South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 56: Lency Delgado

Fast-moving delegation: Delgado, still very young, should get his first taste of full-season ball in 2020. (Phrake Photography/South Side Hit Pen)



Lency Delgado
Shortstop
6´3´´
215 pounds
Age: 20
SSHP rank among all shortstops in the system: 5
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Ranking: 35

Lency Delgado, a native of Miami, played his varsity ball with Doral Academy prior to being selected in the fourth round of the 2018 draft by the White Sox. After receiving an over-slot $525,000 bonus that pried him from his verbal commitment with Florida International, Delgado received his first taste of professional ball with the AZL White Sox later that season. Not surprisingly, he struggled with the speed of the game and slashed just .233/.309/.301 in 38 games with four doubles, one triple, one homer, 22 RBIs, four stolen bases, nine walks (6.0%) and 40 strikeouts (26.7%).

In 2019 with Great Falls, Delgado turned in a much better season as he slashed .274/.325/.377 in 57 games with 14 doubles, one triple, two homers, 32 RBIs, one stolen base, 14 walks (6.0%) and 87 strikeouts (37.5%). However, there are obvious concerns regarding his high strikeout totals. Many scouts believe that, in part because of his size, he makes a better fit as a third baseman. If he does end up switching positions, he’ll eventually need to tap into his above-average power. Delgado does have a long swing, so with extra work and a few adjustments, it is hoped that he could indeed become much closer to reaching his full potential — Delgado is still only 20, after all. It seems likely that he’ll begin next season with Kannapolis.

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 57: Anderson Comas

Brief pause: Comas’ aggressive move up the ladder stalled last year in Great Falls. (Phrake Photography/South Side Hit Pen)



Anderson Comas
Left Fielder
6´3´´
185 pounds
Age: 20
SSHP rank among all left fielders in the system: 3
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Ranking: 50

Ranked as Baseball America’s 37th-best international prospect, the Dominican Republic’s Anderson Comas received a $450,000 signing bonus from the White Sox on July 2, 2016. He was highly-touted by Ben Badler of Baseball America, although Comas didn’t play ball for the DSL Sox until the 2017 season, when he slashed a respectable .291/.316/.329 in 63 games with five doubles, two triples, 17 RBIs, one stolen base, eight walks (3.2%) and 45 strikeouts (18.2%). He followed that up with an even better 2018 season with the AZL Sox in which he slashed .306/.339/.388 in 41 games with six doubles, two triples, one homer, 22 RBIs, five stolen bases, seven walks (4.1%) and 26 strikeouts (15.1%).

Unexpectedly, Comas struggled with Great Falls in 2019. In 54 games and 194 at-bats with the Voyagers, he slashed just .222/.251/.351 with seven doubles, six triples, two homers, 33 RBIs, seven walks (3.4%) and 58 strikeouts (28.6%). According to FanGraphs last year, Comas’ swing had gotten “disconcertingly long” which could explain his struggles. For someone as lanky as Comas is, that evaluation makes sense. Provided he can make adjustments, Comas has the potential to gradually move up the system. Because of his relatively limited range, he really profiles as a corner outfielder. He’d have to hit better in order to fit that profile, however, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see him return to Great Falls to hone that swing a bit.      

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 58: Blake Battenfield

Change up: Offspeed mastery may be all that separates Battenfield from Triple-A — or the majors. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)



Blake Battenfield
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´3´´
220 pounds
Age: 25
SSHP rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 10
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Ranking: 59

Blake Battenfield, a resident of Tulsa, remained in his native state to play with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. His first three years were primarily spent in the bullpen, where Battenfield crafted a respectable 2.60 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 97 innings. During that time, he allowed 86 hits while posting a mediocre K/BB ratio (1.47), with 45 walks and 66 strikeouts. He split time evenly with the Cowboys as a senior (2017) between the rotation and bullpen, posting middling results: 4.91 ERA and 1.49 WHIP over 69 ⅔ innings, while walking 31 and striking out 58.

