The 2018 White Sox vs. the American League Central
The Minnesota Twins
This is the second in a series of four comparisons between the likely 2018 White Sox and their Central Division counterparts. The Twins were the second American League wild card team last season and they improved by 26 wins from 2016 to 2017.
Like the comparison between the Indians and the White Sox, we will juxtapose the starting line-ups, bench, starting rotation, and bullpen of both teams. I will refrain from matching up Paul Molitor with Rick Renteria because Renteria deserves more time and a fuller major league roster before he’s fairly assessed.
Joe Mauer is still a good hitter, but his power numbers (7 home runs, 71 runs batted in) are more indicative of a second baseman than a prototypical corner infielder. He isn’t a middle of the order bat on a contending team, more like a 2-hitter (pre-sabermetrics, now 2-hitters are often a team’s best overall hitter) or 6-hole hitter. Jose Abreu has hit over 25 home runs and driven in more than 100 runs every year he’s been with the White Sox, in addition to being a good hitter for average and getting on base at a better than average rate.
Brian Dozier provides the power that Mauer lacks. Dozier hit 34 home runs, had 68 extra base hits and drove in 93 runs in 2017. If Minnesota doesn’t perform like they did in 2017, Dozier, who is a free agent after the 2018 season, could be moved for a blue chip prospect or a couple good, second tier young players. The White Sox hope Yoan Moncada puts up Dozier-like numbers sooner rather than later.
Jorge Polanco (13 home runs, 74 runs batted in, .256 batting average, .313 on base percentage) and Tim Anderson (17 home runs, 56 runs batted in, .256 batting average, .276 on base percentage) are similar in that they are both young, talented, and have yet to reach their full potential. For the Twins and the White Sox to be successful, they will both need to see their potential realized.
Miguel Sano has enormous power potential-he already has 71 career home runs and he won’t be 25 years old until May. However, he’s recently been accused of sexual assault by a photographer that covers the Twins. It is a possibility, per the league’s domestic abuse-sexual assault-child abuse policy, that Sano will be suspended if an investigation buttresses the photographer’s accusations. That would be a major blow to the Twins, as Sano stands to be their biggest power threat aside from Dozier. In his stead, former White Sox Eduardo Escobar offers a game similar to that of Yolmer Sanchez. Good defense. Hustle. A recent increase in power.
Byron Buxton is on track to surpass Mike Trout, Kevin Pillar, Kevin Kiermaier, AJ Pollock, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Charlie Blackmon as the best defensive center fielder in baseball. His offensive game has come around a little bit too-he smacked 16 home runs and stole 29 bases in 2017. 6 foot 4 left handed hitting Max Kepler is a young blue chip prospect as well, and his game is also on the rise. Kepler hit 19 home runs and drove in 69 last season, with 53 extra base hits. Nicky Delmonico needs to deliver on the promise he showed when he was called up last August, and Avi Garcia needs to prove 2017’s .330 batting average, .380 on base percentage, and 80 runs driven in weren’t a fluke if these two outfields are to produce at a comparable rate in 2018.
Jason Castro is a defense first catcher who hasn’t done much with the bat since 2013. Wellington Castillo has more pop in his bat (20 home runs in 2017), and he’s also an above average defensive catcher. Bleacher Report’s MLB Position Power rankings ranked Castillo the 11th best catcher in baseball last year, with both offense and defense factored in. Castro was not listed in the Top 20.
The Twins have Robbie Grossman/Kennys Vargas at DH, and the White Sox have Matt Davidson. All three are placeholders.
Clear advantage, Twins
Eduardo Escobar is a capable, valuable back up infielder, and he may be more than that. If Sano is out for any length of time or Polanco stagnates, Escobar will step up. He had a career high 21 home runs and 73 runs batted in last year. Zach Granite is a former 14th round draft pick out of Seton Hall who will be a fifth outfielder when Vargas is in the line up at DH. Leury Garcia may put up similar numbers to Escobar’s if he is given 400 plus at bats, and I’ll take Adam Engel defensively with any 4th outfielder in baseball.
After the ageless Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 earned run average in 33 starts at age 35) and 23 year old former first round pick Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.89 earned run average in 25 starts) the cupboard is full of fifth starters like Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, and Trevor May. The White Sox James Shields improved in the second half last season after a bad start, and the rest of the staff is made up of pitchers with significant potential (Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer), a pitcher that may be a number one if he can stay healthy (Carlos Rodon), and a pitcher on the way that is going to electrify the major leagues (Michael Kopech).
Slight advantage, White Sox
Both bullpens are relatively anonymous. The Twins have 76 year old Fernando Rodney, and Nate Jones is the only accomplished reliever the White Sox haven’t traded in the last six or seven months.
Even (although the Twins will probably work to add to their existing group)
The Twins will not make the playoffs again in 2018, the year after that, or the year after that, despite what some online publications might say about their upswing. In 2018, the Twins will win 78 games, and the White Sox will win 73 games. In 2019, the Minnesota Twins will be in the White Sox rearview mirror.
Next: Sox vs. KC
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