White Sox: Early 2018 Schedule Presents Perfect Opportunity for NextSox

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 08: Lucas Giolito
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 08: Lucas Giolito /

White Sox youngsters could get their opportunities to succeed in the majors very early this upcoming season. The team begins 2018 in Kansas City.

It’s finally here! Well, almost. The White Sox are starting up their 2018 with a Spring Training that’s going to be jam-packed to the brim with excitement and anticipation. This year’s training camp’s excitement will probably only be surpassed by next season’s training camp.

All eyes will be glued to the progress and improvement of the prospects, mainly those that are prepared for the big stage and the bright lights of Guaranteed Rate Field. The borderline prospects like Charlie Tilson, Ryan Cordell, and Casey Gillaspie are competing for White Sox roster spots.  Other young players are looking to get back into shape, improve and rejuvenate their games going into a pivotal season of development.

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Luckily for the White Sox, no matter which fringe, borderline, stud or bonafide prospect makes the roster, the schedule is nearly perfect for them to not only experiment with but to gauge where each player’s current potential and the talent level is to begin the season.

Kanas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays (Mar. 29 – Apr. 4)

The first two series of the season are great matchups for the ‘NextSox’. Both the Blue Jays and Royals had different offseasons. The Blue Jays added more talent while the Royals saw some members of their 2015 World Series championship team sign elsewhere. The main point is that both teams are not going to be at full strength to begin the season.

The Royals have lost Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain this offseason and might be even losing Mike Moustakas just about any day now. Those are their best players and finding replacements only one month before the season won’t be easy. The Royals will provide a firm proving ground for players who want to get their baseball legs back for a new season.

Next, the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be fielding new acquisitions in the forms of Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk, Yangervis Solarte, and Aledmys Diaz. That’s a very solid team that could sneak into one of the two Wild Card spots easily. But for the White Sox, it’s a team that might be experiencing growing pains trying to find a groove as a group of new players. The Sox can take advantage of two teams in major transition mode and that can make it easier for them to jump out to a good start in 2018.

Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays (Apr. 5 – Apr. 11)

The following two series, regardless of how the season starts, should be a great time for the Sox to get on track for 2018. The Tigers had a tanking performance for the ages at the end of last season and ended up as the worst team in baseball. The Rays were surprisingly mediocre last year as they finished in third place in the division for the first time since 2013. Even if the Sox can’t find success as a team and get a few wins in this stretch of games, they should be able to find comfortability playing at home for the first time this season.

Minnesota Twins (April 12-14)

It’s one team of the future against another team of the future. The series against the Twins will be the first measuring stick of the season. The Twins were the surprise team of 2017. They’re the team that the White Sox will be competing against, along with the Indians, for the Central Division title for many years to come. The Sox will be in line to get their first shot against a playoff-contending team. Minnesota is actually a team the Sox wouldn’t mind emulating – from 100 in 2016 losses to playoffs in 2017.

Houston Astros (April 20-22)

After a three-game series in Oakland against the Athletics, the Sox will get their biggest measuring stick versus the reigning and defending champion Houston Astros. Last season, the Sox took four of six games versus the Astros. If the Sox do amazing or don’t exactly achieve team success, player development and improvement are key in this series.

To get solid at-bats, pitch stressful innings, and experience against the MLB’s best team goes a long way for younger players. Ideally, the Sox would love to have Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Carlos Rodon pitch those three games in late April.

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I will repeat, even though they look great on paper and they will never hurt any Sox player, coach or fan, the main objective is not winning. The main objective is development. These games against these aforementioned teams are perfectly aligned for the young Sox players to get their feet wet, get comfortable and show everyone what they can bring to the table this season.