CHICAGO -- From 2012 through '17, the White Sox began each campaign with either Chris Sale or Jose Quintana sitting at the top of their starting rotation. Four of those years (2013-16) opened with both of them leading the White Sox.
Neither one will be there in '18, with Sale traded to Boston last offseason and Quintana moved to the Cubs in 2017 as major parts of the White Sox rebuild. Carlos Rodon, the next southpaw ace apparently in line, isn't an official part of the rotation as of now either. Rodon had season-ending arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September, sidelining him for six to eight months.
This current rotation features talent but uncertainty. It also figures to look different by Spring Training, let alone as the season progresses. MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the White Sox might stack up:
ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
James Shields, RHP
Lucas Giolito, RHP
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
Carson Fulmer, RHP
Carlos Rodon, LHP
Dylan Covey, RHP
Giolito, Lopez and Fulmer will be competing in their first full Major League season as part of the starting rotation, but all gained crucial experience during the '17 season. Giolito admitted to finding a more comfortable mental focus at Triple-A Charlotte and then carried that change to the Majors, posting a 2.38 ERA over seven starts with the White Sox. Fulmer had a 1.56 ERA over his final four starts, and even Shields, the 12-year veteran, benefited from adjusting his arm angle upon delivery.
Yes, the young pitchers gained valuable experience, but they still are developing on the mound and will have ups and downs during the season. For a team in the development stage of a rebuild, that expected inconsistency is part of the process. Covey's best situation would be gaining experience at the Minor League level after he was understandably overmatched going from a Rule 5 Draft selection to the team's fifth starter, and Rodon's recovery timetable won't be more accurately known until he starts throwing at Spring Training.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
There will be a veteran addition or two to challenge for the White Sox rotation. Those additions could come from free agency, trades and non-roster invites to Spring Training -- or a combination of the three. But they become important additions with the White Sox being cognizant of workload for Giolito, Lopez and Fulmer during their first full big league season and the uncertainty in relation to Rodon's healthy availability.
A chance exists for Michael Kopech, the No. 10 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, to break camp as part of the White Sox rotation with an amazing run this spring. It's more likely Kopech follows a similar path to the Majors as Lopez did in '17, with the White Sox giving him extended time at Charlotte.