Sox Storylines To Watch As Spring Training 2.0 Starts

By 670 The Score
(670 The Score) When the coronavirus pandemic shut down MLB in mid-March, the White Sox were preparing for what they believe will be a breakthrough season. They've set the playoffs as their goal.

That hasn't changed as players are due to report to spring training 2.0 in their home cities by next Wednesday. Ahead of that, let's take a look at some of the storylines to follow as the White Sox get back to work soon.

Will Michael Kopech be in the rotation? 

After recovering from Tommy John surgery that he had in September 2018, Kopech looked sharp in spring training, where he pitched one inning in game action before camp was shuttered. He's set to be full strength health-wise now that he's 21 months removed from surgery. The previous plan had been for the 24-year-old Kopech to start the season in the minor leagues as a way of lightening his workload a bit before he matriculated to the big league rotation.

The new circumstances figure to change that plan without a minor league season in place. Kopech could fill a regular rotation spot or be used in a creative way -- perhaps as an opener who just pitches a couple innings to start a game or as a high-leverage reliever. The White Sox have a history of using young pitchers out of the bullpen early in their careers.

Beyond Kopech, left-hander Carlos Rodon's role will also be noteworthy. He had Tommy John surgery in May 2019 and is now "good," pitching coach Don Cooper said recently. All but three of Rodon's 93 appearances across five MLB seasons have been starts.

Strong performances from Kopech and Rodon would be crucial in the White Sox's quest to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

How big of an impact will Luis Robert make?

The White Sox will turn to the prized prospect Robert as their everyday center fielder -- and he'll likely lead off their lineup eventually as well. Manager Rick Renteria has indicated that he'll ease Robert, who has five-tool skills, into his role early on by batting him lower in the lineup, but Robert was already leading off some Cactus League games by the time spring training was halted.

Does Nick Madrigal start at second base?

A first-round pick in 2018, the 23-year-old Madrigal was ticketed for the minor leagues before the pandemic, with the White Sox moving toward a platoon of Danny Mendick and Leury Garcia at second base to open the season. Now, it looks like Madrigal has a good chance to win the starting job outright in spring training 2.0 and stick. Madrigal is a talented player. 

Can Lucas Giolito author a repeat performance?

Giolito surpassed expectations in an All-Star season in 2019, when he went 14-9 with a 3.41 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 228 strikeouts in 29 starts. He faded a bit in the second half of the season while also missing the last couple weeks with a right lat strain, so his challenge in 2020 will to repeat his strong season and fill the ace role for the duration of the campaign without a letdown.

How high is Eloy Jimenez's ceiling?

Asked by a reporter in spring training if he will hit 50 home runs in a season, the fun-loving Jimenez responded, "Why not?" Needless to say, the 23-year-old Jimenez is brimming with confidence after hitting 31 home runs in 122 games in 2019, when he missed a long stretch with injury. Staying healthy has been a challenge for Jimenez in his professional baseball career. With a White Sox lineup fortified by the additions of Robert, catcher Yasmani Grandal, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and outfielder Nomar Mazara, Jimenez, Jimenez is primed to get good pitches to hit and have a big season.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.