These results obviously weren’t spectacular, which explains why Battenfield slipped all the way to the 17th round of the 2017 draft. Battenfield served exclusively out of the bullpen that year for Great Falls, where he posted mediocre ERA (4.88) and WHIP numbers over 31 ⅓ innings in the high altitude, but some of his peripherals stood out. Opposing hitters batted .271 against his offerings, but he punched out 40 hitters (28.6 K%) while walking only eight (5.7 BB%). Partly based on those numbers, the Sox decided to convert him to a starter for 2018.

Battenfield pitched outstandingly for Kannapolis in his 13 starts in 2018: 2.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 52 hits (.210 OBA), 16 walks (6.0 BB%), and 69 strikeouts (25.8 K%) over 67 innings, earning a promotion to Winston-Salem on June 21. As expected, Battenfield’s numbers declined a bit in nine starts (53 ⅓ innings) for the Dash, but were still respectable: 4.22 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 50 hits (.248 OBA), 13 walks (6.0 BB%), and 46 strikeouts (21.1%).

After a terrific six starts to begin the 2019 season with the Dash, Battenfield earned an early promotion to Birmingham and struggled with his command. In 19 starts for the Barons totaling 95 ⅔ innings, he posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.38 WHIP by allowing 107 hits (.287 OBA) and 25 walks (6.1%) while fanning 69 (16.9%). He especially labored against lefties (.299 OBA, 1.59 WHIP) in comparison to righties for Birmingham (.278 OBA, 1.23 WHIP). His 36.8% ground ball rate didn’t do him any favors, either.

Battenfield has an impressive repertoire that includes a natural sinking fastball, a rising four-seamer, an effective slider, a big-breaking curveball with good spin and depth, and a changeup that still needs work. He doesn’t appear to throw especially hard. I haven’t seen any projections, but we’re probably looking at the low 90s, as he was in the mid-80s as a varsity athlete according to Perfect Game and has gotten stronger since then. But the righthander’s movement and speed variations help his fastball play up. His changeup has yet to be mastered, as evidenced by the success Double-A lefties enjoyed against him this year. Success with the changeup may dictate how Battenfield will progress going forward.

Expect Battenfield to return to the Barons for the 2019 season, with an opportunity for midseason promotion if he does well.

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 59: Kelvin Maldonado

Progression: Maldonado’s varied skills have found him moving through the system with his bat yet untracked. (Phrake Photography/South Side Hit Pen)



Kelvin Maldonado
Second Baseman
5´11´´
160 pounds
Age: 20
SSHP rank among all second basemen in the system: 3

Kelvin Maldonado played varsity ball in his native Puerto Rico, at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Upon being selected in the 11th round of the 2018 draft, he had major difficulties in adjusting to professional pitching. In 2018 with the White Sox AZL squad, Maldonado slashed just .150/.184/.167 in 38 games with one triple, four walks (3.1%) and 31 strikeouts (24.2%).

While Maldonado hit much better in 2019 with Great Falls, he still had difficulties with drawing walks. In 58 games totaling 229 at-bats with the Voyagers, he slashed .253/.288/.310 with 11 doubles, one triple, 17 RBIs, two stolen bases, nine walks (3.7%) and 55 strikeouts (22.8%). While Maldonado runs the 60-yard-dash in 6.54 seconds according to PerfectGame, his speed hasn’t yet translated to stolen bases. Defensively, it was noted by PerfectGame that he has light feet and smooth, balanced footwork, easy athletic actions, a quick release and the ability to makes accurate throws consistently. The site likes his potential, though he tends to get too mechanical with his swing.

Look for Maldonado to be in consideration for a promotion at some point in 2020 to Kannapolis.

