CHICAGO -- A buzz existed around the rebuilding White Sox crew since instructional league action last September and October. It's a championship-type buzz, but not for the 2018 season.
The young players bringing energy and fun to Camelback Ranch under manager Rick Renteria's guidance on a daily basis during Spring Training believe the team will be improved in 2018 from its 67-95 finish last season. But even the players understand this group is being built for sustained success, beginning a season or two down the line.
Basically, if you enjoy watching outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-handed hurlers Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen now as White Sox fans, you will enjoy them even more when the high-end players and the team are ready to contend. That building process continues on this spring.
What's the goal?
The White Sox want to win multiple World Series championships, or at the least, contend for multiple World Series championships. In the interim, the White Sox are simply focused on developing their critical mass of talent.
Part of that core, such as shortstop Tim Anderson, second baseman Yoan Moncada, outfielder/designated hitter Nicky Delmonico and right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer, already built up considerable Major League experience. This team conceivably could push itself to the outskirts of 2018 postseason contention with the right veteran addition or two, but the White Sox aren't interested in jumping up for one longer-shot American League Wild Card chance over valuable at-bats or innings for top prospects.
What's the plan?
Much of the talent procurement was done by general manager Rick Hahn and his staff over the past year, and the White Sox certainly aren't done in that particular area. But there's no Major League rush for other top prospects such as Jimenez (MLB Pipeline's fourth-ranked prospect), Kopech (No. 10) and Hansen (No. 54).
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All of these players are getting Spring Training looks, as well as outfielder Luis Robert (No. 28 overall prospect), who is a little further removed from big league time. But much like Moncada, Giolito and Lopez last season, they won't get promoted until they've absolutely checked off all the boxes needed to accomplish at the Minor League level.
What could go wrong?
Jake Burger, the outgoing and talented third baseman who was the team's top pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, sustained a ruptured left Achilles tendon during Cactus League action and will miss the entire 2018 season following surgery. Outfielder Micker Adolfo will be limited to the designated hitter's role for Class A Advanced Winston-Salem this season due to a tear in the flexor muscle and a strain of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, diagnosed behind soreness from early Spring Training drills.
Left-handed starter Carlos Rodon, who with parts of three years of big league experience stands above the prospect level, won't pitch in a Cactus League game during Spring Training as he recovers from arthroscopic shoulder surgery last September.
Rodon's news was not exactly startling, with the team listing him out 6-8 months last September. Hahn has pointed out the organization legitimately has a prospect or two at every position at this point, but these injuries illustrate the need to continue adding to the critical mass assembled. The only real way things could go wrong for the rebuild at this point is if the White Sox deviate from the plan.
Who might surprise?
Jimenez and Kopech have the look of rebuild centerpieces, similar to players such as Carlos Correa for the Astros or Kristopher Bryant for the Cubs. If the duo continues to progress upward, as it did in 2017, and avoid injury, they both could see time in the Majors this season. It should be at least 2020 before Robert reaches the Majors, but everything the 20-year-old has done to date has impressed. The ball has that different sound coming off of his bat, and his athleticism is virtually unmatched within the organization.
Hope figures to surpass victories for the White Sox in 2018. But the organization believes it's moving closer to being in that championship position, learning more about the players making up one of the game's top Minor League systems and helping them to figure out where they might need to eventually fill in from outside the organization.