CHICAGO -- Shortly after the Chiefs dispatched the 49ers on Sunday night in Super Bowl LIV, I asked fans on Twitter to finish off the following sentence: “The 2020 White Sox season will be a success if ...”
White Sox manager Rick Renteria already answered this particular question at SoxFest. Anything other than his team reaching the postseason for the first time since 2008 would leave him disappointed.
It’s a bold statement by Renteria, who has shown more confident defiance in discussing his team prior to Year 4 at the White Sox helm. That renewed strength comes from an exceptional offseason in which the organization’s front office has checked the boxes on every need laid out by general manager Rick Hahn during his season-ending press conference last September.
Are those moves, coupled with the wealth of homegrown talent being developed, good enough to jump a 72-win squad in 2019 into postseason competition in ’20? A few fans' Twitter responses allow for a deeper look at what needs to happen for the Sox to take that major step forward.
... if starting pitching is deep enough and stays healthy. This is the most important factor.
Kopech has the raw ability to sit atop the best of starting rotations. The 23-year-old, who made four big league starts before undergoing the procedure, still can reach 100 mph with his fastball, but he has learned a great deal about topics ranging from his delivery to pitching approach in general during his rehab work. His return, not to mention the second-half comeback of Carlos Rodón from Tommy John surgery undergone last May, speaks to some of the White Sox in-house pitching depth.
... young players gel.
Winning the offseason becomes a great narrative leading up to and through Spring Training, but ultimately, this team’s 2020 status will be based on the young talent taking a similar step forward from '19 to '20 as it did from '18 to '19. Simply put, the expectations were light-years different between the end of those two seasons.
Third baseman Yoán Moncada had a 5.7 fWAR in 2019, coming off a campaign where he struck out 217 times. Eloy Jiménez’s strong September finish led to 31 home runs as a rookie, while shortstop Tim Anderson won the batting title in jumping from a .240 average in ’18 to a Major League-best .335. Add in center fielder Luis Robert -- whose six-year, $50 million deal will have him in the Opening Day lineup -- and second baseman Nick Madrigal -- whose high contact and slick defensive skills will join the White Sox for the bulk of '20 -- and Chicago has as much talent as any team in the American League Central.
Development is not always linear, as Hahn has stated on more than a few occasions. It’s about adjustments to go with the raw ability.
... there’s a parade!!
Hahn dropped the “ask me after the parade” line in response to a question concerning this offseason's buzz during a pre-SoxFest press conference, making for a great slogan among fans and an equally great line dotting T-shirts at Guaranteed Rate Field. Winning championships always was the goal of this rebuild, and the White Sox wouldn’t budge over the last few years to make moves to jump up for one season.
That thought process could be adjusted in 2020 for a healthy White Sox squad close to contention. There is money available to spend and prospect currency to be used.