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Inbox: Is Cease poised to break out in 2020?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from White Sox fans
@scottmerkin
October 28, 2019

CHICAGO – This week’s White Sox inbox focuses on a 2020 breakout player, winning the American League Central and the high-end, free-agent starting pitchers. What player on the Sox do you see having a comeback year like (Lucas) Giolito did this year? Thatcher, Bensenville, IL, @z_man100 Let’s go with Dylan

CHICAGO – This week’s White Sox inbox focuses on a 2020 breakout player, winning the American League Central and the high-end, free-agent starting pitchers.

What player on the Sox do you see having a comeback year like (Lucas) Giolito did this year?
Thatcher, Bensenville, IL, @z_man100

Let’s go with Dylan Cease, but I’ll add a qualifier as part of the explanation.

Whereas Giolito bounced back into true Cy Young contention from the worst ERA among starters in 2018 and the highest American League walk total in that same season, Cease simply endured the ups and downs of his first Major League experience. So, to quote LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback. We’ll call it taking a significant step forward in ’20.

Cease posted a 5.79 ERA over 14 starts, walked 35 and allowed 15 home runs against 81 strikeouts in 73 innings in 2019. But the 23-year-old also has electric stuff and talked a few times at the end of the season about how he was a decidedly different pitcher compared to when he made his Major League debut on July 3 against the Tigers. He posted a 3.00 ERA over four September starts and should only improve off of that late-season development into his first full big league season.

When will they try to win the division?
@T1876Keller

I’ll stick with a wait-and-see approach with all predictions, much like general manager Rick Hahn went with at the end of 2019. The World Series isn’t even over, and there’s no idea as to how next year’s roster will look.

I truly believe the White Sox can and will contend in 2020, even without major additions. But when you factor in unknowns such as injury returns and the debuts of young players such as Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, the '21 season looks more like the time for the window of prime contention to truly begin.

Any chance we go after one of the big pitcher free agents ([Gerrit] Cole, [Stephen] Strasburg) or do we just rely on [Carlos] Rodon coming back, [Reynaldo] Lopez and Cease improving, and [Michael] Kopech returning?
Bryan, St. Paul, Minn., @odiegoat

The White Sox certainly are invested in their young pitching. Developing this strong core through the rebuild is a way in which Chicago doesn’t have to overpay to fill out its rotation. But the White Sox will add starting pitching to their mix during this upcoming offseason. I’m not saying it’s going to be Cole or Strasburg -- it probably won’t be. They will bring in significant veteran presences, with at least one starter and maybe two, to build off what they have.

What level of overall payroll do you foresee the White Sox having in 2020? Speculation has been that it could be around 120 million. Thank you!
Matt, Chicago, @mpovilaitis1

This much is certain -- the White Sox are in a great position over the next four years to add to the payroll. Going into this offseason, they have just over $15 million committed through Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Kelvin Herrera and the probable Welington Castillo buyout. They will add an outfielder, a designated hitter, one or two starting pitchers as mentioned above and at least one reliever.

Should the parting of [hitting coaches Todd] Steverson and [Greg] Sparks come to a surprise to us? Personally, I’m happy with them leaving. Just hasn’t seemed to click the past six years with Trick and three or so with Sparks.
David, Geneva, IL, @RZR_Davey

During the conference call to officially announce Frank Menechino’s new role, Hahn mentioned that a change in the voice at hitting coach sometimes is needed. But the work Steverson did with American League batting champion Tim Anderson, who credited Steverson during a recent pre-World Series gameday interview on MLB Network, can’t be overlooked. The same goes for Yoán Moncada’s vast improvement from 2018 and Eloy Jiménez’s in-season development.

It’s almost a no-win position. All of these hitting coaches have knowledge and specific styles, but good hitters ultimately make for good hitting coaches.

If [Rick Renteria] isn't the guy let's say after a disappointing 2020, would [Omar] Vizquel be the next best option to lead the Sox?
Jon, Shorewood, IL, @jestes9

Listen and read what Renteria has said over this past season, especially at the end of this past season, and understand he expects a big change in results in 2020. Renteria knew what he signed up for when taking over in a rebuild in ’17, but the man wants to win as much as anyone else in that organization, if not more so.

Vizquel has done an excellent job working with some of the White Sox top prospects. Before we come up with a succession order, let’s see Renteria put his experience and managerial skill into running a complete team, which he should have in 2020.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.