SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The White Sox have scuffled a bit out of the gate, but with a combination of youth and veterans they are one of the most talented rosters in the American League and should be at least pushing for a playoff spot all year.
Down, a bit. The White Sox, as mentioned above, came into this season expecting to be fighting for a postseason spot all year but to this point they’ve been hovering around .500, alternating wins and losses. That has been the case recently as well, as they have not had a streak of more than one consecutive win or loss since their fifth and sixth games. More recently, they split a four-game set against Cleveland.
4/16: Nick Pivetta vs. Dylan Cease, 7:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)
The Red Sox have had a lot of surprises early in this season, but Nick Pivetta can be at the top of the list, at least if you’re only looking at results. The righty was the biggest question in a rotation that was full of them, with some (including yours truly) thinking he’d be out of the equation relatively soon. There have certain been some issues in his game, most notably his command, but he’s been able to keep runs off the board. Through his first two starts and 11 innings, he’s allowed four runs, albeit with seven walks. The stuff has looked good, but against a lineup like Chicago’s that is deep one through nine is going to be a big test.
This has the potential to be a high-scoring affair, as Cease is a similar type of pitcher as Pivetta in that he has impressive stuff but the command makes it easy to hit. The righty just had a brief stay on the COVID list but he is expected to be ready for his return in this series opener on Saturday. Over his first two starts this season he has tossed a total of 9 1⁄3 innings, allowing four runs with nine strikeouts and six walks. Control has been a consistent issue throughout his career, walking 12 percent of his opponents to this point in the majors. I would expect the Red Sox to look to work some counts on Friday night. Cease will feature a fastball that gets up to the high 90s along with a slider, to go with the occasional changeup and curveball mixed in.
4/17: TBD vs. Dallas Keuchel, 4:10 PM ET (FS1)
Officially the Red Sox have not yet announced a starter for Saturday’s game, and they are more than likely waiting to see if Friday’s game is going to be played. As of this writing on Friday morning, that is still appearing unlikely. Either way, I would expect Tanner Houck to be called back up for this game to make his second start, and this appearance overall, of the season. There hasn’t really been room in the rotation for him to this point in the year, but that doesn’t speak to his rotation as his performance clearly points to him being ready for the bright lights. So far this year he has pitched to a 3.00 ERA with 10 strikeouts and one walk over six innings, which comes after his 0.53 ERA last season. Whatever happens in this start, he is unlikely to stick in the rotation.
Keuchel was brought to Chicago on a three-year deal prior to last season to serve as a veteran rotation anchor on a roster that was filled with youth. He’s not their best pitcher, but he is a reliable lefty who will generally always keep his team in games. He did that and more last season, however, pitching to a 1.99 ERA over 11 starts in the shortened 2020 campaign. This season has been a different story, as he’s pitched to a 6.43 ERA early on this year. Generally, he is a pitcher who is not going to miss many bats but when he is going well he will control the zone and generally induce plenty of weak contact. That has not been the case to this point this season. Keuchel leans heavily on a sinker that sits in the high 80s and mixes in a changeup and a cutter.
4/18: Martín Pérez vs. Lucas Giolito, 1:10 PM ET
This is the biggest mismatch in terms of pitching matchups for this series, and the Red Sox are on the wrong end of it. That said, Pérez has been solid so far this season after holding up as a miscast “ace” last year. Now in the back of the rotation where his skillset is better suited, he’s proven able to keep the team in most games even with lackluster stuff and command. Last time out against the Twins, he overcome spotty control on an extremely cold day and managed to allow the Red Sox to stay in it long enough for the win. On the season, he has a 4.50 ERA.
On the other end of this matchup is the ace of the White Sox staff. Giolito was once the top pitching prospect in all of baseball with the Nationals, but his early exposure in the majors had him looking like a bust. He has turned his career around in a big way over the last few years, however, to the point where he entered this season on the shortlist of AL Cy Young favorites. He has some of the best strikeout stuff in the majors — he’s had rates over 30 percent in each of the last three seasons — and he’s managed to hover around average with his control as well. So far this season the righty has pitched to a 2.55 ERA with 26 strikeouts to just five walks over 17 2⁄3 innings. Giolito will work heavily off his mid-90s fastball while also featuring nasty secondaries with his changeup and slider.
4/19: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Carlos Rodón, 11:10 AM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)
Pitching on Patriots Day for the Red Sox will be Eovaldi, who has looked extremely strong atop the Red Sox rotation early this season. He wasn’t quite as sharp last time out as he had been in his first couple of starts, but in a way it’s shown how different of a pitcher he is. In the past, with his limited repertoire he was always in major trouble if one pitch wasn’t working. With a new diversified arsenal for this season featuring more breaking balls than ever before, he is able to shift his strategy more effectively. The righty may not be dominant, but with his command he’s proven to be a reliable mid-rotation arm at the very least.
The Red Sox have the good fortune of facing Rodón coming off a momentous no-hitter in his last time out. That start came against Cleveland and was the second no-hitter of the season already. A former top five pick, he was available to everyone this winter after being non-tendered but eventually made his way back to Chicago. The early returns have been great. It’s only been two starts, but he hasn’t allowed a run over 14 innings, striking out 16 and walking only three. The Red Sox will put to the test if this is really the new him or if it’s just a flash in the pan. Rodón’s fastball is up in the mid 90s this year and he also heavily features a slider while mixing in a changeup against righties.
Yoán Moncada was the main piece that went back to Chicago in the Chris Sale trade. The talent that made him such a big signing for the Red Sox is still present, but it’s not always as consistent as fans would like. He’s a good piece in their lineup, though, even if he’s not quite a star.
Michael Kopech was another part of that Sale trade. He was one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the Red Sox system at the time of the trade, and the big stuff is still present in his righty arm. Unfortunately, he’s been set back by injury and he’s being eased back into things, currently pitching in a relief role.
Notable Position Players
Moncada is indeed a starter for the White Sox, hitting in the middle of their lineup and playing third base. Early on in this season it’s been a struggle as he’s been unable to make consistent contact.
Yermín Mercedes has been the story of this White Sox lineup early in the year and one of the stories of baseball. His defense is shaky behind the plate, but he’s mostly been a DH this year. And at the plate, he’s been a monster, regularly hitting huge home runs. He already has six this year.
José Abreu is the reigning AL MVP and is the heart and soul of the White Sox lineup. A veteran first baseman, he’s been a bit disappointing this season with a whole lot of strikeouts preventing him from tapping into his power.
Tim Anderson is one of the most exciting and fun to watch players in the league. Hitting at the top of the lineup, he’s still trying to get going.
Yasmani Grandal is one of the best all-around catchers in all of baseball, showing power, tremendous plate discipline and one of the best pitch framing skillsets in baseball.
Adam Eaton is back in Chicago after a couple of years with the Nationals and hits towards the top of this lineup. He makes a lot of contact, but as he’s gotten older it hasn’t always been consistently as loud.
Luis Robert is one of the most talented and athletic young players in the game, and while there are still raw qualities at the plate he looks like he should make a whole lot of All-Star games over the next decade.
Andrew Vaughn is another great young hitter. He’s being forced into left field right now which could be an adventure this weekend, but at the plate he has all the tools.
Nick Madrigal is a throwback as a small middle infielder with virtually no power but also one of the best hit tools in baseball.
Liam Hendriks was the best reliever on the free agent market this winter and ended up choosing Chicago for his new home. It’s always risky paying big money for a reliever, but he is a bonafide bullpen ace. He’s had some trouble with the long ball so far this season, but it’s too early in the season to be too worried about that.
Aaron Bummer and Garrett Crochet combine for the late-inning setup men, and both throw from the left side. The former is a veteran who has had a whole lot of walks and strikeouts this year. The latter is a recent draftee who has quickly emerged as an impact reliever with big stuff.
Eloy Jiménez had one of the big early-season injuries in baseball as he hurt his oblique trying to rob a home run. That will cause him to miss most of the season.
Adam Engel would have taken much of the playing time after the Jiménez injury, but he is also dealing with issues of his own. For him it’s a hamstring, but his return shouldn’t be too far off.
Billy Hamilton is another injured part of the outfield depth chart. He’s also dealing with a hamstring injury and will likely be out for most, if not all, of April.
Jace Fry underwent back surgery back shortly after the New Year and is expected to miss about half of the season, at least.
Jimmy Cordero underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season.
As I mentioned above, it is not looking great for Friday’s game as there is rain in the forecast for pretty much the entire night. The rest of the weekend should get progressively better, though.