The White Sox being bad is a surprise to approximately no one. You could quibble with the degree at which they’ve been bad — I didn’t necessarily anticipate 30 games below .500 nearing the All-Star break, but the common refrain since the start of 2017 has been to focus on the development of individual pieces as opposed to the team’s actual W-L record.
Even focusing on that aspect, 2018 has been a season from hell. A quick, midseason recap:
- Jose Abreu became the first White Sox position player voted by fans to start the All-Star Game since Frank Thomas 22 years ago. That’s good! It’s tough to fully enjoy such a feat, though, as a slump that’s well into Month Two has dragged Abreu down to career-worst marks across the board. As James Fegan of The Athletic outlined Sunday, the slump has been uncharacteristic for a player who has been one of the most consistent offensive producers in the game over the past several seasons, and Abreu’s nod benefited from the fact that his slump began long after voting began, as well as an abnormally weak crop of American League first basemen. So while it’s easy to be happy for Abreu to receive such an honor that’s undoubtedly deserved in terms of what he’s meant to the team, the slump has soured things a bit, to say the least.
- Prospect watching has become a common source of solace when stuck watching the Major League team lose two games for every one win over the course of a season. MiLB.tv has actually made it quite easy. The problem this season, of course, has been the inability to watch most of the prospects of whom you’d get excited about. Of the Top 10 prospects on BP’s preseason organizational rankings, Nos. 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7 have all spent significant time on the disabled list this season. All of them except No. 3 (Alec Hansen) are currently injured, No. 6 (Jake Burger) hasn’t played and won’t play for a long, long time, and it’s unclear if we’ll see Nos. 5 or 7 (Luis Robert, Dane Dunning) again in 2018.
- Of the prospects on that same list who have been healthy, it’s easy to focus more on the bad than the good. No. 2 (Michael Kopech) still showcases elite, bat-missing stuff on a regular basis, but has battled significant bouts of wildness that have only served to highlight long-term concerns over his command. And while the ceiling of No. 10 (Carson Fulmer) was never all that high, his failure in a season-opening rotation spot and subsequent struggles after being sent down to Triple-A have confirmed the doubts many had about him ever being a viable starter.
- Oh, you thought I was done? Those were just the prospects! At the major league level, Yoan Moncada has shown flashes of the potential that made him the No. 1 prospect in baseball not all the long ago, but hasn’t yet put it all together to the point where you can see the “future superstar” in him. In the rotation, Lucas Giolito has struggled mightily for almost the entire season, and Reynaldo Lopez’s success might be more the product of smoke and mirrors than anything else.
- There’s more, too. Nicky Delmonico, out-of-nowhere surprise in 2017, turned back into a pumpkin and then promptly got hurt. Avisail Garcia was bad and then also got hurt (although since returning has been very good again). Nate Jones went from a potential trade chip to ineffective to hurt again. Oh, and Welington Castillo got popped for steroids.
Maybe you’re a glass-half-full kind of person. I get it. You can focus on Tim Anderson’s bounce-back from a miserable 2017 season, Yolmer Sanchez being both good and entertaining, James Shields turning into a maybe-actually-kind of interesting trade piece, Joakim Soria definitely being one, or Dylan Covey showing flashes of a player who might actually have a place on this team in the future. Down on the farm, you can look at Dylan Cease jumping levels and remaining effective, Jimenez mashing when he hasn’t been hurt and Dunning being quite good before he got hurt. There’s also Luis Alexander Basabe bouncing back from a rough 2017, and the continued progression of players like Blake Rutherford, Zack Collins, Spencer Adams, Micker Adolfo, Seby Zavala, and probably a few others.
There are plenty of bright spots to be found, sure. But it’s been difficult to stay positive amid a season where it seems something new goes wrong every other day. Rebuilds are hardly linear excursions. There’s still plenty to look forward to, and it’s possible the struggles and concerns that have presented themselves among the young pieces both at the minor league and major league level will end up minor blips in what amounts to successful careers. But it’s hard not to look at the 2018 season, now 90-games old, and just wish you could push the reset button.
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