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Chicago White Sox Series Preview: Is it their time to win?

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Salvy and Tim Anderson get to reunite and share in a socially distant moment of contempt.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox started their rebuilding process in earnest after the 2016 season when they traded both Chris Sale and Adam Eaton and got back a boatload of talent. It continued with their Jose Quintana trade and it’s been a slow go for them over the last three years as they’ve seen some of that young talent both progress to the big leagues and start to play very well. Last year saw breakouts from Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez debuted. This year, they’ve started the year with uber prospect Luis Robert and have supplemented the offense with Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarancion and the pitching staff with Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez. Oh, and as of today, they’ve promoted one of their top prospects, Nick Madrigal, a light power middle infielder with good plate discipline (no, I wasn’t describing Nicky Lopez, even though it sure seems like I was!) In a typical season, this is the sort of team that you might expect to start a little slow but gel as the season goes on and make a run. They don’t have the time to do that, and their 2-4 start seems tame, but it’s 10 percent of the season. They have plenty of time, of course, but this series is a pretty urgent one from them as they’re expecting many of their victories to come at the hands of teams like the Royals.

Note: I’m using 2020 stats now, which feels a little weird since they’re so light, but I typically do that about this point in the season percentage-wise, so I’m just not sure what the best route is. The samples are very small, but they’re what we have, so I’m going with it.

Royals vs. White Sox Tale of the Tape

Category Royals White Sox
Category Royals White Sox
Winning % .429 .333
Team wRC+ 87 115
Team xFIP 4.66 4.42
Run Differential 0 -9
Highest fWAR Whit Merrifield, 0.6 Yoan Moncada, 0.3

White Sox Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tim Anderson SS 28 .296 .321 .519 3.6% 25.0% 135 0.2
Yoan Moncada 3B 23 .333 .391 .571 8.7% 34.8% 171 0.3
Jose Abreu 1B 26 .280 .308 .480 0.0% 19.2% 122 0.1
Yasmani Grandal C 17 .154 .294 .154 17.6% 41.2% 47 0.0
Edwin Encarnacion DH 21 .105 .150 .263 0.0% 42.9% 17 -0.2
Eloy Jimenez LF 13 .364 .385 .727 7.7% 30.8% 191 0.2
Luis Robert CF 24 .348 .375 .522 4.2% 37.5% 154 0.3
Nicky Delmonico RF 18 .125 .222 .125 11.1% 11.1% 12 -0.1
Nick Madrigal (AAA, 2019) 2B 134 .331 .398 .424 9.7% 3.7% 117 ---

White Sox Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
James McCann C 8 .500 .500 1.250 0.0% 25.0% 384 0.3
Zack Collins C/1B 6 .000 .167 .000 16.7% 16.7% -28 -0.1
Ryan Goins (2019) INF 163 .250 .333 .347 10.4% 27.0% 86 0.2
Danny Mendick INF 7 .000 .143 .000 14.3% 14.3% -39 -0.1
Adam Engel OF 12 .364 .385 .727 8.3% 25.0% 242 0.2
Leury Garcia INF/OF 24 .182 .250 .455 8.3% 12.5% 97 0.1

White Sox Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Alex Colome 2 2.0 0 0 0.0% 11.1% 0.00 7.28 0.0
Aaron Bummer 3 2.1 1 0 45.5% 18.2% 3.86 1.35 0.1
Steve Cishek 3 2.1 0 0 20.0% 10.0% 3.86 4.96 -0.1

Probable Pitchers

July 31, 7:05pm - Dallas Keuchel vs. Kris Bubic

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dallas Keuchel 1 5.1 1 0 5.3% 0.0% 3.38 3.71 0.1
Kris Bubic (High A, 2019) 17 101.2 7 4 28.1% 6.9% 2.30 3.06 ---

Dallas Keuchel gets the ball for the White Sox to start the series after signing a three year deal worth $55.5 million in the offseason. He put together a solid year for the Braves after signing mid-season, and the White Sox are opening he can provide some quality innings to help lead a young staff. While he hasn’t approached his 2015 Cy Young season since, he has been pretty good, maybe a little too quietly. He’s posted a 3.76 ERA in 103 starts since then with his typical ground ball ways and not very many strikeouts. His changeup has never been a huge pitch for him. He’s thrown it about 10-14 percent of the time in previous seasons. In his first start against the Twins, though, he threw it nearly 35 percent of the time. The Twins did throw a ton of right-handed bats at him, so that might be some of it, but the Royals are likely to do the same. And it was pretty effective, with just one single allowed, so the Royals should be on the lookout for that. Stacking righties is a good play here as he allowed a .281/.353/.442 line against them last year compared with .189/.268/.351 against lefties.

