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White Sox first half: better than expected

MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Slightly better than expected would be one way to describe the first half of the 2017 White Sox season and the start of their rebuild, even with coming within two outs of being no-hit by Colorado on Sunday and with an overall record of 38-49.

The team has played with intensity to the final out of every game for manager Rick Renteria, who has instilled a specific culture running throughout the organization since the start of Spring Training. Then again, this rebuild job didn't exit Arizona with the same tanking outlook that other clubs have followed.

CHICAGO -- Slightly better than expected would be one way to describe the first half of the 2017 White Sox season and the start of their rebuild, even with coming within two outs of being no-hit by Colorado on Sunday and with an overall record of 38-49.

The team has played with intensity to the final out of every game for manager Rick Renteria, who has instilled a specific culture running throughout the organization since the start of Spring Training. Then again, this rebuild job didn't exit Arizona with the same tanking outlook that other clubs have followed.

Not with accomplished veterans such as Jose Abreu, David Robertson, Todd Frazier, Melky Cabrera and Jose Quintana, to name a few, leading the way. Not with young talent already placed into the everyday mix.

:: 2017 Midterm Report: Complete coverage ::

"We haven't been as good as we would like," said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. "But we have been doing our best, and I think the second half is going to be better for us."

Abreu's hope could be changed quickly by a series of moves from general manager Rick Hahn before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. As of the All-Star break, though, the White Sox have been competitive.

WHAT WENT RIGHT
Avisail Garcia and Abreu made up a formidable one-two punch in the middle of the White Sox order … Tommy Kahnle made adjustments on his mechanics and proved his 100-mph fastball and wipeout changeup plays at the big league level … Anthony Swarzak went from non-roster invite to a key late-inning relief piece … The White Sox rebuild received a huge boost when Luis Robert, the top international free agent, officially joined the team on May 26 with a $26 million signing bonus.

Video: Must C Clutch: Abreu beats Yanks with walk-off single

WHAT WENT WRONG
Injuries plagued the White Sox, from Carlos Rodon missing all but three first-half starts with biceps bursitis to reliever Zach Putnam having season-ending Tommy John surgery and fellow late-inning force Nate Jones limited to 11 games due to a bout with neuritis in his right elbow … Tim Anderson dealt with the first prolonged slump of his young career, although showed signs of breaking out before the break … Quintana, followed by trade rumors from the Winter Meetings on forward, finished strong after a very un-Quintana like first two months pushed his ERA to 4.49 … The starting pitching, as a whole, ranked last in the AL with 29 quality starts.

WHAT WE LEARNED
Some of the younger players not on the top prospect list showed their short-term value and as part of the rebuilt future. Matt Davidson proved to be a viable power force. Yolmer Sanchez handled second base both offensively and defensively, while Adam Engel brought his bat closer to his high-caliber defense in center field. The team should look considerably different in the second half, with trades apparently on the horizon as well as the callups of Yoan Moncada and Reynaldo Lopez.

Video: CWS@MIN: Avisail and Davidson hit back-to-back homers

FIRST HALF TOP PLAYER (NON-PITCHER): Avisail Garcia
The White Sox right fielder has gone from borderline non-tender candidate during the offseason to first-time All-Star. The team's rebuild certainly benefitted Garcia, giving him a chance back in right field on a full-time basis. But Garcia absolutely ran with this opportunity, coming into camp 20 pounds lighter and refining his approach at the plate. Even when Garcia expands the zone, he has a greater understanding of the misstep and how to correct the issue. Abreu also deserves strong consideration, putting himself on pace for a fourth straight year with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs.

FIRST HALF TOP PITCHER: Tommy Kahnle
With Quintana struggling and Rodon hurt, the first-half honor goes to the hard-throwing right-hander by a slight edge over Robertson and Swarzak. Kahnle made a few tweaks to his pitching mechanics resulting in a 2.65 ERA over 35 games, 57 strikeouts in 34 innings and more importantly only seven walks. The story on Kahnle always centered on being able to consistently throw strikes, which he has in '17.

Video: CWS@TOR: Kahnle K's two in 1 2/3 strong innings

FIRST HALF TOP ROOKIE: Matt Davidson
By simply watching the third baseman/designated hitter take his swings during the hitter's mini-camp in January, it was pretty clear Davidson stood primed for a big season. There have been some blips along the way, with Davidson carrying a team-high 106 strikeouts into the All-Star break. But he also has clubbed a team-best 18 home runs.

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.

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