about them pitching in high-leverage spots, so why not give one of (or both) of those two a shot at some bullpen innings this year. They’ve both looked good in Summer Camp and the exhibition games.
Carlos Rodon has long been the topic of conversation (and frustration at times) in Chicago, now healthy it looks like he’ll get one more run at reaching his lofty potential before he’s eligible for free agency. How do you see 2020 playing out for Rodon?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): Carlos Rodon’s 2020 season depends on the success of his fastball. Does it still have the same zip before the injuries piling up? I worry it doesn’t and we saw the end results during the intrasquad games. From a White Sox perspective, I don’t envision big arbitration raises after the season. This means Carlos Rodon’s salary for 2021 is not going to explode and make him unaffordable. So the White Sox should be comfortable having Rodon come back after 2020.
From Carlos Rodon’s perspective, I’m sure he’s been dreaming of testing the free agency market to get a big payday. If he wants to achieve that goal, Rodon needs to prove right away that he’s healthy and effective in 2020.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): I think he’ll be in the rotation. You would hope that he could make 10-12 starts, and prove that he’s healthy and on his way to locking up a rotation slot in what could be his final year with the club in 2021.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): It was nice to spend some of the time before the season watching Carlos stream on Twitch, where’d he’d occasionally talk about his recovery process and his goals. It would be nice to see this be his breakout year.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): I would love to see them use him in a way that keeps him fresh and allows him to throw the number of sliders that he feels necessary. Like pitch him only on Sundays, and let him throw what he wants to throw. I don’t believe the Sox will do that, instead opting for him to be a swingman or some shit while ReyLo pitches to a 5-ERA for the first 3-4 weeks. Hopefully, they prove me wrong.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): I’d imagine at this point that Rodon will be pitching in front of or behind veteran Gio Gonzalez on most days to start the season, and where his role goes, in the end, will depend on how he looks. But, if his Summer Camp performance was an indication of where he’s at right now, I don’t expect much in the way of positives from him. I hope he shakes the rust off and proves me wrong, but I’ve been waiting for Rodon to prove me wrong for years.
A lot can happen between now and the duration of the deal, but as of now, it seems like the Yasmani Grandal signing has been one that will pay major dividends to the Sox in their efforts to become perennial contenders. Where does this signing rank for you in terms of all-time Sox free-agent signings?
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): It’ll be tough to eclipse the signing of Jermaine Dye without a world series win I’d think, but Grandal is one of the best free-agent signings in club history.
He’s one of the three best players at his position in the sport. He’s an offensive force in the middle of a lineup, and he’s more valuable than that even by what he brings to the pitching staff on a regular basis. He’ll make all of those guys better. A four-year, $73 million contract is a bargain for what Yasmani Grandal should mean to the Chicago White Sox going forward.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): Pretty high – anyone who knows me already knows that I was a Grandal advocate long before he landed in Chicago. He’s a patient hitter; he gets on base. He has power from both sides of the plate. He’s an elite framer that will pair nicely with pitchers that live on the edge of the zone, like Dallas Keuchel. He’s going to have a fantastic influence on a young pitching staff.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): I can think of some catcher signings that worked out great like Carlton Fisk and AJ Pierzynski, though I’m not sure I felt that way about AJ when it happened. I’m pretty sure I shit my pants for the Pudge signing, but that’s because I was like six-months-old. Pants shitting aside, I’ll put this in the Sox top 10 free agent signings because I think this marked them as done with the rebuild and open for business. Which, was a pleasant surprise.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): Jermaine Dye is the one other signing in my life that could equate to the Grandal signing if of course, all goes as planned.
Do you see any White Sox players taking home some end of the year hardware in 2020?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): I’d be surprised if Luis Robert doesn’t win A.L. Rookie of the Year, and at least one hitter brings home a Silver Slugger. Lucas Giolito has a good shot of winning the A.L. Cy Young if he can duplicate his first-half performance from a year ago.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): The easiest bet here would be predicting Luis Robert as the 2020 A.L. Rookie of the Year, so I’ll go with that.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): Lucas Giolito is a strong Cy Young contender, for sure. I think Tim Anderson could take a shot at another batting title. Luis Robert and Rookie of the Year just makes sense.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): I think Luis Robert winning Rookie of the Year is what most people are looking at, but I’m gonna say Yoan Moncada wins the American League MVP.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): I would be floored if Luis Robert doesn’t win rookie of the year, and he might even compete for a Gold Glove in centerfield. The kid is special, and he’ll be a regular name in these conversations.
