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Meet 2020

Your attention! Your attention, please. Have your pencils and scorecards ready for today's 2020 starting lineup. Let's glance into the future by looking at a hypothetical cast of White Sox and how they're performing today.

In center field, we have Luis Robert. Playing in the Dominican Summer League, the soon-to-be 20-year-old Cuban prospect, who signed in May with the Sox for an astounding $26 million, is slashing .255/.479/.872. He's hit one homer, but more importantly, the kid has walked 17 times while striking out just 14. MLB Pipeline says, "[Robert] pairs electrifying bat speed that should translate into considerable power with well above-average speed."

In left field is Eloy Jimenez, the newest member of the organization, being the centerpiece of the Jose Quintana trade. Jimenez, 20, switched clubhouses the other night from the Cubs' Myrtle Beach farm club to the Sox' Winston-Salem in the Carolina League. He wound up getting the game-deciding hit against his former mates. Last season in A-ball, Jimenez hit .329 with 14 homers and 81 RBI. He's hitting .271 this season with an OBP of .355. Says Fangraphs, " . . . he's going to have elite power in his mid-20s and there's solid feel for contact here, too."

Micker Adolfo in right field. The Dominican was signed by the Sox as a 16-year-old in 2013 and slowly has made his way to Kannapolis in the Single-A South Atlantic League where he's slashing .281/.342/.829 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI. MLB Pipeline says Adolfo has "as much raw power as any White Sox prospect," and "his arm strength is just as jaw-dropping as his power." Only problem is making contact. Adolfo has fanned 99 times this season in 306 at-bats.

Jose Abreu at first base will be 33 in 2020 and should be the elder statesman of the ballclub. A .298 lifetime hitter, Abreu is on his way to his fourth straight season with 100 RBI. He not only has earned the respect of the Latin players, but everyone in the clubhouse recognizes his work ethic and team-first character. He can't become a free agent until 2020. Barring injury - and Abreu has proven durability - the Sox should make every effort to re-sign him.

At second base, Yoan Moncada. This is our guy. Originally signed for $31.5 million by the Red Sox, the presence of Justin Pedroia made Moncada expendable in the Chris Sale deal. He's 22, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, and "a switch-hitter with tremendous bat speed," according to MLB Pipeline. Moncada has clubbed 12 homers at Charlotte this season with 36 RBI. His slash is .287/.382/.838. He's improving defensively and, oh yes, he's stolen 17 bases. The Sox are being exceptionally patient with Moncada, but we might see him on the South Side come September.

At shortstop, we have Tim Anderson, or maybe Yolmer Sanchez, or even Tyler Saladino. Anderson signed a contract extension last March worth $25 million for someone with less than one year of big league experience, indicating that he will be the Sox shortstop of the future. However, Anderson has stumbled this season with an MLB-leading 21 errors. After hitting .283 a year ago, his average has dropped to .241 so far this season, and he rarely walks.

Meanwhile, Sanchez, who signed with the Sox in 2009 when he was 17, has played a decent amount of shortstop in the minor leagues and never made more than 13 errors in a season at any level. Playing mostly second base this year, Sanchez has been charged with just four miscues, and he's hitting .260 but a paltry .225 in June and July. Saladino primarily played shortstop in five minor league seasons.

This June's top Sox draft choice, 11th overall, third baseman Jake Burger, 21, has begun his career at Kannapolis, where he's 9-for-28 (.321) with a homer and a couple of doubles. A product of Missouri State, Burger signed for $3.7 million after hitting 22 homers and driving in 65 runs his junior year. "He has a great mix of power and discipline at the plate," gushed general manager Rick Hahn, introducing Burger when Jake signed on.

Behind the plate is Zach Collins, a product of the University of Miami (FL) and the Sox first-rounder in 2016. His .216 batting average this season at Winston-Salem is a bit misleading - his on-base percentage is .366, and he's slammed 12 home runs. The ninth-ranked prospect in the system, " . . . [is] extremely patient and isn't afraid to work deep counts while waiting for a pitch to drive, so he should produce solid batting averages and high on-base percentages to go with his pop," according to MLB Pipeline.

Championships are built on pitching, and the White Sox seem to have a stable of prospects from which to choose. Perhaps the most intriguing is Michael Kopech, 21, who was part of the Chris Sale deal with Boston. The kid is a fireballer whose fastball frequently has been clocked north of the century mark. At Double-A Birmingham this season, he's whiffed 106 batters in 84-plus innings while giving up just 60 hits. But he's also walked 55 hitters while trying to develop his off-speed stuff which actually is in the low 90s. All this for a starting pitcher! Stay tuned.

Lucas Giolito, who came over from the Nationals in the Adam Eaton swap, appeared in six big-league games last season without much success. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old's credentials are noteworthy - "When he's on, Giolito shows stuff that most pitchers can only dream of." (MLB Pipeline) - even though he's struggled a bit this season at Triple-A Charlotte, where he's 3-8 with a 5.00 ERA.

Charlotte's top pitcher is Reynaldo Lopez, who, like Giolito, had major league experience last season in Washington (5-3 record, 4.91 ERA in 44 innings). Spending the year so far at Triple-A, the 23-year-old Lopez is 6-5 with a 3.78 ERA. His WHIP is a creditable 1.27, and the Dominican product averages a strikeout per inning. Look for him to be a September call-up if not before.

Another pitcher plucked from the Nationals is righthander Dane Dunning, 22, who was drafted out of the University of Florida in the first round (29th overall) last year. After four games at Kannapolis where he had a WHIP of 0.58, Dunning was promoted to Winston-Salem, where he is 3-4 with an ERA of 3.03, 71 strikeouts and 25 walks in 62-plus innings. "He's got a lot of raw talent," said Kannapolis pitching coach Brian Drahman. "Pretty good slider and curveball and a good changeup. It's just a matter of getting experience behind that using his pitches. He knows he can, and he's putting it together."

The Sox top draft pick in 2015, Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer, continues to work at Charlotte after making eight non-descript appearances on the South Side last July and August. His development has slowed this season, much like Giolito. Fulmer presently sports a 6-6 record with a 5.58 ERA. Forty-four walks in 88 innings haven't helped much.

As of last week via the trade with the Cubs, the Sox now have Dylan Cease, 21, formerly the Cubs' top pitching prospect. A strikeout artist, Cease has fanned 165 hitters in 120-plus minor league innings. But he also has walked 67. Cease has joined the Kannapolis ballclub, so he is far away from major league-ready. Cease already has had Tommy John surgery, which is this day and age is a selling point. MLB Pipeline says that when his curveball is working, it is a "true power hammer that has been compared to Dwight Gooden's." Yowser!

Alec Hansen is a 22-year-old former second-round (2016) draft choice of the Sox who is having a solid year at Kannapolis where he is 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA. His WHIP is a sparkling 1.10. He throws strikes.

And someday Zach Burdi, a relief pitcher who throws over 100, could be the Sox closer. Only problem is that the team announced last week that he'll need elbow surgery and won't be available until 2019.

And lest we not overlook Carlos Rodon, the team's top starting pitcher at the present time at age 24. In his third season with the Sox and coming off a spring injury, Rodon continues to develop but has shown flashes of brilliance while winning 19 games in his young career. If he stays healthy - which is problematic for any pitcher today - Rodon should be a fixture in the rotation when he is joined by some of the young players mentioned here.

* * * * *

Now back to reality. The 2017 White Sox were swept over the weekend by Seattle, an underachieving band of athletes who strolled into town four games below .500. The Mariners eked out three wins by a total of four runs. Let's hope the White Sox have long memories because two or three years from now, they'll seek revenge. Whether the Sox get it or not remains to be seen.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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