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Many factors will influence Sox rebuild in '18

December 18, 2017

CHICAGO -- The White Sox rebuild is ahead of schedule entering 2018, which general manager Rick Hahn confirmed at this year's Winter Meetings."With that said, we have a lot more to do," Hahn said. "We've got an important Draft coming in June."There are going to be other important trades. There

CHICAGO -- The White Sox rebuild is ahead of schedule entering 2018, which general manager Rick Hahn confirmed at this year's Winter Meetings.
"With that said, we have a lot more to do," Hahn said. "We've got an important Draft coming in June.
"There are going to be other important trades. There will be free-agent signings that take place to facilitate this, and obviously at this point in particular, a huge amount of player development has to go right."
• White Sox Top 30 Prospects
Talent procurement emerged as the main theme during Year 1 of the White Sox rebuild. The additions will continue, but patience while the talent develops at this stage becomes crucial. Even with the early success and satisfaction for this process, questions loom as the 2018 season approaches.
Here's a handful of those questions to be examined.

1. Who are the "Next Sox" to arrive?
Second baseman Yoan Moncada, right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer and outfielder/designated hitter Nicky Delmonico represented the "Next Sox" first wave of top prospects to arrive in Chicago in 2017. So who's on tap for 2018?

Michael Kopech, the game's top pitching prospect per -- excluding Angels two-way rookie Shohei Ohtani -- figures to follow a path similar to Lopez's 2017 arrival. Eloy Jimenez, rated No. 5 in the game and No. 1 for the White Sox, has 73 plate appearances with Double-A Birmingham standing as his highest level of Minor League competition, but his on-field excellence might force the White Sox to promote him this season.

2. What's the future of Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia?
Should they stay or should they go?
That question appears to be front and center for two important veteran presences both on and off the field. Abreu, who will turn 31 on Jan. 29, ranks as an elite middle-of-the-order lineup presence while serving as a mentor for the emerging prospects and the voice of the clubhouse. Garcia, 26, reached the potential projected of him by the White Sox with his 2017 All-Star campaign.

Each player has two years of contractual control, so the decision doesn't need to be made quickly on either one. The White Sox need to determine whether this duo or one of the two fits into the big picture when the team is primed to contend for a World Series title, or if the club would benefit most from a trade that can bring back players to add to the young core.
3. When will Carlos Rodon return?
The third overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft made 12 starts and threw 69 1/3 innings during the 2017 season due to biceps bursitis at the outset and then September arthroscopic shoulder surgery, which cut short his season. Rodon's timetable for a return stood at six to eight months from when the surgery was announced, a time when Hahn also definitively stated that nothing would be known about Rodon's recovery time until he arrived at Spring Training and really started throwing.

Hahn has held firm to that sentiment during the three or four times he's been asked about Rodon in the offseason. All boxes seem to be getting checked off during Rodon's present rehab, but with the White Sox not expected to contend in 2018, there's no reason to rush what has been described as one of their key rotation pieces in their rebuild and beyond.
4. How do the White Sox spell relief?
Through trades, injuries and non-tenders of Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka and Al Alburquerque, the White Sox relief crew needs a little help by Hahn's admission. Hahn talked about pitching additions, including a potential starter, during the Winter Meetings, but with the market still a little slow to develop, Hahn admitted that such moves might run into January before being completed.
5. What does a full year look like for the club's top prospects?
Observers often analyzed success and failure for impressive young players such as Moncada, Giolito and Lopez from at-bat to at-bat in Moncada's case or start-to-start in the case of Giolito and Lopez. But a better picture should develop in 2018, in terms of what these players begin to truly offer when they get a full season of work at the big league level.

Moncada showed a solid plate approach during his White Sox debut and hit .276 with five home runs in September. Giolito seemed to find his confidence on the mound again.
Bonus: How will the White Sox define being opportunistic?
As has been written many times previously, the White Sox will spend when the time is right to complete their rebuild. That time could begin next offseason, but Hahn has talked about being opportunistic or taking calculated risks in the present.

Catcher Welington Castillo came aboard via a two-year deal with an option for 2020, and the White Sox made an offer to trade for third baseman Manny Machado despite not confirming, denying or acknowledging those talks. More moves of that ilk could arise next offseason or even in-season.

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