By Cat Garcia
It’s quite fitting that in the dead of winter, with Chicago on the verge of a weekend long snowstorm that will render the city buried under up to a foot of snow, Baseball Prospectus’ annual PECOTA projections were released.
BP’s PECOTA projections offer fans a calculated look at the season ahead and often give something to keep their baseball-deprived minds occupied; something fans need during one of the most historically slow offseasons baseball has seen in years.
This year’s projections for the 2018 Chicago White Sox are not excellent but, given the team’s status as dead-center of a rebuilding process, not much more was to be expected.
PECOTA shows the Southsiders finishing in third place in the AL Central with a 73-89 record, just behind the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians. Not much of a surprise there, as the Indians have been on a tear in recent years while Minnesota has made additions to their roster this offseason that significantly improve their outlook on the 2018 season (at least in the dilapidated landscape of the AL Central). PECOTA still only has the Twins projected at 81-81–as a second place team.
However, PECOTA did bury a few interesting surprises in their individual player projections. Here are the top five most notable projections for the White Sox.
Yoan Moncada — .233/.330/.410 – 20 HR – 96 RBI – 2.1 WARP
Though what the White Sox saw from Moncada during his 2017 Southside debut was a bit of a rough-and-tumble start plagued with untimely injury, the projections for Moncada in 2018 seem tepid at best. It’s well-understood that Moncada’s main difficulty is his elevated strikeout rate, as he posted a swinging strike rate of 12.6 percent in 2017 (though it should be noted that he lowered that from the 17.2 percent he posted in Boston). If he can make decent contact, a projection of 20 home runs could be a bit low given that PECOTA has Moncada slated for 577 plate appearances. Moncada is also projected for a 2.1 WARP–the second-highest projection on the team behind friend and countryman Jose Abreu. While that number is likely helped out by his flashy range and fielding ability, Moncada’s first full season in the big leagues is given quite the seal of approval with a number like that.
Avisail Garcia — .275/.329/.427 – 17 HR – 72 RBI – 1.6 WARP
These projections for Avisail Garcia feel like a perfect middle ground between tempering expectations and not letting Garcia’s disappointing past follow too closely behind him. Though Garcia posted an extremely high BABIP of .392 to prop up his monster 2017 season, there were certainly flashes of improvement that lent themselves to the idea that these numbers might hold water. After all, Garcia did lower his strikeout rate by 5.6 percentage points from 2016 to 2017, showed vast improvements in his previously poor defensive skills, and made it to his first All-Star Game. Though his efforts in 2017 were quite unsustainable going forward, even the vast drop off from those numbers to what PECOTA sees him as this season would be an extreme upgrade from the fate he once held for his future.
Eloy Jimenez — .255/.329/.427 – 6 HR – 19 RBI – 0.1 WARP
Considering PECOTA has Jimenez totalling only 68 plate appearances during his first stint in the majors, these are pretty lofty numbers. Then again, most wouldn’t expect any less out of the gate from a player with the persistence and success of Jimenez. There is always a game of adjustments when a new young prospect arrives in the majors but, in this case, it’s likely going to be the league that needs to adjust to Jimenez. Of course, that will fizzle as it always does. Once the league figures Jimenez out he will have to make more adjustments of his own and he, much like many highly touted prospects, will be proven mortal—even if just for a short time. But posting 19 RBIs in just 68 plate appearances is quite the scorching start, one that’s sure entertain a fanbase that will be in desperate need of a sign that the future is still very bright for this White Sox team.
Nicky Delmonico — .246/.232/.434 – 16 HR – 56 RBI – 1.6 WARP
PECOTA has certainly tempered their expectations of Delmonico for the 2018 season, but one would have to assume that everyone else has as well. After a record-breaking start to a rejuvenated major league career (Delmonico almost didn’t come back to baseball after being granted his release from the Brewers), Delmonico holds a bit of promise that he can add a solid switch hitting bat to this lineup and eventually, to this team’s bench. Delmonico was notorious for his plate patience during his White Sox debut, walking 13.9 percent of the time, which lends itself to a solid foundation for success. If the power can stay while Delmonico continues his quest to drive the ball up the middle of the field, perhaps these projections aren’t extremely overzealous — but I wouldn’t hold my breathe just yet.
Lucas Giolito — 160 IP – 4.47 ERA – 1.38 WHIP – 163 SO – 67 BB – 26 HR
PECOTA doesn’t seem to have much faith in Giolito’s ability to strike batters out this season. These projections have Giolito striking out approximately one batter per inning, which seems low even for those most dubious of spectators. Giolito managed to strike out 6.75 batters per nine during his 45 inning stint on the Southside in 2017, while keeping his walk rate at a respectable 2.38 per nine. PECOTA seems to show Giolito having similar numbers in the way of walks, as well as home runs per inning as he did in 2017, which isn’t completely unrealistic in a hitter friendly ballpark such as Guaranteed Rate Field. While Giolito has made it vehemently clear that he intends to get to the 200 inning mark in 2018, let’s face it, the only pitchers who were able to do that in 2017 were guys such as Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Gio Gonzalez and Marcus Stroman—all who have a good amount of years as starters under their belt and are considered to be some of the leagues top arms. Even Justin Verlander only topped out at 206 innings in 2017.