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The White Sox need to step up their play

Losing in of itself is fine, but the ends don’t justify the means

Chicago White Sox v Colorado Rockies
It’s time to do better.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

On Wednesday’s broadcast, ESPN showed a graphic of the White Sox’ future position-player lineup. I don’t have the graphic handy, but here’s what they had down:

  • Blake Rutherford - LF
  • Luis Robert - CF
  • Eloy Jimenez - RF
  • Matt Davidson - 3B
  • Tim Anderson - SS
  • Yoan Moncada - 2B
  • Jose Abreu - 1B
  • Zack Collins - C

They didn’t include a graphic of the pitching staff, but I’m assuming that the twelve slots there would be filled out by Carlos Rodon and 11 of your favorite prospects.

There were some erroneous implications made surrounding the timing of this lineup and it’d be unfair to pick on a national guy like Rick Sutcliffe for being unable to conjure an intimate knowledge of the likely trajectory of each player on the spot, so let’s forgive that for the time being. Let’s think about that lineup for a few minutes.

  • 20-year-old in A-ball yet to manifest power - LF
  • 19-year-old yet to play stateside ball - CF
  • Exciting 20-year-old in high-A - RF
  • A 26-year-old at replacement-level through 300 plate appearances - 3B
  • A former top prospect having a replacement-level or worse sophomore season - SS
  • Though unproven, the top prospect in baseball - 2B
  • An expensive guy not under contract past 2019 - 1B
  • A guy having severe contact woes at high-A - C

This all ignores guys like Jake Burger and Micker Adolfo, plus the significant possibility to plug holes externally, but hopefully the point is clear. The White Sox farm system is outstanding and one of the best in baseball. However, prospects bust often and penciling any of those guys save for possibly Moncada into a future lineup is more than a little hasty. Most likely, some of the White Sox’ top prospects will develop into average-or-better major leaguers and others will not.

If I were to paint a picture of the White Sox future coming into 2017, it would have essentially been Anderson, Rodon, and prospects that were either already here or would be acquired in the summer. The newly deepened farm system is great, but there isn’t much talent on hand for it to supplement. Anderson and Rodon are nice pieces, but the former has taken a large step back this year and the latter has endured what will mostly be a lost season. Neither is a fully-formed star to anchor the current core. Plus, they’re only two players.

The White Sox have now lost 13 of their last 15 games, which has been a cause for celebration amongst tanking enthusiasts. The losses themselves are stomach-able and even welcome because of what they do for draft position, but in order to lose, players have to play poorly. Here’s a look at some of the ugliness that’s underlying this recent stretch of play.

  • Anderson: .240/.255/.380, 13 K, 1 BB, bad defense
  • Rodon: 3 GS, 13 IP, 19 K (that’s good!), 9 BB (ew), 6 HR (ugh!), 10.38 ERA
  • Avisail Garcia: .216/.259/.333, injury
  • Moncada: .130/.286/.348, 29% K%
  • Yolmer Sanchez: .213/.229/.319
  • Davidson: .240/.283/.400
  • Tyler Saladino: .211/.250/.263, still no homers this season

(Rodon gets a bit of a pass since he didn’t get spring training, and obviously Moncada is new to the level, but having an excuse is worse than overcoming it.)

I’d like to tell you that every game is being lost solely by bad efforts from a combination of Tyler Clippard and one of James Shields, Derek Holland, Miguel Gonzalez, and Mike Pelfrey, but that’s not the case. Players we’re counting on (for either trade value or to be a part of the future) are doing poorly and causing the losses to rack up. Moving up in the draft isn’t worth all this; it’s a very distant consolation prize.

The above doesn’t account for the less-experienced players and granted, no one is hinging the rebuild on Omar Narvaez, Gregory Infante, or Alen Hanson. The thought might be that it’s okay if the losses pile up because the back of the roster is playing basically to expectations. However, I don’t like that line of thinking. We might not be invested in any of these players individually, but collectively, it will be disappointing if we get zero encouraging performances from the scrap heap. Wouldn’t it be nice if Juan Minaya evolved into a reliable late-game option with six more years of team control? What if Engel had a Leury Garcia-like breakout over the last couple of months and gave the White Sox reason to believe that he could be the center fielder of the future? Kevan Smith has been a decent framer, but could he be something more if the bat picks up? We love our highly-ranked prospects, but a genuine breakthrough from a fringe guy could make that player more valuable than even someone like Robert.

That’s what I’m rooting for over the last couple of months. Not only do I want the important pieces to perform well, but I want to find another player or two to latch onto to lump into that Anderson/Rodon core. Despite trying out many players this year, the Sox haven’t found any except possibly the aforementioned Leury Garcia, who’s only here through 2020. The goal is to build a team from within that requires as little external supplementation as possible to contend for a championship. As it stands — particularly with the Anderson and Rodon setbacks — we’re asking for too much from even a great farm system. Some players on this roster need to step up and give this team added hope for the future. If that means the White Sox pick fourth instead of second, so be it.