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 60: Elijah Tatís

Slow start: Tatís had a short pro debut but should still see the States in 2020. (@BenBadler)



Elijah Tatís
Second Baseman
5´11´´
155 pounds
Age: 18
SSHP rank among all second basemen in the system: 4

Elijah is the son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatís and the brother of former Sox farmhand Fernando Tatís Jr. According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, “Tatís possesses a strong and accurate arm and has impressed scouts with the way the ball jumps off his bat, as well as his ability to square up fastballs.” With that kind of ability, the White Sox were happy to sign him with a $500,000 bonus on 2019’s International Signing Day.

Tatís struggled out of the gate for the DSL White Sox this year, however, and only managed to slash .187/.300/.213 in 25 games with two doubles, 10 RBIs, five stolen bases, 13 walks (14.4%) and 16 strikeouts (17.8%). Largely because defensive wizard Yolbert Sánchez played shortstop for the DSL squad, Tatís actually played a bit more at second base this year than would’ve been expected. Eventually, as he gets older and bulks up, Tatís is expected to eventually have the power to be an everyday third baseman. Despite him actually having a lower OPS this year than the aforementioned Cesar Jiménez, expect Tatís to be promoted to the AZL squad for 2020 due to his much higher ceiling.

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 62: Kyle Kubat

Solid option: The Triple-A beach ball kicked Kubat’s hiney just as it did everyone else. He’s still on track to steal a spot start on the South Side in 2020. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)



Kyle Kubat
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´1´´
195 pounds
Age: 27
SSHP rank among all left-handed starting pitchers in the system: 6
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Rank: 88

Kyle Kubat ended his four-year career with the University of Nebraska on a high note, as he posted a superb 2.97 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 15 starts spanning 94 innings. However, because he only struck out 63 batters and he was a fourth-year senior, he wasn’t selected in the 2015 draft. He ultimately signed as a UDFA with the Kansas City Royals, and pitched well for the AZL Royals that year in 12 relief outings; he posted a spectacular 0.76 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 35 ⅓ innings by surrendering 26 hits (.202 OBA) and just three walks (2.2%) while fanning 26 (19.4%). After another solid campaign in 2016 split between Low-A Lexington and High-A Wilmington, Kubat was traded in March 2017 to the White Sox for cash considerations.

Kubat split the 2017 season among three White Sox affiliates (Kannapolis, Winston-Salem and Birmingham) and excelled at each stop. In 35 outings (three starts) totaling 74 ⅔ innings, he surrendered just 50 hits (.184 OBA) and 12 walks (4.1%) while striking out 77 (26.5%) in posting a combined 1.69 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Despite that work, Kubat returned to Winston-Salem in 2018 and basically pitched there the entire year and did quite well despite some regression (3.55 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .279 OBA, 3.5 BB%, 20.7 K%).

The 2019 season was the first time Kubat started more than he relieved, and he acquitted himself exceptionally well. In four starts for the Dash spanning 22 innings, he posted a 1.23 ERA and 0.73 WHIP by relinquishing just 11 hits (.145 OBA) and five walks (6.0%) while striking out 19 (22.6%). He then started eight games for Birmingham, and in his 48 1/3 innings for the Barons, he compiled a 2.42 ERA and 1.03 WHIP by ceding 43 hits (.239 OBA) and seven walks (3.7%) while fanning 35 (18.4%). He did meet his match, however, due to the different baseball and the favorable hitting dimensions of BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte: Kubat posted a 5.63 ERA and 1.38 WHIP for the Knights in 12 starts totaling 56 innings, as he allowed 60 hits (.278 OBA) and 17 walks (7.1%) while striking out 35 (14.7%). All nine homers he served up this year were with the Knights.

Kubat succeeds despite not having exceptional stuff because he throws strikes, keeps the ball down (47% ground ball rate), and isn’t afraid to use any of his four pitches (upper-80s fastball, curveball, slider, changeup) at any given time. While he succeeded against righties as a whole, he dominated lefties so it’s possible to see him in something of a Hector Santiago role for the White Sox if given the opportunity. In the meantime, expect him to begin the 2020 season in Charlotte.

 

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 63: Lincoln Henzman

Re-set for summer: Encountering some of his first pro setbacks in 2019, look for Henzman to right himself and see Charlotte soon. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)



Lincoln Henzman
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 24
SSHP rank among all right-handed starting pitchers in the system: 11
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Rank: 32
2018 South Side Sox Top Prospect Rank: 23

With the exception of two starts in his freshman season, Lincoln Henzman was exclusively a reliever for the Louisville Cardinals. His best season was as a junior, when he pitched in 27 games (saving 16) totaling 37 ⅔ innings with a terrific 1.67 ERA and 0.85 WHIP — allowing just 22 hits (.169 OBA) and 10 walks (2.39 BB/9), striking out 37 (8.84 K/9). With those results, the White Sox drafted Henzman in the fourth round of the 2017 draft, with the intention of converting him into a starter. After receiving a signing bonus of $450,000, Henzman pitched for the AZL Sox and Great Falls. In 11 combined outings (seven starts), he maintained a respectable 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 28 innings, allowing 27 hits (.262 OBA) and nine walks (2.89 BB/9) while striking out 17 (5.46 K/9).

Henzman went deeper into games in 2018 for Kannapolis, starting 13 and pitching 72 ⅔ innings, with better-than-expected results. For the Intimidators, Henzman posted a 2.23 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and allowed just 68 hits (.241 OBA) and eight walks (3.0%) while striking out 60 hitters (20.4%). He was promoted to Winston-Salem on June 21, but was held to pitch counts as Henzman had already far exceeded his career high in innings. In 14 outings totaling 34 ⅔ innings for the Dash, he posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, ceding 34 hits (.256 OBA) and 10 walks (6.8%) while striking out 20 (13.7%).

The 2019 season saw Henzman go through some struggles — particularly with putting hitters away. In nine starts spanning 41 innings for the Dash, he posted a 4.61 ERA and 1.37 WHIP as he relinquished 46 hits (.288 OBA) and 10 walks (5.8%) while fanning just 18 (10.4%). He did earn a promotion to Birmingham in early June, and struggled against his more advanced opponents. In 15 starts totaling 79 1/3 innings for the Barons, Henzman compiled a 5.56 ERA and 1.44 WHIP as he surrendered 96 hits (.301 OBA) and 18 walks (5.2%) while striking out 44 (12.7%). While he maintained his above-average control this year, his command was lacking as he didn’t miss many bats due to a high OBA and low strikeout rate. On the positive side, he finished his last three starts with a combined 1.76 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, so he may have figured some things out.

Henzman features a heavy sinking fastball that runs anywhere from 90-95 mph according to MLB Pipeline, and despite his struggles this year, still induced a 53% ground ball rate. He throws an upper-80s cutter, while also throwing an above-average changeup. That changeup has helped Henzman, as lefties have consistently hit him for a lower average than have righties during his young career. MLB Pipeline grades his fastball as 60, changeup at 55, and control and cutter at 50. Expect Henzman to return to Birmingham to begin the 2020 campaign.

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 64: Laz Rivera

Bounce-back: It was a step back for Rivera in 2019, but there’s still a chance he regains true prospect status. (Tiffany Wintz/South Side Hit Pen)



Laz Rivera
Shortstop
6´1´´
185 pounds
Age: 25
SSHP rank among all shortstops in the system: 6
2019 South Side Sox Top Prospect Rank: 21
2018 South Side Sox Top Prospect Rank: 37

After a college career that spanned three years with different levels (University of Miami, Chipola JC and Div. II University of Tampa), Laz Rivera was selected by the White Sox in the 28th round of the 2017 draft. He was immediately inserted into the AZL lineup, where he slashed .296/.374/.446 in 47 games with 12 doubles, five triples, two homers, 24 RBIs, three stolen bases, eight walks (3.8%) and 26 strikeouts (12.2%).

Rivera enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2018. In his 63 games with Kannapolis, he slashed an impressive .346/.395/.502 with 15 doubles, two triples, six homers, 24 RBIs, seven stolen bases, six walks (2.3%) and 48 strikeouts (18.1%). While not as sensational, Rivera performed quite well for Winston-Salem in 61 games by slashing .280/.325/.458 with 15 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 37 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, seven walks and 44 strikeouts. Overall, Rivera finished 2018 with a terrific slash line of .314/.361/.481.

Baseball America said of him at the time, “He is part of the new breed of infield prospect who hits first and asks questions later, a la Brandon Lowe and Nick Solak with the Rays. He brings above-average bat speed and a short path to the ball, which he used to post excellent numbers at both Class A levels. He’s an aggressive hitter who crushes fastballs but needs to work on not chasing off-speed pitches. He played almost exclusively at shortstop, though his 40-grade arm profiles better at second base.”

Of course, as with nearly every Sox hitter not named Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal or Yermín Mercedes, Rivera struggled big time with Birmingham in 2019. In 121 games totaling 424 at-bats, Rivera slashed just .248/.287/.318 with 22 doubles, one triple, two homers, 39 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 17 walks (3.7%) and 81 strikeouts (17.8%). A former organizational Top 30 prospect, he has fallen off most lists due to his lackluster offensive performance.

As of now, Rivera seems to be destined for a utility infield role going forward. However, barring the Sox signing a minor-league free agent for Triple-A next year, he could be slated for the much more hitting-friendly confines of Charlotte, where he can hopefully reclaim his prospect status.

South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 65: Austin Conway

Hero: Austin Conway chills on the beach with his rescue dog, Stella. (@AConway1736)



Austin Conway
Right-Handed Relief Pitcher
6´1´´
210 pounds
Age: 25
SSHP rank among all right-handed relief pitchers in the system: 10

Austin Conway actually pitched five college seasons — four with Indiana State and a final one with Louisville (he was able to do so because he was an injury redshirt for the Sycamores during his junior season in 2016). Conway saved 12 games for Indiana State in 2017, but struggled with his control for Louisville in 2018 with 17 walks in 24 innings. Partly because of those controls and also because he was a fifth-year senior who lacked leverage, Conway fell to the White Sox in the 31st round of the 2018 draft.

Conway entered 23 games for the AZL White Sox and Great Falls upon receiving his signing bonus, and combined to post a 3.00 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 36 innings. In those innings, he ceded 32 hits (.246 OBA) and 14 walks (8.9%) while striking out 32 (20.3%).

Most of Conway’s 2019 season was spent with Kannapolis, where he pitched exceptional ball. In 26 appearances for the Intimidators totaling 34 innings, he compiled a 1.59 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 13 saves. During that span, he relinquished just 18 hits (.155 OBA) and 17 walks (12.5%) while fanning 48 (35.3%).

He struggled badly with Winston-Salem in three appearances, however, and that’s where he’ll be expected to begin the 2020 season. He’ll be more than 18 months older than the average Carolina League player, so he’ll likely move up quickly provided he throws strikes consistently.

According to 2080 Baseball, Conway’s fastball runs 93-95 mph while peaking at 96; his changeup runs 86-87, while his slider (which is his out pitch) typically runs 83-86.

AL Central Big 3: The intangibles

Hammer down: Ricky Renteria, seen here with batting champ Tm Anderson, is looking for some team hardware of his own in 2020. (@WhiteSox)


It’s been quite the interesting offseason in the AL Central.

The White Sox have added a number of solid veterans to its young core, while also granting extensions for veteran slugger José Abreu and phenom outfielder Luis Robert. The Twins added Josh Donaldson to its already potent offense while adding rotation depth in the forms of Kenta Maeda, Homer Bailey and Rich Hill. Cleveland, in the meantime, has basically maintained their status quo with the exception of trading pricey hurler Corey Kluber for reliever Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr. as they hope to maintain their success by simply staying healthy.

