As it stands there are only Juan Uribe days until the White Sox kick off the 2018 season on opening day. It feels like this is the most anticipated Sox season since 2006. While there are not any real World Series aspirations (yet), the excitement surrounding the process to get there is at an all-time high as more and more talented prospects continue to rise to the major league level and perform.
So while expectations are rationally tempered, here are some off the wall and bold predictions for the White Sox in 2018:
Yoan Moncada will hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases
While most attention this spring has been focused on prospects Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and Luis Robert, second baseman Yoan Moncada has quietly slid under the radar. Yoan has had a tremendous spring, hitting .281 with 13 hits, 9 RBI and 3 HR. He’s looked physically incredible, spraying the ball to all fields, and launching a few into orbit.
I think it all comes together for Yoan in a serious way this year, especially while hitting as the Sox new lead-off man.
2018 will his first full season in the major leagues, and it’s important to remember that he was previously the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. So there is some serious talent there, and as I aid above it looks like Yoan is starting to put all of it together. If that’s the case, and if he can continue to learn and improve, he’s going to have a huge season.
Tim Anderson will be an All Star
I wrote about Tim Anderson yesterday and how I believe he’s primed for a monster 2018 season. It seems like everything is coming together for Tim, and that he’s starting to emerge as a real leader of the team.
He’s looking to cement himself as the Sox shortstop of the future, and I think that process begins with an incredible first half of 2018, earning him an All Star selection. If his offense continues to improve, and can be a middle infield defense vacuum with Moncada, I think he has a real shot to surprise some people.
Lucas Giolito will be the Sox best pitcher
Lucas Giolito may be the most pleasant surprise for me from spring training this year. We all knew the raw stuff and talent that Gio had when the Sox traded for him. We saw flashes of it in the minors and last year when he got called up. But we’ve been waiting to see when he would maybe take that step from good pitcher to the great pitcher that we knew he could be.
Well we saw that this spring, and I think it’s going to continue this year. A lot of the Sox rotation is going to be brutal this year. That’s all by design to eat innings. The important thing is to focus on these young guys, and I believe Giolito may be the most electric out of the group. He’s going to take a huge step this season.
When Gio is on, he’s unhittable.
Eloy Jimenez will get called up in July and hit more than 10 home runs
Eloy Jimenez is an absolute freak, and he put on a show at times this spring. He ate up minor league hitting last year, and will continue to do that during the first half of this season before he forces the front office’s hand to call him up to Chicago.
The reservation with this scenario is obviously that the White Sox don’t want to rush him up too early. They won’t be chasing anything this season and don’t want to risk his development. Rick Hahn has emphasized patience throughout this entire rebuild.
But despite all of that I think Eloy’s progression in the minors during the first half of this year is going to ultimately force the Sox to make a decision. I think that decision is going to be to bring him to Chicago, and when he does he’s going to put a lot of baseballs into orbit.
Carson Fulmer ends up in the bullpen, or traded
I’ve been vocal in my disappointment with Carson Fulmer this spring. He just hasn’t had his good stuff many times, and has never been able to settle in since coming up to Chicago.
The Sox took Fulmer 8th overall in the 2015 draft. While Fulmer was electric and starred at Vanderbilt, he’s continued to struggle and not find his old stuff that got him drafted in the top 10.
Many have commented that his style would be best suited in a relief role coming out of the bullpen, and I agree. I think that is the most likely scenario for him right now. I just struggle to see where he fits in the starting rotation long term as we continue to move forward. I think the Sox can get the best out of him in the bullpen, and if not they may have to move on and trade him.
Yolmer Sanchez will cement himself as a serious piece of the rebuild
I think all Sox fans have fell in love with the infectious personality and free spirit of Yolmer Sanchez. He keeps guys loose in the clubhouse, and oh by the way… he also plays baseball pretty well too. He’s a more than useful utility player that can be used all over the diamond.
This offseason, when people were clamoring for the Sox to dump a ton of money into signing Mike Moustakas to play third base, many made the obvious point that Yolmer Sanchez was already here and could statistically do the job just as well (defensively), if not better, than Moustakas, and for much cheaper! He’ll probably get the majority of starts at third, with Davidson DH-ing, so this will be an important time for him to show what he can do for the length of a season.
Yolmer is a valuable little piece, and somebody that teammates seem to love. I think that’s really important.
Rick Hahn is not done dealing
GM Rick Hahn made waves last season with the stretch of trades he made that put the Sox into the rebuild position they’re in now. Those were the high profile trades that laid the foundation for the rebuild, and now will come more trades that will continue to build depth for the future.
I’m not going to act like I have any real source information here. These are all things I think Hahn could do.
As I said above, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carson Fulmer got dealt at some point. I think the Sox have to take a real look at a player like Avi Garvia and figure out how he fits here long term or if they can get more prospect depth by dealing him. Someone like Adam Engel could be valuable. I think Hahn could make more bullpen deals at the deadline like he did last year if some guys in the Sox pen over-perform like last year.
There are a ton of things that could happen, but one thing we do know is that Rick Hahn is going to be patient, and depending on what happens with the roster at the minor league level, may have more moves up his sleeve.
Jose Abreu will have 20 HR and 100 RBI… again
Many fans, including myself, are worried about a potential decline in Jose Abreu. It’s more of a gut feeling than anything else, because the stats certainly don’t indicate it. Abreu is only the third player in major league history to have 20 HR and 100 RBI in each of his first four seasons (Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio – decent company).
Abreu is becoming the steady leader in the White Sox clubhouse, and the mentor of Yoan Moncada (and other young Cuban players in the Sox system). He’s an important guy around these parts, and can hopefully continue to be an important contributor on the field as well.
I think Abreu will continue his run, easily hitting 20+ homers, and again scratching across 100 RBI’s in 2018. If he can do that, while the front office figures out his long term role here, it will put the Sox in a fantastic position.
White Sox will draw more than 2 million fans this year
Last season the Sox finished 28th in league attendance, drawing a grand total of 1,629,470 fans during the tear, averaging 20,626 per game.
Those dismal numbers can mostly be attributed to a really bad product on the field for most of the year. Arguments and jokes about White Sox attendance are old and usually untrue, and he truth is when the team is exciting and winning fans will show up in droves to spend their money.
The 2018 Sox are going to be just that, and I believe the fans are going to show up. There’s a major buzz right now, and people are interested in being a part of what the White Sox are doing. Also, more prospects getting called up = more fans starting to show up more regularly.
They’re gonna draw more than 2 million people this year, and it could be far more.
White Sox will hang around the AL Wild Card race
Alright, you want a BOLD take? Well here it is!
Last season the Minnesota Twins made an unexpected run to the second AL Wild Card spot after losing over 100 games in 2016. The Sox didn’t even lose that many games last year, and may in fact have just as talented a roster. If the Twins did it last year, why can’t the White Sox do it this year?
If everything somehow comes together early, players up from the minors perform right away, the bullpen is solid, starting pitching comes together… who says the Sox couldn’t sneak into a Wild Card spot? Regardless, I believe they’re good enough to at least hang around the Wild Card race throughout the season.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily the goal. Rick Hahn has made it clear that the Sox won’t mortgage their future just to chase a wild card berth for one year. But if it indeed happened, it would show real and rapid player development that would change the conversation going into 2019. It would also be a lot of fun.