As the offseason picks up speed, White Sox fans are eager to see how next year’s team comes together. The White Sox have some glaring needs heading into 2019, which Rick Hahn admitted last week. They also have to contend with service time stipulations for their prospects on the rise, and a duty to scour the free agent market for bargains. Here’s my prediction for the White Sox group of position players on Opening Day.
Returning position players – starters
C – Omar Narvaez
Narvaez will finally get a well-deserved shot to be the everyday backstop. Welington Castillo is playing on a reasonable contract and, despite his PED issues in 2018, will be traded to a catcher needy team this offseason. Narvaez put up solid offensive numbers over the past couple seasons, and he continues to show tremendous plate discipline. His defense needs work. He ranked near the very bottom of the league in Framing Runs Saved, according to Baseball Prospectus. With regular time, the hope is that the defense trends upwards.
1B – Jose Abreu
The elder statesman of the White Sox, Abreu produces year after year. He is, however, coming off a down season. Abreu will definitely regain his health during the offseason and be ready to once again hit at elite levels in 2019. While I still debate the value of his presence for the younger players vs. his value as a trade chip, the White Sox would be selling low if they shipped him out of town this offseason. Look for him to return with a vengeance in 2019.
3B – Yoan Moncada
Rick Hahn also discussed Moncada’s position moving forward, citing his athleticism as the basis of considering him a potential utility player in the future. Moncada’s speed make him a viable candidate for centerfield, and his reaction time (at least according to my eye test) make his a potential fit for the hot corner as well. Depending on future shortstop plans, Moncada could potentially take over the position long term, or be a solid backup option. I think he will get some reps at third during the offseason and Spring Training, and will give the White Sox a higher ceiling offensive option than the past few years.
SS – Tim Anderson
I was extremely impressed by the strides made by Tim Anderson last season. I’ve admittedly been tough on Anderson, mostly due to the abundantly apparent talent he brings to the field every single day. Last year, he looked like a true MLB shortstop (again, according to my eye test). There are still improvements to be made, and I still think he might be better suited roaming centerfield, but he consistently puts in the work to improve. His lifetime .286 OBP is a huge area of improvement, but the power/speed combo he brings to the dish are potentially elite.
LF – Daniel Palka
Palka hits baseballs really hard, and they have a tendency to travel extremely far. His defense is suspect, at best, as Fangraphs pegs him as a well below average defender across the board. He might be better suited as the White Sox designated hitter, but at least at the beginning of the season, he’ll man left field and continue to #PalkSmash.
RF – Avisail Garcia
After a disappointing, injury-riddled 2018, Garcia will head back to the White Sox looking to reset and produce closer to his 2017 output. An oft-rumored trade chip, Garcia needs to once again establish himself as a solid producing corner outfielder before hitting the trade block. Of course, a lack of production in 2019 likely puts his starting spot in jeopardy as well.
DH (1B/3B/RP?) – Matt Davidson
Davidson’s improved patience at the plate in 2018 made him a much more valuable power hitter. In 2017, he hit 26 home runs with 19 walks in 118 games. In 2018, he hit 20 home runs with 52 walks in 123 games. The slight drop in power is acceptable when the OBP rises that significantly. If Davidson continues to reach base at this higher (albeit not all that high) rate, he will continue to push his way into the White Sox future plans. Plus, if he’s truly considering a transition to a two-way player, he becomes even more valuable.
New position players – starters
2B – Brandon Phillips
As Yoan Moncada works on his versatility and makes the move to the hot corner, second base becomes an area of need while the White Sox await the arrival of Nick Madrigal. Phillips will make a comeback of sorts, providing a veteran bat and solid overall defense at the keystone before being traded midway through the season. He will be cheap, and since his best days are behind him, BP will not be a favorite target for perceived contenders.
CF – Cameron Maybin
Maybin will toil away on the free agent market much longer than he should, but will eventually accept a deal with the White Sox. He will win the starting centerfield job after a solid Spring Training on both sides of the ball. Maybin has never fully lived up to the hype of his top prospect days, but he has stolen bases, played solid defense, and put up respectable offensive numbers throughout his career. After a solid first half, he will find himself on the trade block as well, a place with which he’s all to familiar.
C – AJ Ellis
Like Narvaez, Ellis also ranked near the bottom of the league in Framing Runs Saved, but he’s a veteran presence likely to accept a reasonably cheap contract for 2019. Ellis will essentially fill the void left by Welington Castillo’s exit. His offensive output for the Padres in 2018 was solid if unspectacular, and his .239/.340/.352 career slash line at least provides a chance for production when Narvaez needs a rest.
IF – Yolmer Sanchez
Oh, Yolmer. How I love watching you play baseball. Your energy on and off the field, your ice bucket challenges (?) to celebrate walk-offs, and your hustle/ability to make plays is thrilling. However, I just don’t feel confident in your ability to hold down a starting spot on a major league roster. Given your versatility and hustle, I imagine you’ll appear in plenty of games throughout the year at different positions. If this upsets you (because I’m sure you’re reading this), prove me wrong. I’d love it!
OF – Adam Engel
After competing for a Gold Glove in 2018, Engel finds his starting spot in jeopardy heading into 2019. The reason? He doesn’t hit enough. He’ll put up tremendous defensive numbers while giving all three starting outfielders rest, but until the offense catches up, he simply cannot be in the starting lineup.
UT – Leury Garcia
Garcia is a super-utility player, capable of playing all three outfield spots and all around the infield. Unfortunately, his early scouting reports as a defensive-minded player have proven mostly true. Garcia has put up better offensive numbers than the White Sox and likely any other team scouting him expected, but they are not enough to demand a starting role. However, his ability to play anywhere makes him an integral part of the roster in 2019. Garcia can step in and relatively seamlessly cover for almost any other position player in need of a day off.
Only time will tell
Of course, I have no say in the matter. Given the White Sox early offseason moves, the needs of the team, as well as creating an opportunity to flip veterans to further bolster the prospect depth, these are my predictions. Who knows what Rick Hahn & Co. have up their sleeves? Don’t forget, Hahn garnered some attention for the Southside with his mention of the payroll space to sign both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. One can dream.
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