We wrapped up the first half of the 40 most essential 2017 White Sox by focusing on James Shields, so let’s open this one with another fan favorite...
No. 20: Avisail Garcia
Now that the White Sox are rebuilding, it really doesn’t matter what Garcia does, or how often he plays. Given the lower stakes, I can see fans warming up to him somewhat by the end of the season. A rising tide lifts all boats, but low tide makes the unimpressive boats stand out more.
No. 19: Jake Petricka
Petricka’s season-ending injury placed a timed mine underneath the White Sox bullpen, which was discovered when Matt Albers exhausted his nine lives over a 10-game stretch. Hopefully the hip surgery allows him to return to life as a capable seventh-inning man.
No. 18: Jacob May
The White Sox could use somebody like him, especially if Charlie Tilson is forever locked in a boot like so many cars at Midway. It won’t necessarily matter in the long run if he flops in his first go-around — and he very well could — but it could cause short-term chaos and ugly bottom(s) of the order(s).
No. 17: Zack Burdi
The White Sox selected a closer with their compensation pick in 2016 for the express purposes of fast-tracking him, so he should be playing a somewhat prominent role by the second half, especially if the Sox find a taker for David Robertson.
No. 16: Tyler Saladino
He’s ideally cast as a utility infielder — and a good one — but the Sox might as well poke at his ceiling as an everyday second baseman, considering other everyday opportunities could arise even after a Yoan Moncada promotion.
No. 15: Omar Narvaez
He wasn’t supposed to be as good as he was last year, but he’s the rare young White Sox player whose knowledge of the strike zone isn’t in question. That provides him a strong base, even if he lacks power to make pitchers quake. Considering he hadn’t worked much with the pitchers he caught during the second half of the 2016 season, he has room for defensive improvement that might help offset any setback stemming from weaker contact.
No. 14: Jose Abreu
He’s lighter, both body (eight pounds) and mind (the smuggling trial is behind him). He also showed signs of defeating the inside-inside-inside game plan that pitchers bedeviled him with during the first half. A return to his rookie form would be a delight, yet it also might not alter the White Sox’ fortunes all that much given the step back in talent around him. Abreu is 30 years old and under control for three years, which would make him a natural trade candidate. But corner power hasn’t found takers, and a recent ESPN profile of Moncada makes it easy to envision the Sox wanting Abreu around as a kind of compass regardless of his numbers. I’m OK with that, because it’s enjoyable to watch him go about his business.
No. 13: Melky Cabrera
No. 12: Todd Frazier
There wasn’t much, if any, trade interest for either lame duck over the offseason, so I’m not going to overstate their values. If they can hold their ground, there are some teams who could use help at third base, and there’s always a need for a switch-hitter at the deadline. Even if the return is one intriguing high-A prospect, it adds to the ranks just the same.
No. 11: Carson Fulmer
No. 10: Reynaldo Lopez
No. 9: Lucas Giolito
I put a line in between Fulmer for symbolic purposes since the White Sox didn’t trade Adam Eaton to get him, but they’re really all in the same group. Whether Fulmer exceeds his muted expectations or Lopez and Giolito deliver on their greater hype, the White Sox could use two of these three guys panning out as rotation mainstays in the near future. That’d be incredible if they established themselves as such by the end of the year, but the White Sox just need to see how it could happen in 2018.
No. 8: Derek Holland
No. 7: Miguel Gonzalez
They’re in the same state as Cabrera and Frazier, in that it’s difficult to imagine either player making it all the way to the end of the season in a White Sox uniform. In the interim, it’s important they throw well enough to allow Fulmer, Lopez and/or Giolito to develop at their own pace. And if they can be dealt for a B-prospect at the end of it, they’ll have served two purposes.
No. 6: David Robertson
No. 5: Nate Jones
These guys aren’t Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller -- Robertson used to be; alas — but the Sox would take 80 percent of what the Yankees received for their best relievers at last year’s trade deadline. For the time being, they’ll be the guys in charge of protecting whatever leads get to them.
No. 4: Carlos Rodon
Before his sketchy spring schedule and his season-starting DL stint, this blurb would have said that he was ready to make the leap. Now, the hope is that he doesn’t spend the year battling or succumbing to a shoulder injury. A functional Rodon is vital either way, as his absence would place even more stress on the Giolito-Lopez-Fulmer group.
No. 3: Yoan Moncada
It’d be great if Moncada made a smooth-ish transition to the majors this year, but I’m bracing for Byron Buxton-like bumps. I can envision it taking Moncada a couple tries to understand the limitations of his insane athleticism, and I can envision the White Sox and fans battling their own impatience. My sense is that he’ll be too talented to keep down for long, as long as nobody overreacts to an ugly first try.
No. 2: Tim Anderson
The White Sox showed what they think of Anderson by signing him for up to eight years at least one year before they had to. The extension shouldn’t change the short-term expectations -- he might struggle against a more refined book, and he should be allowed to adjust, as long as he finishes the year looking like a fixture.
No. 1: Jose Quintana
The White Sox are taking their game of chicken into the regular season. I wouldn’t call the lack of a Quintana trade foolish, because the bigger miscalculation might’ve been trying to trade two aces to the same market. It is high-stakes gambling, though, especially since Quintana can’t really raise his individual stock higher. The bet is that the market will improve one way (Yankees and Braves ready to deal) or another (Astros needing a starter), and those elements are not in the White Sox’ control. Management and fans alike will need to follow Quintana’s lead by being equally unflappable.