Of course, based on last season, there’s quite a bit of separation among the three teams: The Twins are coming off a 101-61 season, Cleveland a 93-69 record, and the White Sox a 72-89 mark. But as there should unquestionably be some better bunching at the top this season (PECOTA projects 93, 86 and 82 wins, respectively), we’re ramping up to the start of Cactus League play with three looks at the Big 3 ball clubs, on offense, pitching and intangibles. 

This final piece will be less data-based and more analytical, as looking into the intangibles that could affect each team’s attempt at a division title.


Minnesota Twins

The Twins, after adding numerous pieces to a team that finished 78-84 in 2018, soared all the way to 101-61 last year. Many teams, after such an improvement, level off the following year in part because it took a bevy of career years to reach those unexpected heights.

Just ask the Chicago Bears. Remember them? The Bears, after undergoing a coaching change and seemingly adding to every position after a difficult 5-11 season in 2017, skyrocketed to 12-4 in 2018 before falling to 8-8 last year. While there are some similarities between the Twins and those Bears, the Twins likely won’t drop to .500 in 2020. This is in part because there’s no salary cap to hinder the addition of potential stars, and also because of the weakness of the bottom two teams in the AL Central (Kansas City and Detroit). While the Twins didn’t get that premier starter they were looking for via free agency, they did add Kenta Maeda and a couple aging, veteran starters who’ll pick up the slack for Michael Pineda (out due to suspension) and Rich Hill (out due to injury). Did I forget to add that they added slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson to their record-breaking lineup?

While the Twins obtained their vast improvement on the strength of many career years in 2019, the team should still be a force to be reckoned with. For one, they didn’t rest on their laurels, continuing to add more muscle into its lineup. From the moment he was first introduced as the new Twins manager in October 2019, Rocco Baldelli spoke earnestly about his emphasis on building relationships and creating a fun, comfortable clubhouse environment to empower his players, and those elements laid a strong foundation for his collaboration with his staff and team executives as the 38-year-old skipper learned on the job in his first season at the helm. He’s employed a sabermetric approach that did nothing but aid his young offense, and it’s clear that his players love playing for him. Of course, over time, players may eventually take advantage of his good nature — but don’t expect that to happen right away.

What will happen if the Twins find themselves struggling for a divisional title in 2020? The Twins strike me, based upon their acquisitions via trade and free agency, as a team that would certainly consider trading some of their higher-end prospects to fill holes — holes built into their pitching staff, or created by injuries. Royce Lewis, the first pick in the 2017 draft, is just one such player who could be an attractive commodity despite hitting just .236 in Double-A last year; he’s currently ranked ninth by MLB Pipeline among all prospects and is just 20 years old.

While the Twins may have some prospects who’ll contribute to the squad this year (Lewis Thorpe), many won’t be expected to be key contributors for 2020 and could potentially be considered for trade: Alex Kiriloff, Trevor Larnach, Jordan Balazovic and Nick Gordon are just a few of the team’s prized prospects who could help the Twins add key contributors for their playoff run if need be. The Twins have a Top 10 system, and that’s even after the departure of flamethrower Brusdar Graterol. 


Cleveland

Despite a 93-69 season last year which actually eclipsed its division-winning record of 91-71 the year before, Cleveland seems to be entering a period of decline driven by financial concerns. The team has been rock-solid over the past four years, averaging 95 wins and winning three divisional titles and a league pennant. However, Cleveland’s best pitcher during that stretch (Corey Kluber) was dumped off traded to the Texas Rangers for a reliever and a backup outfielder, and more such miserly moves seem inevitable.

