Despite being in likely the grittiest phase of a rebuild and finishing the season with the second worst record in the American League, White Sox fans have echoed the same sentiment—this has been one of the most exciting 60-win teams to watch grow.
The departure of names such as Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have been harsh realities but the arrival of fresh blood and new leaders in the clubhouse seemed to quickly erase those wounds. Let’s take a look at the top five surprises from the South Side in 2017.
Nicky Delmonico’s record breaking arrival
After a nasty collision with newcomer Yoan Moncada landed Willy Garcia on the disabled list with a fractured jaw on July 31st, the stop-gap recalled from Charlotte was infielder/outfielder Nicky Delmonico. Delmonico was making his major league debut at the age of 25 after a rough road with the Brewers coupled with personal struggles. But, what Delmonico did, was deliver the next chapter of an already unpredictably compelling season. Delmonico hit his first home run off Cy Young winner Rick Porcello at Fenway Park just three days after his call-up. He reached base in 13 straight games, garnered a few multi-hit campaigns, and hit six home runs in his first 19 games. Sadly, Delmonico was then placed on the DL with a sprained wrist, but the minds of Sox fans were simply sent reeling. Delmonico was yet another unexpected and extremely entertaining piece in this 2017 season and looks to be a solid addition to the White Sox outfield contingent in 2018.
Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu’s Impactful Seasons
The need for strong, diligent leadership in was crucial this season and though first baseman Jose Abreu’s role in the White Sox clubhouse was already quite established, Abreu reached new levels of achievement in 2017. From becoming a fourth-year veteran and joining Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols as just the third player in MLB history to hit 25+ home runs and 100+ RBIs in his first four seasons to guiding fellow countryman Yoan Moncada through the start of his big league career, Abreu’s voice was heard and his impact felt on the field and off the field throughout the season. As the longest tenured position player on the team, outfielder Avisail Garcia, who had been known for his struggles during his career, not only began to flourish on the field, but also invigorated a young fresh clubhouse by example. Though both Abreu’s and Garcia’s future with the club may not be certain, the impression that they will leave during this immensely important stage in this team’s development was not only serendipitous in timing, but will leave a strong lasting impression on this team as they continue to grow together — and perhaps even apart.
Reynaldo Lopez’s Early Struggles
After the success of number one prospect Yoan Moncada’s arrival on the scene, everything seemed to be rolling along perfectly as the White Sox continued giving fans a glimpse of their future in calling up Reynaldo Lopez, who was simply the secondary piece in the deal that sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals last December. Lopez dazzled, hitting as high as 99 on the gun during his White Sox debut coupled with exceptional break on his curveball. Lopez wasn’t without his blemishes though, his command seemed shaky and that continued down the road, with Lopez walking 14 batter over 47 innings, closing his season with a 4.72 ERA and 7 homers allowed. Lopez left what was just his second start with the White Sox suffering a strained back and was placed on the DL for two weeks before returning to the rotation. Although Lopez’s debut was less than superb in the eyes of many, taking into consideration the short duration of his time on the big league roster, suffering an injury, and still having less than 100 major league innings under his belt — Lopez’s stuff showed much promise for the future.
Loss and Gain
It was a rough summer on the South Side, day after day watching players pack up their lockers while fresh faces arrived. As is the case with any strong rebuild, those faces weren’t always emerging in the major league clubhouse. The Sox saw the departure of everyone from David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, to those defined as leaders in Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier, and players they considered part of their bright future such as Jose Quintana. But the rewards reaped from these deals should leave this team hopeful as they saw the arrival of players such as Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito, all whose rapid progress and success during 2017 no doubt caught many folks by surprise.
Alec Hansen’s Success
While we talk so much about the success of players acquired through trades of significant measure, let’s not forget those that came simply at the cost of an educated gamble. Drafted 49th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft, the White Sox’s selection of pitcher Alec Hansen led to some justified skeptics. Hansen struggled during his junior year of college and still struggles with commanding his pitches, but has come onboard and simply dazzled during his short time in the White Sox organization. Hansen lead the minors this season in strikeouts with 191, and was promptly promoted to Double-A Birmingham after posting a 2.93 ERA with 83 strikeouts in just 58 IP at Winston-Salem. Hansen’s main attribute is his fastball that sits between 94-97 mph, coupled with a strong slider and curveball, and is currently working to perfect his changeup in the coming season.