There are plenty of negative aspects to this White Sox team to talk about. In fact, there may be so many different angles of how the team is bad that none of them are actually interesting at all. The utter incapability to throw runners out would be interesting if it wasn’t a mere few runs lost for a team hundreds of additional runs away from being good. The failures of the starting rotation would be interesting if not for the complete lack of other options. The White Sox are bad, and we knew they would be bad. They tricked us into some good moments early on, but nearly every veteran worth anything at all was shipped away at the deadline. So the question remains — why watch this team?
Pure fan devotion could be enough motivation to watch, of course, but even fan devotion is put to the test by the second-worst team in baseball. Even fans that are dedicated to the team through thick and thin need something to look forward to and care about. Yoan Moncada hasn’t set the world on fire, but as the best prospect in baseball he’s always worth paying attention to. It’s likely that he’ll improve even more in the coming weeks, making him the highlight in the White Sox lineup. Carlos Rodon has improved drastically over his last three starts, showing the top of the rotation potential that has always been buried inside. Reynaldo Lopez’s debut Friday and final two months in Chicago will also be worth keeping an eye on. Those are the obvious bright spots, but there are things beyond that to watch.
There isn’t much luxury in rebuilding. It’s almost entirely a drudge through a mucky, miserable season with slight glimmers of hope about the future to come. If one luxury can be found, however, it is in the fact that the team can give chances to players that otherwise would not receive them. Now that the roster is devoid of veteran talent, the focus can be narrowed even more on players like Leury Garcia, Yolmer Sanchez, Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino, Alen Hanson, and Nicky Delmonico.
Coming into the season, none of those names really sparked a fire in the hearts of White Sox fans or analysts. Sanchez had been given a full-time role on the 2015 team, but he produced just a 61 wRC+. Garcia was a prospect with promise, but he never quite put things together in the big leagues. Saladino had proven himself as a useful utility player but nothing more, and so on. They were all players that weren’t worth getting excited about and yet, they had plenty of potential if given the right opportunity.
Given the opportunity to succeed, Garcia has stood out more than any of the others. He did have more potential all along, but his 107 wRC+ while playing good defense in a premier position has been a revelation. Even if in the long run he is merely a fourth outfielder, that’s value gained simply through giving him an opportunity. Watching how he proceeds this season following his hand injury is certainly worth giving attention to.
Sanchez has seen his playing time take a hit since the promotion of Moncada, but he’s still worth keeping an eye. Hope was all but lost for his offense entering 2017, but he’s produced mildly well with a .313 on base percentage and 85 wRC+. That’s not awe-inspiring, but it’s an improvement on his past production. Perhaps on the other side of the coin is Saladino, who has disappointed in his season shortened by injury.
These players are the ones worth keeping an eye on despite the team being pummeled night after night. They’re not the prospects that are going to dazzle on the 100-loss team, but they are the players benefitting the most from the White Sox being bad. Each of them is being given an opportunity that they normally would not have. If even one of them is a contributor on the next good White Sox team, it’s a big win for the rebuild. Even when the games are miserable, long, and seemingly worthless eyes can be put on these players, and thoughts can be churning about what their future might hold.
Lead Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports