White Sox: Five things to watch after the break

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The White Sox are situated at the beginning of the end of the rebuild, as general manager Rick Hahn put it. More specifically, they find themselves rested after a four-day All-Star break at the beginning of the end of the season.

It starts with a 10-game road trip through Oakland, Kansas City and Tampa Bay, beginning with the A’s Friday night.

At 42-44, a .500 record on the heels of a 100-loss season is in reach. And it’s a none too lofty goal. A wild card pursuit? At seven games out, and with a roster that’s not equipped, it’s best the Sox focus on more necessary steps to get where they want to go – above and beyond a one-year stab at a wild card.

Here are five things watch in the second half:

  1. The collective group of Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito and Aaron Bummer. All five important core pieces had good or excellent first halves. Will they sustain it over 162 games?

Possible causes for concern: Giolito, after an extraordinary All-Star run, failed to make a quality start in his last four outings, then flashed a capsule of the control problems that he dealt with last season and in the four-game stretch with a four-pitch walk at the outset of his All-Star appearance Tuesday. Giolito regrouped to post a scoreless inning as Sox nation exhaled while hoping his season also lives happily ever after.

Anderson suffered a high ankle sprain in Boston June 25, and while he was moving around well when last seen before the break, it’s not yet known how long he’ll be away. Anderson was last seen putting up All-Star caliber offensive numbers while leading the majors with 16 errors at shortstop.

2. Dylan Cease

The Sox’ prized pitching prospect won his debut July 3 with five innings of three-run ball with six strikeouts and four walks against the 28-57 Tigers. His next start is Tuesday against the 30-16 Royals. The starts that follow should give the Sox a good idea of what they have and where he’ll fit in a 2020 rotation. Some scouts say the right-hander with top-notch stuff profiles as a No. 3 starter. Some say higher. Stay tuned.

3. Reynaldo Lopez

After pitching to a 3.91 ERA and emerging as their best starter in 2018, Lopez heads the list of first-half disappointments among players who matter for the future, almost doubling his ERA to 6.34 ERA. Luckily for 25-year-old righty, who would have been demoted to the bullpen or even the minors on other clubs, the Sox in rebuild mode are keeping him in the rotation as they did with a struggling Giolito last year.

4. The farm

Center fielder Luis Robert and second baseman Nick Madrigal cruised through Class AA Birmingham and are a step away from the majors at AAA Charlotte, although we may not see them till 2020. And keep an eye on No. 3 overall pick Andrew Vaughn, a right-handed hitting first baseman who hit everything in sight at the Arizona League and for low A Kannapolis in his introduction of pro ball.

5. Trade deadline

The Sox have valuable pieces to deal: Jose Abreu’s contract is up, but guaging sentiment from chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on down it’s believed they want Abreu back, and even trading him before the July 31 deadline and pursuing in free agency after the season seems less likely than giving him extension.

There are other valuable pieces to possibly deal, including closer Alex Colome, All-Star catcher James McCann and outfielder-infielder Leury Garcia, who are having outstanding seasons. All are under club control next season, too, heightening both their trade value and the club’s desire to keep them.

“It’s going to come down to market value and balancing it against their potential value going forward,” Hahn said.

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