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Giolito, Moncada are White Sox to watch in '18

MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- The 231 plate appearances over 54 games for Yoan Moncada and seven starts for Lucas Giolito represent a small 2017 Major League sample size for two of the White Sox top young players.

But this upcoming 2018 campaign, with Moncada and Giolito front and center at the big league level from Opening Day moving forward, should give the White Sox and their fans a greater idea of what to expect from them both. These talented players ultimately could be at the backbone of the rebuild when it's time for the White Sox to contend.

CHICAGO -- The 231 plate appearances over 54 games for Yoan Moncada and seven starts for Lucas Giolito represent a small 2017 Major League sample size for two of the White Sox top young players.

But this upcoming 2018 campaign, with Moncada and Giolito front and center at the big league level from Opening Day moving forward, should give the White Sox and their fans a greater idea of what to expect from them both. These talented players ultimately could be at the backbone of the rebuild when it's time for the White Sox to contend.

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Moncada, 22, has put together a .281 average with three homers and nine RBIs during Cactus League competition through Friday. Giolito, 23, has produced a 2.04 ERA over four starts in Arizona, striking out 17 and walking four in the process.

"He knows and believes he's capable of pitching at the Major League level. He's doing it now," said White Sox manager Rick Renteria of Giolito, who will be the team's No. 2 starter. "He'll continue to grow, and hopefully as he gets more and more time under his belt, we'll see him as being a big, pivotal piece of the Major League scene."

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"I feel very good about Spring Training this year and I'm looking forward to starting the year, for sure," Giolito said. "One of the main goals of mine coming into Spring Training was to get my curveball better. I definitely accomplished that. I am able to throw it for strikes more efficiently, then able to throw the two-strike one much better."

No pitcher or position player has ever made the Hall of Fame based on Cactus League prowess alone. But Giolito's success continues off of his 2.38 ERA recorded over 45 1/3 innings with the White Sox last season.

A significant part of Giolito's improvement is psychological or confidence-related. The 6-foot-6 right-hander struggled with Triple-A Charlotte for much of last season, but he finally put behind the expectations attached to being a one-time top pitching prospect and simply focused on what he could do on the field. Giolito also made some mechanics changes, and now the White Sox are seeing the sort of consistent performance that elevated him to such lofty prospect status.

"The poise that he's carrying is emblematic of the growth he's had over the course of the season last year, the way he finished with us, bringing it into this spring, continuing to feel more and more comfortable in his own skin at the Major League level," Renteria said.

This sort of prospect plight experienced by Giolito sounds familiar to Moncada, who spent much of the 2017 campaign as MLB Pipeline's top prospect overall. He finished July with a 4-for-38 big league showing, but closed with a .276 average, five homers and 11 RBIs during 109 plate appearances in September.

More will be known this season about the switch-hitter that is built like a NFL safety, who will be moving to the lineup's leadoff spot. Much like Giolito, Moncada has the makeup of a top-tier talent -- a true five-tool player, with the ability to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. As the rebuild progresses, these two players become integral pieces to study as key cogs toward championship development.

Video: CHC@CWS: Moncada launches a solo homer to left

"He's my boy," said White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, through interpreter Billy Russo, of Moncada. "We're trying to help him to get better, and help him use his abilities on the field and show how great of a player that he is."

"My goals are just to stay healthy, help the team to win games and do the best I can do," said Moncada through Russo. "I know we are a very good team and we can win. When it all comes together, we're going to be a really good team and we'll be in a very good position to win a World Series."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada