CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago White Sox will open their season against the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field in just a week and a half. That three-game series will be followed by another in Cleveland against the Indians and another in Kansas City against the Royals. And so begins what promises to be the strangest MLB season maybe ever.
For 60 games, the White Sox will face only American League Central and National League Central teams in empty ballparks. Celebrations will be muted. Social distancing will be enforced. Spitting is banned. The list of guidelines is extensive. How will this young but talented team deal with the adversity inherent in these unusual circumstances?
“Baseball players are creatures of habit,” says CBS 2 sports anchor Luke Stuckmeyer. “I think a veteran player can deal with it better than a young squad, like the White Sox.”
Inexperience is often a disadvantage, though even the most seasoned veterans haven’t played through a once-a-century pandemic like coronavirus. Assuming they can deal with the surreality of the situation, the issue becomes ensuring the team’s continued development.
“The one thing I’m concerned about isn’t necessarily their chances this year,” says Stuckmeyer. “It’s whether or not their young players — some of the best young players in all of baseball — are able to develop the way they have been previously. Will 60 games be enough for Eloy Jiménez to continue the progress he’s been making? Will it be enough for Luis Robert to become the player they expect him to be? It’s more about will this stunt the growth of some of these young players for the White Sox.”
Jiménez hit .267 with 31 home runs in his 468 at-bats in his rookie season, but also struck out 134 times. He’ll get maybe half as many at-bats this season to continue his growth. The much-hyped Robert, who the White Sox signed to a $50 million deal in January, hit .328 with 32 HRs in 503 at-bats across three minor-league teams last year. In a recent intra-squad scrimmage, he actually hit a home run while falling down. Robert will also get far fewer trips to the plate than the team would like.
This young and promising White Sox team should contend in a shortened season. Whether they can parlay all that talent into a playoff spot is another story.
“I think it’s the Twins number one, White Sox number two [in the AL Central]. Can the White Sox’s young players live up to the hype, what they’ve been showing leading up to this point? If they can and get off to a good start, they might be able to make a run at the Twins and put the pressure on Minnesota. It’s going to be real tough to win a wildcard out of that division, because the American League is so loaded. So I think that you have to win the division. I think it’s really only the Twins and White Sox. Maybe an outside chance for the Indians.”