The lower in the standings the White Sox drop, the better their chances to secure even more top young talent.
At this point, the White Sox Rebuild is going swimmingly. Which is to say the Sox are underwater with their record, struggling to stay afloat while occasionally coming up for air.
But seriously, this couldn’t be going much better than it is. I don’t need to list all the transactions of who was dealt and who came to the team in return. The team has a number of future stars barring injury and unprecedented depth on the farm and in terms of a marketable talent and pipeline by position.
Yes, they’re losing games. They’re supposed to. My mouth is already watering at the coming amateur draft picks. Not for 2018 – which is the #4 pick as we know – but 2019. Currently in the bottom three of all Major League teams, the Sox stand to have an even better place in next season’s amateur draft than this year. If nothing else, just mouthing the word “rebuild” makes losing more tolerable. Executing an actual successful rebuilding strategy makes losing not only tolerable but enjoyable.
A friend and Sox fan called me after Nate Jones‘s blown save of Reynaldo Lopez’s latest gem and stated frankly, “They’re tanking.” He’s right. Not deliberately throwing games, but in effect. Which after all is the goal. As a fan, I can’t stop watching – and hoping – but this is the slow crawl of a rebuild. You have to take your lumps. You rebuild the plane while it’s in the air. And eventually if all the parts are effectively put in place, you and the rest of the league realizes a juggernaut is approaching.
Think about what’s happening before our eyes. Three young starting pitchers are honing their skills at the major league level. Another dozen or so top minor league pitchers are doing the same with their teams. A number of top hitting prospects are doing the same thing, from Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson at the major league level to Blake Rutherford and Micker Adolfo at Class A Winston-Salem.
Develop, develop, develop. Let the bullpen under-deliver to add games to the Loss column and solidify that top pick in 2019, and bank those millions not being spent now for the future big free agent signings on the horizon. What a brilliant strategy. This is a textbook accelerated rebuild using trades and claims to build the talent pool versus taking additional risk through drafting talent, while selectively under-spending and under-resourcing in a few key areas (bullpen) critical to winning games so as to enable continued draft strength.
I think this “accelerated” component may suggest next month’s draft targets will be in the collegiate ranks. Generally speaking, there is a bit more certainty in the result and an accelerated timeline given age and development. That said, the Sox do have the luxury of drafting further into the high school ranks if they want to. But they don’t have to. The worst outcome of any high school pick would be choosing college over signing. It’s the same effect as a career-ending injury: a pick wasted.
In terms of rebuilding phases, this is Phase 2. The trades and restocking have happened. The team is allowing the kids Carson Fulmer, Lucas Giolito, Lopez, Moncada, Anderson, Matt Davidson, Nicky Delmonico, Daniel Palka, Adam Engel, Omar Narvaez to get their experience in with the Sox. Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Adolfo, Rutherford, Luis Basabe, A.J. Puckett, Dane Dunning and on and on are doing the same at their current minor league levels. Carlos Rodon, Alec Hansen, Kevan Smith, Luis Robert and Jake Burger are healing.
[in a theme of personal commentary, Burger could do a bit better job of this. Achilles ruptures take a long time to heal. I’ve had the surgery myself and know what I’m talking about. There is no shortcut to allowing the body to produce the collagen to heal that tendon, no aggressive workout routine like one typically has while working through an ACL reconstruction (had that too – twice). It simply takes time.
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Phase 3 of the rebuild is very close. That will be when Kopech and Jiminez are declared – or declare themselves – ready for the major league and get called up, and Cease, Robert, Rutherford, Dunning and the others begin climbing the ladder to higher levels. There is depth in this rebuild, and Phase 3 will begin to reveal this as it emerges.
Fans collective impatience will begin to wane when they get a feel of progress. If you recall the standing ovation Yoan Moncada received in his first at-bat, just wait for the first time Michael Kopech takes the mound for the Sox. Or the buzz in the stadium the first time he throws a fastball with the scoreboard showing a radar gun reading of >100 mph. That’s Phase 3, baby, and it’s coming soon to a stadium at 35th and Shields.
In the meantime, there can’t be enough late-inning losses after sound starting pitching efforts. For a team in a rebuild, the standings are upside down. The worse the team does in the standings, the better it’s actually doing in the rebuild. For now, that is. Down the road, it will be a different story and one worth waiting for.
All this said, I secretly hope that Fulmer flat shuts down the Cubs in his start at Wrigley Friday night. That would be a gasp of air to savor.