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White Sox 2017 all about Abreu, Avi

Chicago's young talent emerges as team closes book on rebuild
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- A few individual highlights emerged from the White Sox 2017 season.

Avisail Garcia's five-tool potential was realized during a breakout campaign, as shown by his five-hit, seven-RBI game in a 17-7 victory over Detroit on Sept. 14. Jose Abreu topped a .290 average, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs for the fourth straight season.

CHICAGO -- A few individual highlights emerged from the White Sox 2017 season.

Avisail Garcia's five-tool potential was realized during a breakout campaign, as shown by his five-hit, seven-RBI game in a 17-7 victory over Detroit on Sept. 14. Jose Abreu topped a .290 average, 25 home runs and 100 RBIs for the fourth straight season.

Matt Davidson launched 26 home runs over his first full big league campaign. Yolmer Sanchez and Leury Garcia proved to be viable everyday position players, and relievers such as Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante and Anthony Swarzak took advantage of their extended bullpen opportunities.

But this team with a 67-95 record and fourth-place finish in the American League Central shouldn't be judged solely or even primarily by on-field performance. It was more about assembling a critical mass of young talent and starting them on the path to big league success.

Video: KC@CWS: Davidson slugs a two-run homer to left field

"I don't think you want to have a club in perpetuity rebuilding," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "We want to ultimately get to the point where you're supposed to be striking.

"We just have to continue to chip away and maintain the process. We have to maintain the teaching, the communication that's necessary for us to continue to go out there, even at this particular juncture, to try and win ballgames on a daily basis."

Here's a look at some of the top moments and themes from Year 1 of the rebuild.

Abreu makes history
The most exciting moment of the 2017 White Sox season came from the leader of the team on Sept. 9. Abreu entered the eighth inning of a 13-1 victory over the Giants needing just a triple to hit for the sixth cycle in franchise history. He connected on a Roberto Gomez pitch to right-center, one of the few triple-friendly regions for a right-handed hitter at Guaranteed Rate Field, and he raced around to third. Adding to the drama was Abreu fouling a pitch off of his left foot earlier in the at-bat and then windmilling around second as he almost fell.

Video: Must C Cycle: Abreu legs out triple to complete cycle

"I was thinking the same thing that Avi [Garcia] told me seconds before, to hit the ball to the alley," said Abreu, through interpreter Billy Russo, after completing the first White Sox cycle since Jose Valentin did it on April 27, 2000, against Baltimore. "I hit the ball to the alley, and I was just thinking of the triple."

Abreu joined Valentin, Ray Schalk (June 27, 1922), Jack Brohamer (Sept. 24, 1977), Carlton Fisk (May 16, 1984) and Chris Singleton (July 6, 1999) as the only White Sox players to hit for the cycle. Abreu went from home to third in 11.76 seconds, according to Statcast™, which is his fastest time since Statcast™ debuted in 2015.

Avisail arrives
There was a time last December when the idea of Garcia being non-tendered was not a foreign concept. Although he was just 25, Garcia had not lived up to his potential in parts of four seasons with the White Sox.

The rebuild gave Garcia another chance, back in right field, and he ran with the opportunity. He was selected as the White Sox lone All-Star, and he set career highs with a .330 average, 18 home runs, 80 RBIs, 27 doubles and 75 runs scored.

"Confidence for him has been a key to his growth," said Renteria. "His routines and some adjustments that he's made have helped him maintain that consistency.

Video: Renteria credits consistency to Avi's strong 2017

"I don't know that he'll hit .330. They say between .315 and .330, and yeah I'll see that. All I know is that if he maintains that consistent approach that he's had both emotionally, confidently and the work structure, he's got a good chance of doing what he did last year."

Losing 20 pounds going into the season and refining his approach within the strike zone didn't hurt Garcia's cause either.

Trader Rick
It all began in 2016 with the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades during the Winter Meetings near Washington, D.C., but it seemed as if Hahn put two seasons worth of a rebuild into one. Hahn's biggest move came before the start of the second half, when he sent Jose Quintana to the Cubs for a four-player return that included standout outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who might see the Majors in '18 and end up as one of the core members of the White Sox next great team.

Hahn also traded Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson to the Yankees for outfielder Blake Rutherford and pitcher Ian Clarkin.

Make way for the Next Sox
Yoan Moncada went from the No. 1 prospect in baseball per MLBPipeline.com to the White Sox starting second baseman on July 19. He was joined by Nicky Delmonico in left field, right-handed hurlers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer as part of the starting rotation and Aaron Bummer in the bullpen. The next wave of White Sox has only started rolling toward the big leagues, with right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech and Jimenez on the 2018 radar.

Moncada's first game, against the Dodgers at home, also stood as the first time in recent memory when a foul ball the switch-hitter delivered earned a standing ovation.

Video: LAD@CWS: Moncada receives ovation, walks in '17 debut

Ricky's boys don't quit
This mantra has been heard quite frequently in the past for a White Sox team playing with intensity from start to finish, regardless of the score. But beyond the catchphrase stood a manager who put his imprint on the team from Day 1, as far back as the organization's 2016 Instructional League. Renteria has enthusiasm that one player described as "infectious," and he wants players to perform the same way. Renteria and his staff proved to be the perfect fit for this rebuilding franchise.

Bonus moments
• Mark Buehrle, one of the most popular players in White Sox history, had his No. 56 jersey retired on June 24. His son, Braden, sang the national anthem, and his daughter, Brooklyn, threw out a ceremonial first pitch with greater velocity than Buehrle's fastest fastball.

Video: OAK@CWS: Brooklyn Buehrle tosses out the first pitch

• The White Sox gave a $26 million signing bonus to outfielder Luis Robert, the 19-year-old Cuban native and one of the top international free agents.

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