The White Sox proved able to sign and flip veteran bullpen pieces last season, further bolstering their deep farm system and opening up some payroll space. Xavier Cedeno and Joakim Soria were each sent to Milwaukee in separate deals. Luis Avilan went to the Phillies prior to their late-season stumbles. This offseason, the White Sox will likely do the same, signing some veteran placeholders for both the rotation and the bullpen. Here are my predictions for the White Sox 2019 opening day pitching staff.
SP – Reynaldo Lopez
After an injury shortened White Sox debut in 2017, Lopez became the staff “ace” of sorts in 2018. His 3.91 ERA was perhaps a bit fortunate, with FIP and xFIP both projecting higher numbers (4.63 and 5.22, respectively). However, his study of analytics will hopefully pay off in 2019 and beyond. Plus, simply gaining experience goes a long way in developing pitchers.
SP – Lucas Giolito
Giolito definitely took a step backwards for the White Sox in 2018. It shows in his ERA (6.13), his BB/9 (4.67), and an overall feeling of dread in about 80% of his starts. He’s got the stuff, and he battled through some hard-fought outings in 2018. He is still a work in progress, and is working on location over velocity, so there are likely brighter skies ahead. Look for him to dominate Spring Training and truly lock down his rotation spot.
SP – Carlos Rodon
Back from injury, it’s time for Rodon to claim the top spot in the White Sox rotation. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, but consistency has thus far eluded him. He seemed tired in September, but a healthy offeason to recover gives him no excuses in 2019. It’s time to produce the way Sox fans and the organization have wanted since drafting him.
RP – Nate Jones
Speaking of returning, Jones will return in 2019, looking to recapture his former success. I have literally no idea what to expect from Jones, but the White Sox decided to pick up his option, so they must feel he is capable of bouncing back. Barring injury, he will be in the ‘pen on Opening Day.
RP – Juan Minaya
I have such a love/hate relationship with Minaya. I feel like the game is on the line every time he pitches, even if the White Sox have a ten run lead. However, his ERA (3.93) has been solid over his few years on the Southside, and his FIP (4.04) argues he has pitched about as well as his ERA. Even during his most dominant outings, I feel extremely nervous. Despite my anxiety, he will roll out of the pen when the season begins.
RP – Jace Fry
Fry has been unspectacular in his two seasons in the majors, but he has proven a reliable middle inning reliever. It’s only my speculation, but I think he might be in line to receive some higher-leverage situations in 2019. The Sox need a reliable left-handed arm to help bridge the gap to the ninth inning, and Fry fits the bill in my opinion.
RP – Ian Hamilton
Hamilton, who is meant to share the bullpen with Ryan Burr (the ‘pen was wide enough), will also break camp with the White Sox. At times, he looked good, and was an appealing option out of the bullpen. Other times, he was a bit of a disaster. His FIP (6.29) suggests he was extremely fortunate to come away with a 4.50 ERA. I see him having a solid camp and putting up some good numbers for a bullpen needy team. As a side note, I think Ryan Burr will join Ian Hamilton in the White Sox bullpen before mid-May, but in a much more amicable relationship than Aaron and Alexander.
SP – Jaime Garcia
Garcia enters free agency in 2018 for the third year in a row. He has not produced well the past few seasons, and will likely be looking for a bounce back opportunity heading into next year. The White Sox are absolutely in the market for a veteran reclamation project like Garcia. His 2018 ERA (5.82) is almost a full two runs higher than his career ERA of 3.85, so despite the fact he has not recorded an ERA under 4 since 2015, he is much more serviceable than his recent track record indicates.
SP – Jeremy Hellickson
Rounding out the Opening Day rotation is Jeremy Hellickson. The White Sox need another stopgap to eat innings while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and the next wave of starters prove themselves worthy of a call-up. Carson Fulmer has likely worn his welcome and should, according to this baseball fan, move the bullpen so he can work fewer innings with hopefully better results. Much like Garcia, Hellickson has had a productive career and can likely be signed at a bargain this winter.
RP – Nick Vincent
A productive pitcher throughout his career, Nick Vincent hit the open market earlier this month after electing free agency. The veteran hurler pitched for San Diego before heading to Seattle, so he has only experienced two above-.500 seasons and has not made the playoffs. My point? Signing with a likely non-contender like the White Sox is not a big deal, and he can potentially become a valuable summer trade chip.
RP – John Axford
In his mid-30s and coming off a few rough campaigns, Axford is not at the top of any contender’s free agent wish list. However, the White Sox will sign him for a bargain and hope to turn him back into an effective reliever. Like Nick Vincent, he will bridge the gap to the upcoming and returning young relievers, and will hopefully turn himself into a trade chip before the deadline.
RP – Manny Banuelos
What are the expectations for the newly acquired Banuelos? Well, he will break camp with the major league squad. He will then proceed to put up middling stats, slightly improving throughout the season. Even if it’s only for one season, the small price paid to acquire him will pay off.
Like I said last week, I have no say in the matter. Given the state of the rebuild and the competition for top free agents, this is what I envision on Opening Day. Next week, I’ll put together my free agent wish list, assuming they remain unsigned.
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