Chicago White Sox: MLB’s team of the future

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 28: Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates with teammates after the game against the Detroit Tigers during the first game of a double header on September 28, 2019 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 28: Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates with teammates after the game against the Detroit Tigers during the first game of a double header on September 28, 2019 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

After years down in the dumps, the Chicago White Sox are poised to own the future of MLB.

The Chicago White Sox roster speaks for itself.

Flame-throwing youngsters? Check.

Crafty veterans? Check.

A home-run-bashing lineup? Check.

After a long period of futility – filled with forgettable seasons and last-place finishes – the Southsiders are primed for a stretch of dominance. Chicago White Sox GM Rick Hahn has built one of the game’s most exciting – and most complete – rosters. He’s stockpiled top prospects and surrounded those promising youngsters with veteran leaders.

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It all starts on the mound with three young fireballers: Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Dylan Cease.

Giolito – who was once touted as a top pitching prospect – performed atrociously during his first two seasons in Chicago. Injuries limited him to seven games in 2017, and 2018 was calamitous. He posted the worst ERA among qualified starters, at 6.13, and went 10-13.

But 2019 was different. Giolito broke out and realized his potential. He made his first All-Star team, went 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA, and struck out 228 batters in 176.2 innings.

While Giolito emerged as the ace last year, Kopech and Cease have higher ceilings for one simple reason: stuff. Raw stuff.

Michael Kopech is a freak of nature. He deadlifts 600 pounds and throws missiles. He’s got tree trunks for legs, and a cannon for an arm. He’s got a smooth-as-molasses delivery and an explosive fastball that jumps out of his hand. His fastball sits in the upper 90s and routinely hits triple digits, and has reached as high as 105 mph.

Think about how incredible that is. 105 miles per hour.

A couple of other pitchers have thrown that hard, most recently Aroldis Chapman and Jordan Hicks. But they’re closers. And Kopech is a starter. While throwing 105 is jaw-droppingly impressive no matter who you are, it’s one thing to come in for an inning or two and throw as hard as you can. But it’s a completely different feat to throw with that kind of velocity as a starter. It’s simply unheard of. Name one other starter that’s touched 105. I bet you can’t.

Kopech was a top prospect for years, but he hasn’t had an easy path to stardom. He debuted in 2018 and tore his UCL after just four starts, resulting in Tommy John surgery. He opted not to play in this year’s 60-game season for “personal reasons”.

Kopech hasn’t publicized his issues, and it’s impossible to know what’s going on in his personal life. But there’s a global pandemic going on – and many other high-profile players including Buster Posey, David Price, and Ryan Zimmerman have opted out.

Regardless of whatever issues Kopech may be coping with, I expect him to come back firing bullets in 2021. Tommy John surgery certainly didn’t take away his electric stuff in spring training. These were the velocity readings on his first three pitches of the spring: 101, 100, and 101. Kopech has all the tools to be an ace. He has the stuff to electrify fans and befuddle batters.

Dylan Cease dumbfounds batters with a combination of power and great off-speed pitches. He’s equipped with four-plus pitches: a blazing upper 90s fastball, a 12-6 hammer curveball, a slider, and changeup. He’s yet another hard-throwing righty with sky-high potential.

What I like most about Cease is his compact delivery. He’s got a short stride which vaults him over his front knee. In laymen’s terms, his short stride creates great extension towards home plate which results in a picture-perfect finish: his back leg in the air, his head pointed toward the plate, and the ball raging into the strike zone.

As strong as Cease, Kopech, and Giolito are, the White Sox boast a fourth major threat on the mound: 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who the Sox picked up in free agency.

Keuchel brings veteran mentorship and leadership to a rotation filled with raw pitchers in their mid-20s. He also brings variety and a different method of pitching. Keuchel is old-school. He’s the epitome of a crafty lefty. He gets batters out with late movement and off-speed pitches. He tricks hitters into making weak contact, inducing weak ground balls and pop-ups. He pitches with grit and guile.

Keuchel puts the finishing touches on a rotation already brimming with talent. The Chicago White Sox pitching staff alone has the kind of talent to carry the team.

But here’s the scary thing:

We haven’t even gotten to the best part of the roster, the Chicago White Sox’s brawny lineup.

Chicago is led by reigning AL batting champ Tim Anderson. He plays with swagger and swats homers with an attitude. He’s known for flaunting his blasts with disrespectful bat flips, and one majestic scenario comes to mind. Last season he belted a bomb off Royals starter Brad Keller, tossed his bat like aside like a piece of garbage, and gazed in awe at his towering home run. He put up a career season in 2019, hitting a league-best .335 with 15 homers and 4.0 WAR.

Then there’s 25-year-old super-prospect Yoan Moncada. Scouts hyped Moncada for years, and last year he came into his own, hitting .315 with 25 homers, and 79 RBIs. Moncada is jacked like a stolen car – he’s known for putting in long hours in the gym. He’s a switch hitter with the capability to hit for power and average from both sides of the plate, and he’s a vacuum at third base, sucking up balls hit his way.

Next up: the towering 23-year-old slugger Eloy Jimenez. Listed, at 6’4”, 235 lbs, Jimenez cranks homers in every direction – right, center, or left field. He’ll smack a 400-foot-shot, and it looks effortless, like he barely even swung. He debuted last season and made an immediate impact, crushing 31 homers while driving in 79 runs.

You can’t forget about the Chicago White Sox’s most exciting prospect, Luis Robert. The 22-year-old centerfielder rocketed through the White Sox farm system in 2019, hitting .328 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases. He’s the definition of a five-tool player, using a rare blend of power, speed, contact, and an elite defense to dominate. Robert received high praise from Jimenez last week who proclaimed, “He’s going to be the next Mike Trout.”

Veteran first baseman Jose Abreu is just as instrumental to Chicago’s success as the young stars. He won the AL rookie of the year in 2014 when he migrated from Cuba. He reminds me of Tim Duncan. He’s a quiet superstar who rarely makes headlines, but he always produces. He’s a career .293 hitter and last season he put up more stellar numbers, posting a 284 average with 33 homers and 123 RBI.

Lastly, the Sox added two veteran sluggers in Edwin Encarnacion and Yasmani Grandal.
Encarnacion – who will likely DH – is known for obliterating pitches. He’s got 414 career homers, and even though he’s 37, he showed no signs of decline last season, hitting 34 homers with 86 RBI.

Yasmani Grandal is the final piece to the puzzle: a power-hitting catcher who signed a four-year, $73 million deal in the offseason. He was brought in to lead the young pitching staff and deepen the lineup. He enjoyed a career season in Milwaukee last year, hitting 28 home runs with 77 RBI.

GM Rick Hahn built the foundation of the Sox roster with top prospects and signed veteran leaders to put the team over the top.

Next. AL Central prospects ready to unleash in 2020. dark

The question: how high is the Chicago White Sox ceiling? Multiple division titles? World Series Championships? A dynasty?

It’s hard to say just how high the Sox will soar.

But one thing is for sure.

They’re America’s team of the future.