The Chicago White Sox are not a very good baseball team and that’s to be expected in year one of their rebuild. The Sox currently have the worst record in the American League at 38-52 and are in the cellar of the AL Central. While the lackluster product can be tedious for Sox fans there’s still reason to pay attention. If the Sox decision to rebuild taught us anything, it’s that this organization is looking to get back to relevance. There’s still plenty to follow, of course, so here are a few things to pay attention to during the second half of the 2017 season.
1. Learn about the Farm System
While the team in Chicago may leave a little to be desired over the next few month, the team is hoping the young players they’ve acquired and developed make their way to Guaranteed Rate Field very soon. With some trade assets still on the roster, the Sox will likely acquire more young talent to help stockpile one of the more talented farm systems in baseball.
There will be some development and time before we know whether these guys are the real deal or not, but take time to learn about the farm system Rick Hahn and co. are building. Big name prospects like Zack Collins, Alec Hansen, Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, and newly acquired Eloy Jimenez will get much of the attention for obvious reasons, but the White Sox have started to build depth within their system and have a few talented youngsters flying under the radar such as Spencer Adams, Micker Adolfo, Aaron Bummer, and Jordan Stephens; several of whom are already garnering their own attention. Let’s use Adolfo as an example.
Adolfo was the No. 2 international prospect in according to MLB Pipeline back in 2013 behind coincidentally Jimenez, who signed with the Cubs, but several injuries including a fractured fibula in 2015 stunted his development and been forgotten by many. This season, Adolfo has put the injuries behind him and tapped into some of his potential the White Sox saw when they signed him. He’s currently hitting .274 with 12 homers for Class A Kannapolis Intimidators and is still just 20 years old.
2. Notice Culture Change
Rebuilds affect not only the on-field product of a team, but the culture within an organization. Culture change comes from the top down. While the direction of the organization isn’t the and the White Sox
When you can’t sell on-field success in the short term, you have to sell your vision in the long-term. Included in this long-term vision is how the organization will get better in terms of on-field success and laying out the process and that’s what the White Sox have done.
Even before the White Sox made their plans for a rebuild public, the wheels were already being put in place for a new direction. Nick Hostetler was hired as the Sox amateur scouting director which laid the foundation for the White Sox influx of talent. In the past, the White Sox were known to scout and draft athletes who had big upside despite some flaws. After several years of failing, the White Sox have adopted a new philosophy in their scouting of talent. For the last two seasons, especially in the draft, the White Sox have done their best to move away from big swing and miss players and target players who can not only hit, but get on base at a higher clip. Collins, as well as 2017 draft picks Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets all fit this new philosophy.
The on-field product has been what you’d expect from a rebuilding team. Despite their place in the standings, Rick Renteria has done an adequate job so far trying to impart the importance of playing good, sound, clean baseball. Yes, there are things the White Sox don’t do very well, but by all accounts, Renteria’s calm, yet vocal demeanor has been beneficial to a team that is full of impressionable young players and a handful of veterans as well.
3. Watch Player Development
Throughout this rebuild, the White Sox will have a lot of young players who will be getting at-bats, innings pitched and see a lot of playing time. It’s important for the Sox to find out what guys will remain when they return to baseball relevancy and who will be a future trivia answer. Avisail Garcia’s All-Star breakout in the first half was a complete shock after seasons of disappointment, but potentially gives the Sox another piece to build around that they may not have thought they had when the season began. The same could be said for third baseman Matt Davidson, whose 18 home runs leads the team and Yolmer Sanchez who has played well in place of the injured Tyler Saladino.
On the other hand, Tim Anderson’s sophomore season has had a lot of ups and downs. After a promising start to his big league career in 2016, he’s had his fair share of struggles both offensively and defensively. His 19 fielding errors leads the majors, but he’s still shown the range that gives you confidence he can handle the position long term. While Anderson’s standing in the Sox future won’t be defined by a sophomore slump, it’s clear that the league has adjusted to him. Seeing if Anderson can make adjustments in the second half of ’17 and into 2018 will be something to watch.
Finally, there will be players who catch the White Sox attention, who may not have been in their original plans. My colleague Ryan Schultz wrote a piece a few months back on how Leury Garcia was the first find of the White Sox rebuild, which you can find here. Garcia was having a very nice year both offensively and defensively before a hand injury shelved him back on June 15. There are a handful of other players who could open some eyes as the rebuild continues and veterans are moved. Speedster Adam Engel has played well in limited action especially with the glove as well as catcher Kevan Smith, who has taken over as the Sox full-time catcher after a strong showing in May and June. Waiver-pickup/former top prospect Alan Hanson has been given several opportunities to show what he can do.
White Sox baseball is hard to watch and will continue to be a struggle in the second half of the season, but then again there’s nothing pretty about any rebuild. The good news is that the different facets of the rebuild, other than watching the Sox lose every night, may help take your focus away from some of the bad baseball that is still to come.
Lead Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports