GLENDALE, Ariz. -- We’re only days into White Sox Spring Training at Camelback Ranch, but there’s already a buzz surrounding a team coming off three lean rebuilding years.
There’s been talk of postseason contention. There’s been talk of winning a World Series title as soon as 2020. But let’s examine four more tangible predictions potentially playing out here for the South Siders.
Core extensions will be explored
Extending the deals for some of the top young players making up the White Sox core has almost become a Spring Training tradition for Chicago. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jiménez are just a few who have been locked down contractually by the White Sox during this time. Third baseman Yoán Moncada, right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease, and even left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer and/or second baseman Nick Madrigal would be candidates for this same sort of discussion in the coming weeks.
“This tends to be the most productive time of year in terms of getting extensions done,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Doesn’t mean anything is going to happen.
“But especially early in camp when things are a little quieter, it’s a little easier to have those conversations and certainly not distract the player from their in-season games or their late camp preparation. In terms of whether any of those will materialize, we’ll see.”
Quintana reached his extension with the White Sox in 2014. The left-hander admitted to being a little distracted as details were finalized -- he failed to retire any of the nine Oakland hitters he faced in a Cactus League start one week before the deal was announced.
Luis Robert will draw great crowd reaction
Watch Luis Robert -- the No. 3 prospect overall, per MLB Pipeline -- take batting practice, shag fly balls or just walk on the field and it’s very easy to be impressed. Remember last March, Robert hit a ninth-inning home run to beat Texas in Surprise, providing a Cactus League glimpse of his potential impact. This spring, as a 2020 starter, Robert will be in action quite a bit more than his 16 at-bats last year. The real question is what will draw more oohs and ahs from the crowds: Robert’s power, Robert’s speed or Robert’s defense?
Madrigal will get a chance on second
There’s one real position battle playing out here and all eyes will be focused on Nick Madrigal, the No. 40 prospect in MLB, as he pushes for the starting job at second. If it were up to White Sox manager Rick Renteria, Madrigal and his exceptional bat-to-ball skills probably would have been part of the team last season. But the team’s top pick in the 2018 Draft still might have work to do with Triple-A Charlotte, giving the Opening Day nod to Leury Garcia or Danny Mendick. An outside candidate could be added, but this job will belong to Madrigal for the bulk of the season, if not at the outset.
“They’ll all tell you [when they’re ready]. They'll tell you in their actions,” Renteria said. “They'll tell you in what they're doing. How they perform speaks loudly. And so, we just have to make sure that we make a good sound decision, draw good conclusions on everyone that we have in camp.”
Winning might be everything
Some people scoff at playoff talk for the 2020 White Sox. They won just 72 games in 2019, and with the Twins and Indians still looking better on paper in the American League Central, simply targeting an above .500 season and continued improvement likely would be seen as a success leading into serious playoff contention in 2021.
That thought process is not shared by White Sox players or Renteria. They want to end a postseason drought dating back to 2008 and will do whatever it takes over the next six weeks to be in position to do that starting March 26 in Chicago.
Cactus League results don’t necessarily matter, but preparation does. Here’s a quick example of the dedication and preparation: White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and assistant Curt Hasler have been in Arizona since Feb. 2, as have a number of pitchers.
“Anybody who says they love losing is lying. That question to me is a moot point. Nobody likes losing, of course. I’m no different,” Renteria said. “The thing for us to do is everything we have on paper, keep them confident, working, preparing, making that paper come to fruition between the lines in the real sense.”