Chicago White Sox: Past Teams Show Draft Picks Key to Rebuild

Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; World infielder Yoan Moncada hits a two-run home run in the 7th inning during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; World infielder Yoan Moncada hits a two-run home run in the 7th inning during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Chicago White Sox trading away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton for impressive prospect packages, many are excited for the team’s future. But, as recent World Series winning teams show, the Sox will only go as far as their draft picks take them.

To start, let’s look at the 2016 World Champion Cubs roster. It can be seen that a lot of the team was made up from savvy moves by Theo Epstein to trade veterans for young prospects similar to what the White Sox are doing right now. Aroldis Chapman, Dexter Fowler, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Kyle Hendricks, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm, C.J. Edwards, and now Wade Davis were all acquired via trade. An impressive group to say the least. But, that is not their whole team. Key players Ben Zobrist, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Heyward, and now Jon Jay were all signed via free agency, with the rest of the team being drafted or signed at a young age.

Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Albert Almora Jr, and Hector Rondon (Rule 5) were all acquired in the draft over the past five years. Willson Contreras was signed as an international free agent in 2009. To simplify, we will group Contreras with the draftees and call them homegrown players. To review, the Cubs main core as it stands today includes (arbitrarily): Lester, Hendricks, Arrieta, Montgomery, Rondon, Strop, Edwards, Davis, Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, Zobrist, Almora Jr, Schwarber, and Heyward (ugh).

Core StatisticsFree Agents Trades Homegrown

Only about a third of the team’s current core was drafted, so what’s my point? Well, the portion that was drafted includes the National League MVP, the starting catcher, arguably the team’s playoff MVP (Baez), and power-hitting sensation Kyle Schwarber, with the possible future centerfielder and past closer rounding out the group. Could the team have won the World Series without these guys? Maybe, but I highly, highly doubt it.

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Players like Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman were crucial to the Cubs winning the World Series. But, veterans come and go. A young and controllable core is how a team sustains success, and maybe even builds a dynasty.

When looking at the entirety of the Cubs 2016 regular season, it can be seen that the team’s value in WAR was somewhat evenly spread between differences of acquisitions. (Note: I use WAR not because it is perfect, but because it is most likely the best stat at conveying overall value. Win Probability Added can also be used effectively, but we will stick with WAR here.) Here is the 2016 Cubs regular season WAR distribution:

Acquired ByWAR% of WAROn WS Roster
Free Agent16.327.49%4

This lesson can also be seen by past World Series winners that had to rebuild to win (Yankees don’t count).

Royals 2015 WAR Distribution:

Acquired ByWAR% of WAROn WS Roster
Free Agent6.216.80%7

Giants 2014 WAR Distribution:

Acquired ByWAR% of WAROn WS Roster
Free Agent10.229.91%11

As can be seen, the last few MLB World Series champs obtain value mostly from homegrown players. So, how does this relate to the White Sox? General Manager Rick Hahn did a terrific job extracting maximum value for his top players in order to start, and accelerate a rebuild. The Southsider’s top four prospects, according to, were all with different organizations as of a few days ago. Now, as Call to the Pen already chronicled, the Sox boast a farm system that includes the #1, 3, 30, & 38 rated prospects. A great start to any rebuild. But, to underline my point, that will not fill out a roster.

Let’s project a very rough version of a 2018 or 2019 White Sox depth chart assuming no more big trades are made to see the potential holes on the team.

SP: Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech

RP: Spencer Adams, Zack Burdi, Carson Fulmer, Michael Ynoa, David Robertson

C: Zack Collins

1B: Jose Abreu

2B: Yoan Moncada

3B: Tyler Saladino

SS: Tim Anderson

OF: Charlie Tilson, Courtney Hawkins, Jason Coats

DH: Matt Davidson

Even if the newly acquired group of Moncada, Giolito, Lopez, and Kopech all turn into All-Stars, the Chicago White Sox will still have many openings on the roster. The front office has done a great job of collecting young arms, so the rotation and bullpen projects to be above average in the future.

Position players is the area of uncertainty. Of course, someone can always emerge as a talented hitter out of nowhere similar to Willson Contreras, and a team can patch up a few holes via free agency similar to Zobrist, Kendrys Morales, or Michael Morse as past champions have done. But, teams need to find value out of homegrown players in order to win. Especially when your team cannot go out and sign A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, C.C Sabathia, and others.

In the rough projection of the roster, only Abreu, Moncada, and Anderson project to be plus offensive players. But, Abreu and others may still be traded. When asked at the last day of the winter meetings whether or not more trades were to be expected, GM Rick Hahn said:

"“We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations on a number of different fronts involving are players, and yes, we still have reliever pieces and starting pieces that are appealing to various teams throughout the league. I don’t think anything is going to happen between now and the time I go pick up my bags and head to the airport. But still thoroughly engaged, deeply engaged on a number of different fronts.”"

After looking at the numbers, it seems the White Sox only shot at contending within the next three-five years is if they hit on a very high percentage of their upcoming draft picks. Looking at the Cubs again, their rebuild was a done a bit differently. They were a very bad team starting in 2010 and ended up having top ten picks in the amateur draft from 2011 to 2015. Who did they get with those picks? Baez, Almora, Bryant, Schwarber, and prospect Ian Happ. The Royals were similar in that they have drafted Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas in the first round in the years leading up to their title. The Giants drafted Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, and Buster Posey before their three titles in five years.

This is the part the White Sox are missing. Once the Cubs, Royals, and Giants prospects begin being close to MLB ready, they were able to complement these pieces with veteran free agents, as well as acquiring MLB-ready prospects such as Addison Russell for the Cubs, and Lorenzo Cain for the Royals. It did not hurt that they bought low on aces Arrieta and Hendricks, but that is what a good front office does. Point is, the team started with high draft picks and built around that by then using trades to fill out the rest of the team. The Sox seem a bit backwards.

The Chicago White Sox have had three top ten picks in the last four years, but have spent two of them on pitching. Add to that the fact that three of the four top prospects the Sox acquired were pitchers, and you have a team with an imbalance in young talent. Their most recent top ten pick was catcher Zack Collins, who does project as an above average hitting backstop at the big league level.

From here, the Sox have the 12th pick in the upcoming draft and will most likely be a bad team in 2017, which would earn them a high pick in next draft. Hitting on these picks with close to MLB ready hitters is crucial. If the team can find two slick hitting outfielders, they may just have a very competitive team by 2019. If not, there will be an overload of pitching, and not much in terms of hitting, reminiscent of the current Tampa Bay Rays. And ask Rays fans how that has been working out.

Overall, the White Sox did a great job in their two trades with the Nationals and Red Sox. These deals ensured a solid core will be reaching the majors in the next couple of seasons. But, the team better hope they hit big on a few trades and draft picks and also get a little bit of luck if they want to have a complete team by the team the likes of Moncada and Giolito come into their own. In today’s MLB, no team finds success without having at least a few homegrown stars.

Next: Red Sox May Trade One of Starting Pitchers

So what’s the point of all this? The Chicago White Sox made two great trades but are still a bit away from being on the right track to success. Of course, this is to be expected as the rebuild has officially just began. But, the team has started a bit backwards, by trading for young talent before they have a good amount of their own to groom. This does not mean the team is doomed, rather it means that they must draft impact players, preferably hitters, soon. Otherwise, we could be talking in five years about Giolito and Moncada as the Sale and Eaton of 2016.