By: Chris Larson
As many teams start to plan for the postseason and many individuals around the industry, start to preview potential, exciting October matchups, there are a handful of other teams who remain focused on the future and have their eyes set towards brighter days a year, two years, or even three or four years from now. One of those teams includes, the Chicago White Sox, who are in the coming out stage of their rebuild and are watching the future take shape before their very own eyes.
The White Sox, who were eliminated from contention this month, don't have much to show for in term's of their record or where they're at in the standings. After all, given that things are wrapped up in the American League Central, which would mean that the White Sox would finish fourth in the division with a 62-95 record, or a .395 winning percentage, along with a -169 run differential, which would be the third worst run differential in the American League behind only the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.
However, don't focus entirely on the numbers as you begin to start making an assessment about the White Sox or say that because some viewed them as potential surprise contenders, heading into this season, that their plan is failing or that the rebuild won't turn out as expected. As with every team, rebuilds take a few years to come to life and the White Sox are no exception. The team has made some incredible trades over the past couple of years and have built quite a farm system, a farm system that many believe is one of the Top 5 in the game, today.
One of the biggest reasons why the White Sox are seeing the future unfold in front of them, even though it doesn't show in the standings, is because of the emergence of Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez. Both Rodon and Lopez could easily be the White Sox next 1-2 punch in their starting rotation and headline a potential postseason rotation, once the White Sox find a way to win the AL Central, which might not be that far away.
Over the month of September, Reynaldo Lopez has posted a 0.67 ERA over 27 innings of work with 30 strikeouts and a .156 Opponent Batting Average Against. The best part is that Lopez is still only 24-years old and still a year or two away from being in peak form, meaning that, he could still experience some more development at the big league level and turn into the next best starting pitcher in baseball. Could we potentially be watching the next Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, or Max Scherzer? Only time will tell, but the potential is certainly there for it to happen with Lopez.
In addition, Carlos Rodon has really been a workhorse for the White Sox ever since the beginning of June, but has experienced a bit of a rough patch so far this month. However, as is the case with Lopez, Rodon is one-year older, at 25 years of age, and has had a surprise breakout season overall. Dating back to this year's All-Star Break, Rodon has put up a 3.64 ERA over 76.2 IP with 31 earned runs, 53 strikeouts, and a .210 Opponent Batting Average Against. Rodon's WHIP for the months of June and July, were 0.94 and 0.91, which is also incredible. Rodon likely doesn't have the same fanfare looking towards the future, that someone like Reynaldo Lopez does, but he still projects to play a very important role for Chicago moving forward.
Beyond those two factors, another part of the future that is budding before the White Sox eyes is the blossoming of right-fielder/designated hitter, Daniel Palka. Palka, who turns 27 next month, came up big time for the White Sox last night, as he hit a single to centerfield off of Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco, to walk it off for Chicago. That hasn't been the only highlight reel moment for Palka either, this season, as there have been several others.
Onto the numbers now, Palka is hitting: .239/.291/.491 over 401 at bats this season with 96 hits, 14 doubles, 3 triples, 27 home runs, 66 RBI, 27 walks, and 144 strikeouts. Granted, you want to see his batting line increase, but given that this is his first season in the big leagues as a rookie, you can't be disappointed especially with the amount of home runs and RBI that he has contributed to the White Sox lineup. In addition to those numbers, Palka has a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) value of .300 this season, along with a ISO (Isolated Power) value of .252, which ties him for 10th place with Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, among outfielders who have recorded at least 250 plate appearances this season.
Furthermore, if you still aren't convinced that the future is starting to bud open on the south side of Chicago, then look no further than second baseman, Yoan Moncada. The 23-year old Moncada, who the White Sox acquired in December of 2016 from the Boston Red Sox in exchange of Chris Sale, has a .341 on-base percentage along with a .383 slugging percentage, during his last 30 games. However, Moncada does have 212 strikeouts on the season along with 19 errors, but don't let that discount away from his ceiling level, which still projects to be very high.
Moncada, who was always boasted highly about by scouts with the Red Sox, carried the same reputation with him over to the White Sox and should only continue to get better as plays do with more age and experience at the big league level. Given that Moncada plays second base, the White Sox have their middle infield combo with Moncada and Tim Anderson at shortstop, for the foreseeable future. While there have certainly been moments where both have botched a simple double play or made mistakes up the middle, it happens to every young player at some point and you have to think that both will get better over time and contribute to the next best Chicago White Sox team.
The middle infield combo of both Moncada and Anderson could eventually rival something similar to what the Cleveland Indians have in Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor or even the Houston Astros middle infield combo of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. The fanfare about the names on the back of the jerseys might not be as high for both Moncada and Anderson, but that is the potential that many scouts and individuals in the White Sox front office, see in both players.
Regardless, the standings and the numbers on paper might not necessarily show it, but when you start to dig deeper than the surface and take a hard look, you can begin to see various parts of the White Sox future plan coming together on the south side and starting to take root. Sure, there might be another season of growing pains for the White Sox next year, (no one really knows because just look at the preseason predictions for the Oakland A's this season who ended up clinching a Wild Card spot the other night) but until then, you can't say that their rebuild plan has been a failure or hasn't come to fruition as expected. For now, White Sox fans and the rest of baseball, will have to sit back and enjoy the immense amount of talent currently at the big league level, as well as down in the minor league system, until the White Sox are ready to take that next big step forward toward contention, which could be within the next year or two.