White Sox’ rebuild lost steam in 2018
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At 10 years without making the playoffs, the White Sox moved into a tie for sixth with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the sixth-longest active postseason drought in pro sports.
The Seattle Mariners, who were 89-73 but didn’t get in, lead the way with 17 consecutive seasons, followed by the Cleveland Browns and Miami Marlins (15), the Sacramento Kings and San Diego Padres (12) and the Bucs and Sox. The Sox stayed far, far away with 100 losses for the fourth time in their history and a fifth straight fourth-place finish in the American League Central after a fifth-place landing in 2013.
OK, so it has long been established that it has been bad for much too long on the South Side. But the Sox do appear to have a clear plan in place to change all that, with a much-improved farm system giving hope for a better future.
If only Year 2 of the rebuild (a 62-100 record) had maintained the momentum generated in Year 1 (67-95). Here’s how it stalled:
† The injury to top pitching prospect Michael Kopech, who needed Tommy John surgery that takes him out of the entire 2019 season after he made four starts in September, was the biggest blow in a long list.
Third baseman Jake Burger, a 2017 first-rounder, blew out an Achilles tendon not once but twice.
There were elbow concerns for two of their top pitching prospects, Alec Hansen and Dane Dunning.
Outfield prospect Micker Adolfo also needed Tommy John surgery. A sprained thumb limited badly needed playing time for outfielder and No. 25 overall prospect (according to MLB Pipeline) Luis Robert, and No. 3 prospect Eloy Jimenez was slowed by knee and pectoral problems in the spring.
How Burger, Dunning, Hansen and Adolfo come away from their issues is not a minor concern. Right-hander Zack Burdi, a 2016 first-rounder and potential closer, sat out the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.
† On the major-league team, hamstring and knee problems limited right fielder Avisail Garcia to 93 games after his All-Star season in 2017, which makes it hard to know whether to include him in future plans and, if he’s not, limits his trade value. Jose Abreu was held to a career-low 128 games because of health issues, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (shoulder) made three starts after being signed for $4.75 million, free-agent catcher Welington Castillo was suspended 80 games for PEDs and right-hander Nate Jones’ elbow limited him to 33 relief appearances.
† Nothing was more important to the rebuild than the development of middle infielders Tim Anderson, 25, and Yoan Moncada, 23, both of whom made 20 errors, although Anderson’s improved defense in the second half is viewed as significant. Moncada struck out 217 times, six short of the major-league record and the biggest contributor to the team’s major-league record. Moncada is the only Sox player age 23 or younger to have had 30-plus doubles, 15-plus homers, 10-plus stolen bases and 60-plus RBI.
Anderson hit 20 homers and stole 26 bases, the Sox’ first 20/20 shortstop, but he batted .240 with a .281 on-base percentage.
All said and done, their progress can best be sized up as a mixed bag.
† While right-hander Reynaldo Lopez was the team’s best pitcher per wins above replacement — and he finished strong — the progress of the other two starters considered future pieces — lefty Carlos Rodon and righty Lucas Giolito — took concerning turns in September.
As hard as 2018 was, there were moments. Yolmer Sanchez was a valuable player and fun-loving hoot, Daniel Palka punished a team-high 27 home-run balls as a rookie, Kevan Smith jerked a tear-jerking homer wearing the nickname of his late best buddy and former teammate Daniel Webb on his back and Matt Davidson hit three homers on Opening Day and looked like a real pitcher striking out Giancarlo Stanton.
Every once in a while, it was good to smile.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 4½ months.