The Chicago White Sox organization has a bright future ahead of them and we wanted to see what Chuck Garfien thinks of the rebuild and how good he thinks they can be.
The Chicago White Sox have a bright future. Everyone who has watched this team throughout the last few seasons knows it and has seen all of the young talents come up through the ranks. With players like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, and Lucas Giolito amongst others all at different stages of their young careers, there are some exciting times ahead.
Nobody knows the White Sox like NBC Sports Chicago’s Chuck Garfien. Chuck was kind enough to give our Vinnie Parise some time to discuss some topics regarding the 2019 and 2020 White Sox. He was very thoughtful and candid with his answers and all White Sox fans are going to appreciate what he had to say:
Vinnie: The fun stuff is going to be us getting into 2020 but first off did you notice a vibe change or an energy change from the 2018 to 2019 season?
"Oh yeah, there was definitely a different vibe from 2018 to 2019. You can see it in the clubhouse and in the dugout during games. The team just started to gel and I think part of it was that during the rebuild, there was a lot of looking around like “Who is really going to be here, am I going to be here, am I a part of the future? Is that guy a part of the future?” In 2019 I think guys started settling into their roles and feeling more confident in their ability on the field and comfortable with each other.You saw a lot more talking going on in the dugout and in the clubhouse with each other and learning how not just to play the games but win games. Now, we didn’t see it on the field on a day to day basis but I just started seeing the necessary building blocks that need to come together for them to eventually start winning. I think that was really the key for me in 2019 besides the young nucleus really coming into their own and guys just becoming a team."
Vinnie: You talked about guys coming into their own, did anybody do that better than Tim Anderson?
"Tim spent a lot of time in the offseason trying to become the player that he knows he can be. He worked a lot on being a hitter. He told me one time that “People don’t come to a game to watch me walk, they come to watch me hit” and at I think in time he will draw more walks but instead of him trying to become a better walker, he was out to become a better hitter. Now his average was off the charts in 2019. I don’t think he will ever repeat that again so there is definitely going to be some regression in his batting average going forward.He used to not have an approach and he admitted that he didn’t have an approach until basically last season. How he got that far as a baseball player is kind of surprising without having much of an approach. He had an idea of what he wanted to do but he was basically going up to the plate with one hand tied behind his back. Last season he had a better approach. He was just trying to crush the ball or pull the ball and he didn’t really know what pitchers were trying to do against him.Last season, I would see him at his locker looking at all of his at-bats on an iPad, not only studying his swing but the pitchers he has faced and was going to face. He was more prepared for every game and the results on the field were much better."
Vinnie: Who do you think is the best hitter in the organization, whether they are called up right now or not?
"The best hitter right now is Yoan Moncada. He hasn’t even reached his ceiling yet. You can say Jose Abreu is the best hitter but he has reached his ceiling. It is a cliche to say the sky is the limit with Moncada but there is still more growth there. He has a great eye and he has improved his approach and we saw what he did in 2019. I would say Yoan Moncada is that guy, we’ll see what Luis Robert can do. I think we in the media and fans, can unintentionally hype some of these guys before they get here or even when they get here.I think there is going to be a lot of that surrounding Robert. He has all the tools but I think he might eventually one of the best hitters on the team as he has that ability as well. Speaking with Frank Menechino who is now the hitting coach of the White Sox (AAA last season), he still had some learning to do in the Minor Leagues and so I wouldn’t put him up there yet so I think Moncada is the guy right now."
Vinnie: Do you think Eloy Jimenez can hit 50 home runs next year?
"Wow! That depends on a few things. First being the baseball. If they use the same baseball as last season and he stays healthy, that could be in the cards. 50 might be a little too much but somewhere in the 40s might be more realistic. I actually would like to see him become more of a hitter than a home run hitter. He mainly has been the guy who hits the ball to center and right-center which shows a great hit tool. When he starts batting left field, you are going to see the power and a better batting average. You might also see more walks too because pitchers are going to want to be very careful with Jimenez at the plate."
