As they say “Hope springs eternal”. Each year the White Sox start their season is another chance for fans to hope and dream of what October may bring. If you look back to the year 2005, a year the almost all White Sox fans remember, even if some people outside of certain areas in Chicago seem to forget, Sports Illustrated predicted that the Chicago White Sox would finish in third place behind both the Twins and Indians, missing the playoffs entirely. As White Sox fans know that is not how the season finished, so what do the White Sox need to do to surprise those who write them off as a contender?

If the White Sox are going to surprise in 2018 there are going to be a few major key developments that are going to take place this year. The first of those developments is going to be Yoan Moncada having a breakout season. So far the White Sox prized return of the Chris Sale deal has been somewhat of a mixed bag. Starting the year in Charlotte, Moncada posted an impressive .282 batting average with 12 home runs and 36 RBI while also stealing 17 bases in 80 games. He did however strikeout an unsightly 102 times. After his call up in mid-July, he was somewhat of a mixed bag again, showing flashes of greatness, while also struggling to adjust to Major League pitching. Finishing the year batting .231 in just under 200 plate appearances with 8 home runs, 29 walks, and another unsightly 74 strikeouts. If Moncada can cut down the strikeouts and put a few more balls in play, the potential for him to have a breakout season expand tremendously. He is currently sporting a career .339 BAbip (Batting Average on Balls in Play) across his two stints in the Majors, two years ago in Boston, and this past year on the South Side, meaning when Moncada puts the ball in play good things happen. The White Sox are going to need that breakout to happen if they are looking to be playing meaningful baseball in late September.

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Photo: John Durr/Getty Images

Along with Moncada having a breakout year, the offense will need to improve in other areas as well. Specifically, the DH spot will need an increased level of production. Who the White Sox utilize at DH will have a significant impact on the success of this team. Last year Matt Davidson and Cody Asche combined for 186 strikeouts in just 137 games. That is not good, and something that needs to be addressed. A platoon approach seems the most likely, with names Matt Davidson, Nicky Delmonico, and a few others seem to be what we are going to get. The White Sox have also been rumored to be interested in bringing in outside help at the DH position. Names like Carlos Gonzalez and Mike Moustakas are intriguing options, but may not be what GM Rick Hahn has in his plan. It’s also been reported that Hahn would like to see the current options internally continue to receive at bats in order to further their development. What happens with this situation is something that we will follow closely throughout spring training, but the DH spot will need to cut down strikeouts if the White Sox surprise this year.

The Sox are also going to need some solid performances out of a very young rotation in order to pick up enough wins to be in the mix. Breaking camp, the rotation figures to be Shields, Giolito, Lopez, Gonzalez and either Hector Santiago or Carson Fulmer, depending on how they fare this spring. It remains to be seen whether Carson Fulmer is going to stick as a starter or will wind up in the bullpen, this should be the year that makes that determination, so if Carson pitches well with a chip on his shoulder, we could see him start to live up to his first round draft pick expectations. As it stands, this rotation is not playoff material, but the development of future potential aces Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen certainly could change that rotation in a hurry if both Kopech and Hansen continue to develop at a quicker than average pace. While it’s almost a guarantee that both of them begin the year in the minors, it wouldn’t be surprising to at least see Kopech in Chicago at some point this season, and if he doesn’t have any trouble adjusting to the big league, he has enough raw talent to bolster this rotation and bounce either a struggling Shields, Santiago or Fulmer to relief duty.

The most encouraging sign is that this team finished the final month of the season 15-15 with the young guys playing. These were not the start of the season 2017 White Sox featuring Jose Quintana or Todd Frazier, these wins came on the backs of Nicky Delmonico, Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, and Reynaldo Lopez. These will be the guys who are starting the season with the White Sox, and if they can improve in some the areas they need to, an above 80-win season is not too far out of reach, which puts the White Sox right on the brink of contention for a Wild Card spot. Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-refrence.com

“Photo: Chicago Tribune”

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