Final Record: 67-95
Home Runs: 25th
Stolen Bases: 21st
With the fourth-worst record in baseball, White Sox fans had little to cheer for in 2017. But there is big reason for optimism for reasons you surely know. The team is in full rebuild mode and after blockbuster trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton last winter, they own a top five farm system that holds the next contending core of the team. On the major league club, 2018 is going to be very similar to 2017. While Yoan Moncada now joins the team from the beginning, we’re still looking at a team that could start Omar Narvaez, Nicky Delmonico, Leury Garcia and Charlie Tilson.
The pitching is slowly starting to turn a new leaf as Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer could all break camp and start the year in the rotation. Joining them is James Shields and potentially Dylan Covey, but we’ll just avoid eye contact with them for now. Overall, it’s not pretty, but the white light at the end of the tunnel is what keeps White Sox fans dreaming.
The Superstar: Jose Abreu
Abreu remains the brightest spot on this team and 2017 was no different. He’s becoming extremely consistent year to year and that in itself is valuable in fantasy. He had his best season to date, posting a career-high 33 HR and 95 runs to go with 102 RBI and a .304/.355/.552 slash. In standard leagues he was the 25th in overall value, outperforming his 45th average ADP. For 2018, expect more of the same. You can conservatively plan for 30 HR, 90 RBI, 85 runs with a .290/.350/.520 slash. If Moncada and a couple of others over perform, bump up the runs and RBI. He’ll be 31 to start 2018, but he’s still incrementally getting better, posting career bests in Contact%, SwStr% and Hard hit%.
The Sleeper: Yoan Mancada
Savvy fantasy managers might scoff at labeling Moncada a sleeper. How can the former No.1 prospect who finished strong be a sleeper? Because many will look at his overall .231/.338/.412 line with just 8 HR and 3 SB in 54 games and pass him up. But in September, he posted a .276/.349/.469 slash with 5 HR. He also began taking pitches the other way more as he adjusted to big league pitching. There is still room for improvement, especially on the strikeout front, but the upside of a 25/15 season with a good OBP from the 2B position still exists. His early ADP is just inside the Top 100, but he can outperform it and surpass someone like Eduardo Nuñez who’s ranked above him.
The Guy To Avoid: Avisail Garcia
Are you aware that Garcia was just a few OBP points away from a .300/.400/.500 season? The hulking righty hit .331 this year with 18 HR, 80 RBI and 75 runs, all career highs. But if we want to talk about high, let’s not look any further than his .392 BABIP, which was by far the highest in baseball. You know what’s also high? His third-worst in baseball 16.3% swinging strike rate, worse than Khris Davis, Trevor Story and Chris Davis to name a few. In his defense, he’s averaging about a 15th-round pick in standard leagues so his price isn’t exorbitant, but the floor of a 70/15/70 year with .280/.340/.430 line still exists and that screams OF5.
The Prospect To Watch: Michael Kopech
As you already know, this team is loaded with minors talent. Eloy Jimenez is a top 5 prospect in baseball, Luis Robert just posted a .491 OBP in 114 rookie-ball PA and Dylan Cease averaged more than 30 K% in A-ball. But those guys are far away and won’t be relevant in 2018. Michael Kopech, however, deserves your attention. With a fastball that some scouts think is 80 grade and two plus secondary offerings, Kopech is one of the few pitchers who has true “#1” potential. In June, I would have told you to avoid him because despite his strikeouts, he had a 5.8 BB/9. But in his final 56 innings, he had a 1.93 BB/9 to go with an 11.4 K/9 and a 1.29 ERA. Something clicked and he became extremely dangerous.
He’ll start the year in AAA and I’d expect him some time in the summer. If he’s still harnessing his walks to begin the year, I’d go as far as to stash him in May. He can be a true game changer and with the White Sox’s final rotation spot being a plug and play, he shouldn’t have much competition to break in.