Vinnie: Everyone seems to think pitching is the big deal with the White Sox going into 2020, what do you think Michael Kopech can be for the White Sox in 2020
"That is a big question mark because you don’t know how long it is going to take after Tommy John Surgery for a guy to be back to the pitcher that he was. In his favor was that it is such a long layoff, 16 months when some guys try to come back in 9 or 10 months so that should help him. We’ll have to wait and see but nobody really has the answer as to what kind of pitcher that he will be in 2020 and if they think they do they don’t know what they’re talking about because nobody knows, not even Michael Kopech. We will have to wait and see."
Vinnie: Do you think Lucas Giolito can be just as good, if not better than he was in 2019 when 2020 rolls around?
"That would be incredible if he can improve on what he did in 2019 and I’m sure he is out to do that. He took some big steps in 2019. It is funny because they talk about the comeback player of the year but what are you coming back from? Was he ever at that high of a level to begin with, no? But when you come from the depths of where he was in 2018 to having a season where he got Cy Young awards votes, that is quite the jump he made. If he can stay the same, that’s a number two or one and a half. I don’t want to call him an ace yet because he’s only done it for one year. He can be a guy at or near the top of your rotation if he continues to do that and then you get better seasons from Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez, Kopech is close to what he was or maybe even better, and then add a starting pitcher in free agency, that is the rotation you want to see in 2020."
Vinnie: JD Martinez opted into his contract with the Boston Red Sox. Do you have any predictions for what happens with the White Sox and free agency?
"I don’t like making predictions but what I can say definitively, is that the White Sox are going to be aggressive in their attempt to improve their team for 2020. In saying that you can be aggressive but you still have to get the deals done. If you look at the optics of what happened the last offseason, they were aggressive in their attempt to sign Manny Machado, however, they were unable to do it.You can question their aggressiveness after coming up 50 million dollars short to get him but their pursuit of Machado was still an aggressive one. They offered more guaranteed money than any team in the history of Chicago sports. However, they didn’t get the guy they wanted and that White Sox fans wanted. That was a big miss and White Sox fans are still skeptical that they will be able to sign a premium free agent this offseason.Hahn stated at the end of the season that DH and right field are a definite need. Not having JD Martinez on the open market makes it tougher. Edwin Encarnacion would be a great fit for them. He isn’t a long term fit but he would be a good piece for 2020 for sure. You can trade for JD Martinez if that is something they want to do. In right field, the names don’t jump off the page.I like Nick Castellanos. He’s not good defensively and with Jimenez in left and a rookie in center, I wouldn’t like to see that. He’d be a good DH but I don’t know if he wants to do that at 28. There is Kole Calhoun. I know White Sox fans are not crazy about the idea of having him here but he is a left-handed hitter that is a good defender. They love him in Anaheim but I think he’d be a good fit in right field if they can’t get anybody else. They gotta get more starting pitching depth as well at the top and bottom. There were some guys who had no business pitching in the Major Leagues last year."
Vinnie: How do you see the White Sox performing within their division in 2020?
"I would say that it sets up good for the White Sox because there are two teams (Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals) who are nowhere near being competitive. They are in the infant stages of a rebuild. The Royals are ahead of the Tigers who are going to be bad for a long time. That helps their record and allows them to be more competitive in their division. With the Indians, If they trade Lindor either this season or next they are going to tail off. For me, it is going to come down to the White Sox and the Twins. This free-agent class appears to be better than next years. I would like to see the White Sox be more aggressive and land some of these guys.They are only a few players away from being a playoff team. You still need the depth. You can’t just rely on your top 15-20 guys. The reason they got into this rebuild in the first place was that they were top-heavy. They had nine great players and the bottom fell out. In order to have sustained success, you need to have a nucleus that can come together and have a good season with support from your Minor Leagues. When guys either get injured or underperform they can keep the ship afloat. We didn’t see that in 2019. There was no support from the Minor Leagues and so whatever they do in the offseason, they have to get support from the Minor League."
As a writer and a fan, I am truly thankful to Chuck Garfien for his time with me and for being so open with his answers and his White Sox opinions. It will not be long before he is on your television screen from the depths of Guaranteed Rate Field to entertain you. There might also be some very exciting baseball ahead for the White Sox and Chuck clearly believes in what this team is doing. Spring training can’t come soon enough.