Ahh, Opening Day for the White Sox. Dating back about eight years or so now, this has consistently been the cheeriest day of the year for me; as it has for most Sox fans. Hope springs eternal (does it?) and everybody has a shot (do they?). For the majority (all) of those eight years, I’ve been confident that the strongest hold we’d have on the AL Central would be on Opening Day; and every single time, for the most part, I’ve been right.
In an ideal world this paragraph starts off, “BUT NOT THIS YEAR.”
Pal. We don’t live in an ideal world. If we did, then the Sox wouldn’t play in a stadium whose logo is a downward-pointing arrow.
Anywho, this blog right here is all about predictions. There will be a lot of normal ones, like…
how many home runs will Manny Machado hit in his first year with the Sox? who will lead the team in home runs? Which prospect will make the biggest strides? There will also be a few different ones like…which reliever on the Opening Day 25-man roster will make me want to pull my hair out most consistently? Or something like that. So here we go!
In reality, there’s probably only about three or four reasonable choices for Most Valuable Player. Also, god knows I’m talking about MVP of the White Sox, not the MLB. My pick is going to be Eloy Jimenez.
Consider it drinking the Kool Aid or just me riding off the waves of the announcement that he’ll be with the White Sox on Opening day, but I really believe Jimenez will show he’s everything that everyone has talked about. Every time I talk about him, I find myself saying “I understand there will be struggles,” and I’ll come clean: I don’t foresee any major struggles for the rookie. There are next-to-no holes in his offensive game, and to be honest, I think the hype surrounding his descent to the big leagues would be ENORMOUSLY more hyped-up were it not for Vlad Jr. over with the Blue Jays. Eloy doesn’t strike me (look at me talking like I know him personally, let alone have ever been in the same vicinity of him) as a guy who will be fazed by the attention. He doesn’t have his initials tattooed on his neck (sorry, Yoan). I think he just wants to rake…and rake he will.
Also, going to get the “Who Will Hit The Most Home Runs?” question out of the way. Eloy ain’t the MVP if he isn’t hitting the most home runs, probably.
Player I’m Most Likely To Forget Exists In Five Years
This is a prestigious award that has, in the past, gone to players like: Will Ohman, Nick Masset and Rob Mackowiak. Out of the White Sox’ 2019 squad I’m going to have to go with Manny Banuelos.
Acquired in a deal with the Dodgers with the idea of him becoming the fifth starter, I think there was a point where the Sox brass genuinely believed he would become that. They quickly telegraphed that it wasn’t coming to fruition with the signing of Ervin Santana. Now, major credit to Banuelos for making the Opening Day roster (in a long relief role), but I have little faith that a 28-year-old with 26.1 innings of major league ball under his belt will stick and be effective given how quickly the coaching staff was to look for other options.
Still, I’d absolutely love it if I do indeed somehow remember Manny (still hurts) in five years.
Who Leads The Team In Wins?
Reynaldo Goddamn Lopez. I’m all about this guy getting the respect he deserves. At age 24, Lopez was the steadiest Sox starter outside of James Shields — what a sentence. I think people recognized his effectiveness due to the sub-four ERA, but largely, I’m of the belief that nobody is paying enough attention to him.
He threw 188 innings last year — 24th in all of baseball — giving himself a track-record, albeit small, of being relied upon to take the mound every fifth day. Rodon has his injury concerns, Giolito has his…general concerns and Ivan Nova, while safe and effective, doesn’t have the ceiling of Reynaldo. I’ve long said that Lopez reminds me a lot of Pedro Martinez. No, I don’t think he’s going to sniff the level that Pedro reached, but his mechanics and how he goes about pitching, is similar.
Tyler Johnson. This is a tricky one, because even for those who know a base level amount about the Sox’ farm system might say that a nice year from Johnson shouldn’t be considered a “surprise.” He has posted a combined 1.40 ERA over 58.0 IP in low-A/high-A.
Still, I’ve heard nothing but magnificent things about Johnson since he entered the organization back in 2017 — even directly from somebody who worked with Johnson over a full season. If the South Carolina product can be effective at the AA level right from the jump, it’s not completely out of the question that he could get a small, little cup of coffee come September.
How Many Wins?
The ultimate question. I’m pretty sure I’m going to say a number here similar to the one I said last year, and that’s 75 wins. I hope I’m wrong and that they can exceed that number by three or four, but I don’t know if I see it. It’s been talked about by many, but the pitching staff is too big of a gaping hole. You could look at each and every starter and find a pretty major flaw in their game at this point. For some (Rodon), it’s injury. For others, it’s just continuing to get their feet wet and finding out what works at the big league level (Giolito).
The bullpen being better than it has in previous years makes me feel better, but there’s only so much they can do if we’re down 7-2 in the fourth inning.
Now for a few more quick-hitting predictions with very little explanation.
- Most Saves: Alex Colome — You don’t know how bad I want to say Ian Hamilton. If he weren’t starting the year injured I probably would, because this is my predictions blog and I get to choose.
- First Call-Up: Seby Zavala — Thinking there will be an injury to either Castillo or McCann and Zavala gets the first nod, before Zack Collins.
- Best Player Who Is Related To A Guy We Didn’t Sign: Yonder Alonso.
- First Eloy Jimenez Home Run: April Fool’s Day in Cleveland.
- Yoan Moncada Strikeout Total: *exhales* 177.
I think that’s about as good of a note as any to end on here.
I’m super excited for this season, and if you somehow made it to the end of this, thanks so much for reading and I’ve made it a personal goal to do a lot more writing about the Sox this year — so hopefully I can stick to that!
(credit to @MiLB on Twitter for the cover photo)