White Sox: Can South Siders Contend for Wild Card in 2018?
White Sox veteran pitcher thinks team can contend next season. Exciting youngsters have re-energized fanbase with anticipation for the future.
The Chicago White Sox are having a good final month of as they’re 13-13 in September and could finish with a winning month for the first time since April. With the youngsters getting more playing time and experience winning games, fans are starting to get very excited for the future.
Despite a potential fourth place finish in the division for the Sox, this has been a largely successful season on the South Side. There has been good development of prospects in Yoan Moncada, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito. There has also been a few surprises in Avisail Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez.
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With the Sox missing the postseason for their ninth consecutive season, talk of the playoffs in the near future has been mostly absent at 35th and Shields. However, one veteran pitcher doesn’t think the Sox are that far away from contending. James Shields, who had a stellar outing on Monday against the Los Angeles Angels in his final start of 2017, thinks the Sox can contend next season.
Shields told Scott Merkin of whitesox.com that he feels there’s no doubt the Sox could contend next season if everything comes together. The 35-year-old pitcher mentioned that the Sox starting pitching is starting to come into it’s own, and the young hurlers have a good feel for the game.
He’s not wrong however as Giolito and Lopez have both performed well since being promoted. Although Giolito has better stats than Lopez currently, each pitcher has shown glimpses of how good they can be moving forward. Giolito, finishes his 2017 season with a 3-3 record, 2.38 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP.
"“To me it all starts with starting pitching. You know, we keep the team in the game and we get the good timely hitting. Pitching and defense is what’s going to separate us next year.” James Shields"
Lopez started on Wednesday against the Angels and finished his season with a 3-3 record , 4.72 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. Both Giolito and Lopez have given the Sox a good chance of having a strong starting rotation next season along with a healthy Carlos Rodon and Shields. In order to contend throughout the season, they will need a good fifth starter which they can get via free agency.
Although the Sox will need many things to go right in order to contend, pitching will be a very important aspect for this team having success in 2018. The Sox will also have pitching prospects Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen waiting to be promoted next season. If either of those pitchers are able to have success with the Sox in 2018, this team could very well have a fearsome pitching staff moving forward.
Along with a possibly strong pitching staff, the Sox young offense will get a full season of Moncada in the lineup. Moncada started slowly after his second promotion to the majors, but he’s having a strong final month of 2017. He’s hitting .286 in September and is looking like the player many fans expected him to be. The Sox could also see top prospect Eloy Jimenez join the team in 2018 which could provide even more firepower to their offense.
With Abreu having another great season and Tim Anderson rebounding from an unimpressive start, the Sox offense could be a good shape entering 2018. The Sox will also have another season with Garcia in right field who has had his best year yet in 2017. Another key contributor could be Sanchez. The versatile 25-year-old has been solid this season, and would be a perfect utility player on a contending team.
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A lot of things would have to go the Sox way in order for this team to contend for the postseason, let alone a Wild Card spot in the American League. But it isn’t too far-fetched to dream about a possible postseason berth for the Sox next year. The Minnesota Twins finished 2016 with a 59-103 record, but was able to secure the second Wild Card spot in the AL thanks to the Sox on Wednesday night. If the Twins can have a turnaround, why can’t the Sox do it in 2018?