But even though Cleveland may be at the beginning stages of a decline, that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded as a divisional competitor. In fact, they still have the best pitching staff in the division while possessing several outstanding bats including Francisco Lindor, José Ramírez, Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes. If everything goes well for this team, they could easily put together another 90-win season.     

The team is managed by two-time AL Manager of the Year Terry Francona, who has won an impressive 1,667 games during his 19-year tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox and Indians. He’s won three pennants and two World Series titles during that span, and it would have been three championships if he hadn’t discovered a way to over-manage the over-managing Joe Maddon in 2016. Francona’s always found ways to win with above-average talent, and players generally enjoy playing for him. It’s difficult to find managers with a more impressive track record. 

But Cleveland does appear to be on the beginning stages of decline, not unlike what the Cubs endured last year. It’s not to say the team is bad — the Tribe still has numerous offensive and pitching weapons at their disposal, along with a venerable manager. Trade rumors regarding Lindor dominated the headlines this offseason, but none came to fruition. Expect those rumors to multiply for Lindor, as well as Carlos Santana and Ramírez, if the Indians get off to a disappointing start. Sometimes, those rumors take a life of their own and distract the players to perform at less-than-optimal values. Fortunately for Cleveland, Francona should be able to help the team avoid such distractions.

The Indians, unlike the Twins, seem unlikely to add significant talent if the team needs additional help at the trade deadline. Aside from the acquisitions of second baseman Cesar Hernandez and Domingo Santana, Cleveland really didn’t add to their team (OK, Emmanuel Clase came via the Kluber trade). There is some talent in the pipeline available for trade, such as third baseman Nolan Jones and Triston McKenzie, in addition to recent draft choices like Daniel Espino, Ethan Hankins and Bo Naylor. However, with Cleveland crying poor, it would be counterintuitive to swap away cheaper young talent in a postseason push.   


Chicago White Sox

The White Sox, as most fans know, have undergone an 11-year playoff drought since last appearing in the postseason in 2008. Now, after a massive rebuild which began in 2016 with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, the team now appears to be on the precipice of long-term pennant contention. Youth, and productive youth at that, seems ready to blossom in 2020. Thanks to recent free-agent acquisitions such as Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Gio González and Edwin Encarnación, the team has now added veteran leadership to a young core of Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease. If this young team can gel at the same time, it could easily contend for the divisional title; if not, there should still be enough talent to succeed in 2021 and beyond.

Ricky Renteria, with a career record of 274-373, has by far the worst winning percentage among these three managers. To be fair, he’s really only been given rebuilding teams to work with. Renteria, because of his coaching style that his players enjoy, seems up to the task in perhaps his most pressure-packed role to date. He’s always been considered the type of manager who could take his team from Point A to Point B thanks to his teaching abilities and patience; however, as highlighted by the Cubs’ willingness to fire him in favor of Joe Maddon, he’s been perceived as a manager who isn’t suited for taking a squad from Point B to Point C. While Renteria’s willingness to bunt has been well publicized, it will be extremely interesting to see how he manages a team with such a unique combination of youngsters and seasoned veterans. If he somehow steers this team to a divisional title he could easily be Manager of the Year. If the team struggles to even attain .500, however, questions will only increase regarding his ability to make a good team better.

The White Sox also may be willing to strike a trade to improve their team during their trade deadline by swapping minor leaguers, but there’s a catch. Three of their top four prospects (Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech) will likely be key contributors in the majors by the deadline, which means that all the White Sox will be able to offer are Andrew Vaughn, Jonathan Stiever, players who struggled in Double-A last year, and players who missed much time due to significant injuries in 2019. If most of these players rebound and post great starts to 2020, the White Sox would indeed have the talent to offer in a megadeal to improve the team at the major league level.

One more caveat: it’s certainly possible that the team doesn’t relinquish much prospect capital at the trade deadline, for the reason being that the White Sox window of contention really doesn’t fly open until 2021. It certainly would be interesting to see what this team would do if dealt the “dilemma” of division title contention one year early!