The White Sox are buzzing on social media right now and the fan base’s excitement level is as high as it’s been in well over a decade. What’s your advice for White Sox fans on managing expectations right now?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): This may sound odd coming from me, but White Sox fans should not contain their excitement. Let your fan freak flag fly. After what fans have been dealing with since 2015, and in the midst of a seven straight losing seasons streak, it’s time to be uber pumped to watch White Sox baseball.
So what the White Sox won an exhibition game against the Cubs. They looked good doing it! That’s important because we haven’t seen well-played baseball on the South Side in a really long time. I feel like that will change in 2020, and if fans want to go crazy over every little thing, they should. Better than the last three seasons of being apathetic to how the team was doing and more focused on key individuals. It’s fun to be a White Sox fan again.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): Just enjoy the baseball regardless of what happens. The core of this team is intact for the better part of this coming decade, and we should enjoy it.
I’d love a playoff berth as much as the next person, but it’s not all about that in a 60-game season. I want to see that the pieces are in place for the White Sox to be the best club in the American League Central over the next 5-6 years, and 2020 could go a long way toward showing that.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): The offseason alone, and the buzz that surrounded all of our offseason acquisitions simply got the party started. Now that the party’s actually here, I think it’s okay for us to want to be excited. Party responsibly, of course.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): It’s a year to be cautiously optimistic. The backend of the rotation is an unknown, middle relief the same. You’re also counting on a lot of young players to be good right away in a short season. We’re not at the craps table rooting against a seven, we’re at the roulette table rooting to hit a number at 35-1. It’s still fun and it might just happen.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): As simply as I can possibly put it, enjoy the hell out of it. We deserve it. Go crazy with the hype, it’s been a long time coming.
How do you see the American League Central shaking out when it’s all said and done?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): I’ll have more about my reasoning on Sox Machine, but I think the White Sox will finish in second place and earn a Wild Card in 2020.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): I have the Twins winning the division due to their offense and bullpen. I think Cleveland struggles out of the gate and starts selling off pieces, with the White Sox pretty solid all year, but not good enough to make the playoffs in 2020.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): I am not sure if I want to make any predictions given the wayward and capricious nature of this season, and the multiple variables that could influence not one team, but the entire league. If Minnesota’s pitching is as strong as it was last year, they’re still going to be difficult, that won’t change. If the White Sox don’t win the division, I think there is a shot at a Wild Card spot. for sure.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): The Twins are the team to beat, but I bet the Royals at like 500-1 to win it all, so if it’s not gonna be the Sox, then go Royals!
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): The Twins are the team to beat, but don’t be surprised if this White Sox roster outplays expectations before the rest of the league can adapt in this shortened season. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they sneak up on the Twins and Indians and take the division.
With all the names on this roster this is a tough one, but who’s your ‘Pick to Click’ for the White Sox in 2020?
Josh Nelson (Sox Machine): I have A.L. MVP Future bets on Yasmani Grandal (+5000) and Luis Robert (+5500). I’m hoping one of those two.
James Fox (South Side Hit Pen, Future Sox): I think Eloy Jimenez is going to have a monster year playing the majority of his games in July and August.
Janice Scurio (South Side Hit Pen): I can’t talk about him enough, but he’s going to help the 2020 White Sox in so many areas – Yasmani Grandal.
Chorizy-E (From the 108): Jose Abreu. If he goes crazy this year, it’ll be the catalyst to a tremendous season for the Sox.
Patrick Flowers (The Dugout): Yasmani Grandal will be the x-factor for this team, regardless of how the standings shake out. Whether it’s the development of the pitching staff, helping win ballgames or a combination of both, I have to go with Grandal.
A special thanks to all of the participants in this roundtable-style season preview, be sure to (if for some off chance you’re not already) follow each of them and their respective outlets on Twitter to stay informed on all things White Sox this season and beyond!
Feature Photo: Chicago White Sox via Twitter