CHICAGO – On Opening Day for the two MLB teams in this metropolis, the Chicago Tribune chose the squad that resides on the South Side as the lead photo with a headline inside that didn’t tiptoe around expectations.
“Our talent’s through the roof,” White Sox ace Lucas Giolito said.
The White Sox upstaging the lovable Cubs in their own city?
Maybe not in fan interest, but the sense that the White Sox are primed for a breakthrough season is palpable not just around town, but around baseball.
Is all the hype and hoopla justified? That question will be answered over the course of 60 games, but two games in, their lineup certainly looks legit.
Pitching and defense will determine if the White Sox emerge as contenders because their offense looks like it can slug with anyone.
“It’s definitely not a White Sox lineup of 2019 where you can come in here and face three, four, five good hitters and then kind of cruise through the rest of the lineup,” said Twins reliever Zack Littell, who didn’t cruise through anything Saturday in giving up three home runs in one inning.
The White Sox ripped a page from the Twins’ how-to manual in smashing five home runs in a 10-3 rout at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The series is split 1-1 with both teams showing off deep, powerful lineups that look like boxers trading haymakers. Both lineups are full of aggressive hitters looking to drive the ball and ruin ERAs.
The White Sox hit five home runs in a game only once last season. They needed only 48 hours into this season to accomplish that.
“That’s a really good lineup,” said Randy Dobnak, who navigated his start nicely by allowing only one run in four innings. “They’re all large human beings as well. That lineup is really tough and they’re going to be really good for years to come.”
The White Sox created a lot of buzz and intrigue around the league this offseason because of the veteran free agents they added to supplement their young core. The organization hasn’t finished with a winning record since 2012 and was in full rebuild mode in recent years, which included 100 loses in 2018.
The rebuild is over. Most baseball pundits expected the White Sox to surge this season but to what degree? Some believe they are still a year or two away from reaching that status. Maybe.
The lineup has much more firepower with the additions of All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal, veteran DH Edwin Encarnacion and hotshot prospect Luis Robert.
“They’ve got some veteran guys now who not only hit the ball out of the park but put together good at-bats,” Littell said. “They make it that much tougher to face the rest of those guys. They’ve got a really nice mix of young guys and old guys. I think they’re going to be good for a few years.”
The White Sox believe that too. They don’t lack confidence and have been vocal about being taken serious as contenders in the AL Central and making the playoffs this season.
Chicago is abuzz for the White Sox — when is the last time that’s been written? — and a big part of that excitement is the arrival of Robert, the 22-year-old rookie center fielder from Cuba who received a six-year, $50 million contract before he even played his first big-league game.
Robert is rated the No. 3 prospect in MLB. The hype surrounding him is such that teammates openly gush about his talent, with one teammate referring to him as the “next Mike Trout.”
“It’s very easy to see why the White Sox are so excited to have him out there,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said after Friday’s opener. “This guy has real talent and I’m sure he’s a guy we are going to see out there for a while for them.”
The Twins hung 10 runs on the White Sox in the opener. The White Sox matched that output in Game 2. Don’t hold your breath on a pitchers’ duel in Sunday’s finale.