With two weeks left in the regular season, there are still notable storylines for White Sox fans to pay attention to.
It’s been a long season, and it has been a tough first half of September. However, the White Sox have a couple weeks left to end the season on a high note. No, we won’t see Eloy Jimenez or Nick Madrigal debut. But, there’s still fun and excitement to be had. From home run leaderboards to quality starts, to auditions for 2019, there’s still plenty of interesting things to watch on this White Sox team.
Bear with them
Rebuilding seasons are long and arduous, but there are always bright spots and hopeful moments. The 2018 season for the Chicago White Sox is no different. An eye on the future kept many fans and players engaged and interested. Watching players struggle, adjust, and grow has been a delight for this Sox fan. Of course, the process comes with its frustrations, too. Prolonged struggles of key players like Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito cast doubt on the rebuild’s foundation.
Carson Fulmer’s lack of success and Michael Kopech’s Tommy John surgery seemingly cloud the future starting rotation picture. It becomes increasingly easy to throw in the towel, back up the trucks, and turn Guaranteed Rate Field into a parking lot. I hope you read that in a Randy Quaid a la Major League II voice. I’ve heard the doom and gloom rhetoric on the radio and in conversation with fellow fans. And, oh boy, I’ve read it all over social media. I understand it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it.
Trust the process, White Sox fans.
Quite a few steps in the rebuilding process will take time. We are short on that in the 2018 season. So, let’s stop being a naysayer calling for Rick Hahn’s resignation. Instead, let’s focus on the remaining schedule and what excitement might be in store. Daniel Palka has a chance to take home the rookie home run crown, the pitching staff is making tremendous strides, and players are vying for 2019 spring training invites and roster spots. Here’s to an interesting finish to the season!
#PalkSmash all the way to the top?
Perhaps the most exciting thing to watch for as the season draws to a close is Daniel Palka’s home run total. He currently sits just one round-tripper behind Ronald Acuna for most home runs amongst rookies. He just bashed two more on Sunday afternoon and has a legitimate chance to surpass Acuna and become the first White Sox rookie home run leader since Jose Abreu in 2014. Palka will have competition in this endeavor, however. Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, and Juan Soto are within striking distance as well. I have no idea if Palka pays any attention to the leaderboard, but if he does, I’m sure taking the top spot is a motivator for the relatively unheralded prospect and waiver claim. Exploding on the scene without much fanfare and a love for destroying baseballs has carried him this far, so let’s see how he finishes it up!
Comin’ up aces?
After the trades that brought Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Michael Kopech to the White Sox, it long seemed that each of the three would comprise a majority of the future starting rotation. Giolito has both dazzled and endured his struggles in his time on the south side. He pitched to a pristine 2.38 ERA in seven starts last season, and he had a string of strong starts in the middle of 2018 as well. He got the loss Sunday, but after a terrible first inning, he battled back and gave the White Sox a chance to win the game. If he can find some consistency in his performance, he will fit in the rotation nicely.
Reynaldo Lopez had a solid eight starts for the White Sox last year, and he came out of the gates in 2018 ready to go. His peripherals were prime for regression, and as they leveled out, his ERA climbed. However, he is very clearly learning how to be a successful MLB pitcher, and more often than not, he’s keeping the White Sox in ballgames. Since a two-inning meltdown against Kansas City on August 19, Lopez has dropped his ERA from 4.72 to 4.05. Hopefully, he continues to lower it over these last couple of starts.
Kopech’s injury hurts. However, it’s better it happens while he’s young, giving him time to recover before his prime and before the White Sox are ready to contend. He will still be one of the five starters for the next competitive team. Kopech, Lopez, Giolito, and a renewed Carlos Rodon is a tough staff to match up against. He will be back. Be patient. It stings, but I truly don’t believe it pushes the rebuild timeline back at all.
The fifth spot in the White Sox rotation was seemingly always reserved for Carson Fulmer. However, he has continued his wildly inconsistent ways, resulting in a May demotion. Anecdotally speaking, there were glimpses of a perennial All-Star in his MLB starts this year. The problem is, I think he’s in the wrong role. His flashes of brilliance and absolute dominance came in small samples: an inning or a string of six or seven batters. It’s time to have him hone in on his wicked stuff and let it rip out of the bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, there have been so many bullpen arms called up I can’t even keep track! All of these guys are trying to prove themselves worthy of a spring training invite in 2019, if not a guaranteed roster spot. Jace Fry has looked great, Caleb Frare shows flashes of promise, and we even throw things back to 1804 with Ryan Burr and Ian Hamilton. Each one of these guys is not only getting their first taste of the majors, but they are also all trying to lock down a spot on the White Sox instead of the Knights or the Barons. Look for them to dig deep and make a name for themselves.
May the best men win (invites and roster spots)
This is not even to mention the emergence of guys like Jose Rondon and Ryan LaMarre, or the debut of Ryan Cordell. There currently aren’t enough spots for them all on the 25-man roster, so each will be attempting to get a leg up on the competition headed into the offseason. Some might be auditioning for the White Sox, while others might be unknowingly auditioning for the rest of MLB. No matter how you look at it, this seemingly “garbage time” of the season is still chock-full of excitement, dedication, and hope for all parties.
Raise a glass to freedom – er, sorry, the Hamilton soundtrack is stuck in my head now – raise a glass to the 2018 White Sox season!
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