I’m not sure anyone would have bet that Kris Bubic would be the second of the Royals 2018 college arm draft class to make it to the big leagues, but here he is, getting the draw in the Royals home opener. He had a fantastic 2019 minor league season, leading all of the minors in strikeouts. While he didn’t get the publicity that some of the others did, Bubic might be the most analytical of the bunch, working to improve his game in ways pitchers like Trevor Bauer are famous for, which is a pretty big departure for Royals farmhands. Bubic throws strikes and has good stuff as well, which is a combination for success in a big league debut against a lineup that has never seen him before. The changeup is his best pitch, and against a heavily right-handed White Sox lineup, it could be what gets him success early. We’ll see how good his curve looks, as that’s a pitch he’s been working on since being drafted and has a chance to be another plus offering given his ability to manipulate.

August 1, 6:05pm - Gio Gonzalez vs. TBD

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Gio Gonzalez 1 3.2 0 0 14.3% 4.8% 14.73 7.33 -0.1
Ronald Bolaños 1 2.0 0 1 11.1% 11.1% 0.00 5.08 0.0

The White Sox drafted Gio Gonzalez 38th overall in the 2004 draft. They traded him to the Phillies a year and a half later as part of the deal to acquire Jim Thome. Then they acquired him and Gavin Floyd a year after that. Then he was part of the deal to acquire Nick Swisher the next offseason, so he was off to the A’s. And now 16 years after being drafted by the White Sox, he’s made his first appearance with the team. It was a relief role, but he’ll get the start in this one. He’s actually been one of the more underrated starters in baseball for basically his whole career. He had one great season in Washington and one very good. He had two very good in Oakland, and it’s been a little odd how much he’s bounced around. Injuries have played a role, but he’s thrown 258.1 generally solid innings the last two seasons. While we might see more changeups from Keuchel than we’re used to, we will definitely see changeups from Gonzalez. Last year, that was the pitch he threw the most. And don’t expect him to go deep into the game. Last year, he threw past the fifth just five times and past the sixth just twice, getting just 12 total outs all year after the fifth inning. So it’s probably going to be twice through the order for him, but the Royals need to make that first time count because he can take an inning or two to settle in.

As of right now, the Royals have not yet named a starter for this one. My guess is that Ronald Bolaños will get this start as they have been stretching him out to start since his first two-inning start in Cleveland last weekend. If he is the guy, you can probably expect somewhere around 60 pitches, which for him can be two innings or five, depending on how his command looks. We haven’t really seen much of Bolaños obviously as he just came over from the Padres a couple weeks ago, but the fastball looks like it can be a plus offering for him and if he can work with his curve in this one, he should be able to keep White Sox hitters off balance. Jimenez and Robert both are hitters I’m not sure I’d throw a single fastball to, at least not early. Edit: Bolaños in this one has been confirmed.

August 2, 1:05pm - Dylan Cease vs. TBD

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Dylan Cease 1 2.1 0 1 6.7% 0.0% 15.43 7.37 -0.2
TBD -- -- -- -- --% --% -- -- ---

The White Sox were counting on this spot in the rotation to go to Michael Kopech, fully recovered from Tommy John, but he chose to opt out, so instead another big time prospect, Dylan Cease, gets the chance to build on a rough rookie season in 2019. He was a sixth round pick of the White Sox in 2014 and was as high as 21st overall on prospect lists before the 2019 season. He showed an ability to get swings and misses, but he struggled with both command and control. He got rocked in his first start, but he didn’t allow a walk, so there’s that. The stuff is big. His fastball sits at 96-97 with some excellent spin. His changeup, that he threw just a bit last year but more in his first start had some of the least movement of any changeup in baseball in 2019. Lefties have crushed him to the tune of a .306/.388/.580 line. Righties haven’t had that much trouble, but the .255/.331/.428 line seems like nothing by comparison. I’d think that we’ll see Franchy Cordero in this one, as well as Brett Phillips.

Another day, another unknown Royals starter. My guess here is that Kyle Zimmer gets another nod as an opener here and might be around for two or three innings. I don’t think they’re stretching him out to be a full-time starter in spite of him pitching into the third inning on Tuesday in Detroit. How the first two games go in this series will likely depend on who follows Zimmer if it is indeed him starting, so we’ll find that out in real time.

Prediction

I think the White Sox are improved from last year, but them losing Kopech for the year to him opting out and the Royals missing Giolito in this series makes this a little bit of an easier go for them. It’s certainly possible that any or all of their starters dominate in this series, but I think the Royals actually find a way to nab two of three in front of the home “crowd” this weekend. That might be a bit optimistic given that they’re going to rely on the bullpen quite a bit, but I think the White Sox just need a little more time to gel together and the Royals can take advantage of that.

Poll

Who takes the series?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Royals Sweep
    (21 votes)
  • 11%
    White Sox Sweep
    (16 votes)
  • 40%
    Royals Win Two of Three
    (56 votes)
  • 33%
    White Sox Win Two of Three
    (46 votes)
139 votes total Vote Now