We’ve written about it several times in the past, but one of the more interesting changes in player acquisitions we’ve seen in recent years, coincidentally or not, is the White Sox targeting position players who are at or close to major league-ready. It made sense, particularly when they were still trying to contend, as the White Sox inability to develop position players internally served as a great hindrance on the organization for … well, the better part of the last decade or two.
The most obvious example of this was the trade that brought Adam Eaton to Chicago. The White Sox, long known for their successes developing starting pitching, traded one of those developmental successes, former 30th round draft pick Hector Santiago, to bring in an outfielder who had already been fully developed in Arizona.
As the White Sox transitioned into rebuild mode, acquisitions like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez weren’t exactly “ready-made” players, but hitters who were premium enough that it was (or is, in Jimenez’s case) more about getting more reps before being major league ready than anything specific in their development.
The White Sox have taken measures, as detailed in the above link, to streamline their hitter development, and the dividends thus far have been in the form of Tim Anderson fulfilling, at least thus far, more or less what they hoped he’d become. There are other lesser development triumphs, such as Yolmer Sanchez or Leury Garcia. Nicky Delmonico’s 2016 emergence, as fleeting as it might prove to be, is something you’d more likely expect from an organization like the Cardinals or Dodgers than the White Sox. Likewise, players like Marcus Semien and Tyler Flowers, who spent the better part of the developmental stages of their careers, have blossomed into useful players, although it’s unclear how much the White Sox had to do with either cases.
The rebuild becoming successful is going to be based primarily on the White Sox top prospects living up to their potential. Moncada, Jimenez, and the glut of young pitchers both at the major and minor league levels panning out will be the biggest factor in the White Sox snapping their long playoff drought sometime in the near future. Of course, ownership proving it’s willing to open its wallet for premiere free agents to supplement said roster should it come to fruition will be important in filling roster holes as they emerge, too.
But while the White Sox path toward future contention has primarily centered around a group of top-level arms and two top-tier hitters, proving the advancements they’ve made in hitter development will go a long way toward not only contention in 2020 or so, but sustaining that success long term. While not top-tier prospects like Moncada or Jimenez, there’s a group of talented but volatile hitters whose development is integral in them doing just that.
That group includes the likes of Luis Robert, Zack Collins and Blake Rutherford, but also Micker Adolfo, Luis Alexander Basabe, Seby Zavala, Gavin Sheets, and a few others you could convince me to mention. Jake Burger, of course as well, but his last few months has zapped a lot of that hope for the time being.
Some of these prospects have a better chance that others, but the point is that while Moncada, Jimenez, and the arms are the biggest keys in building the team the White Sox hope to have, some of that next tier becoming major leaguers is a big factor, as well.
Not every player in a contending team’s lineup is a superstar. But every contending team features a stable of capable players able to produce. The White Sox have a few players with star potential, and a whole stable of them who could become the latter. Hitting development has been a sore spot for a while, but has made great strides in recent years. Just how far they’ve come will be determined over the next few years.
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