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Behind Enemy Lines: Starting the 2017 season with South Side Sox

Josh Nelson of South Side Sox drops by to help us prepare for the opening series of the 2017 season.

Chicago White Sox v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The 2017 MLB season is upon us, and the Detroit Tigers get things underway with a three-game tilt in the Windy City. The Chicago White Sox have been predicted by most outlets to finish at or near the bottom of the American League Central Division this year. This is not surprising considering the offseason the Sox are coming out of.

A rebuild is on in Chicago, and while they may not be a playoff favorite this year, there is promise for the future on the south side. We spoke with Josh Nelson, editor at South Side Sox, SB Nation’s excellent White Sox community, to get his impressions on the current state of the Chicago White Sox organization.

The team recently dealt center fielder Peter Bourjos. Seeing as having expendable talent in center field is a foreign concept to Tigers fans at the moment can you explain what about the center field situation made Bourjos tradeable?

Josh: The White Sox sided with age against experience. It's a similar decision they made regarding Brett Lawrie when they released him to allow Yolmer Sanchez to make the 25-man roster. They would rather give players like Jacob May a shot in center field to prove if he is part of the team's long-term answer. If May doesn't perform well, Charlie Tilson could reclaim the starting role once off the disabled list. Tilson was initially the front-runner to win the starting job, but he has had a difficult time staying healthy since arriving in Chicago.

Two parter here. With the rebuild officially on in Chicago:

What prospects/newly acquired players are you most excited about? And how does it feel to watch your team go through a substantial rebuild (asking for a friend)?

Let me answer the second part first. It's a good sign that the White Sox finally picked a direction. After 2016 when they took half-measured attempts to build a winner, frustration levels were at an all-time high. Making the noise that general manager Rick Hahn did at the Winter Meetings generates excitement. It's awesome to see great young players like Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo Lopez in Sox uniforms. One can dream on these four players and wish for better days.

However, it cost Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. A pitcher who is the second-best left-handed starter in the league behind Clayton Kershaw, and a 5 WAR outfielder. I mean, if you can't have a winning record with guys like Sale and Eaton, why is it going to be different when the new core comes along? That's a question the White Sox front office can't answer quite yet. They'll need to time to do so, which most Sox fans are willing to give to a certain extent. If this team isn't a winning ballclub by 2020, there will be pitchforks and torches heading to 35th and Shields.

This 2017 season I believe at least four players will be called up by the Sox before September: Moncada, Giolito, Lopez, and reliever Zack Burdi. I'm most excited to see Moncada working with Tim Anderson in the middle infield. If he can make a splash like Gary Sanchez did for the New York Yankees in 2016, the South Side will lose their minds. It'll be Moncada Mania.

We've heard plenty of rumors about Jose Quintana potentially being on the move, but how likely is it that Jose Abreu is traded this season?

I think there is a 10 percent chance Jose Abreu gets traded. Abreu has a special connection with Yoan Moncada (former teammates in Cuba) and could be that veteran presence that helps Moncada's transition to the big leagues. I wouldn't be shocked if the Sox never trade Abreu because that clubhouse could use a stable leader.

This is the first season with your new Manager Rick Renteria. Following a manager who wasn’t very popular amongst the fanbase in Robin Ventura what are the expectations for Renteria this season and in the coming years?

I don't think Rick Renteria can be much worse than Robin Ventura. We'll see how he handles in-game strategy and the bullpen before declaring if he's better than Ventura. For his first season, I think it's important Renteria gives the young players plenty of playing time to prove their worth. He'll have some difficult conversations this season with veteran players like James Shields and Derek Holland when it makes more sense to give their starts to Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez late season. As long as the clubhouse can avoid the nuclear meltdown's they had last season (see: Drake LaRoche and Chris Sale cutting up uniforms), Renteria can't fail in year one.

I do hope that if the young prospects can adopt quicker than anticipated and become a winning ballclub, that Renteria is at the helm. He brings a lot of energy and passion to the stadium, which is very different from Ventura. If the new cores buy into his philosophy, Renteria should stay for the long-term. I would hate for Hahn to pull a Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer and fire Renteria to find someone better.

Are you concerned with Carlos Rodon’s shoulder injury and how it may affect his development?

Yes. I pray to the baseball gods every day that his rotator cuff is intact and has no tears. If he misses significant time in 2017, that significantly impacts not only his progression but the Sox's rebuilding plans, too. Rodon is being counted on to lead this staff 2018 and beyond.

With Tim Anderson and Jose Iglesias we should see some great defense at shortstop this series. Where do you think Anderson stacks up when compared to the embarrassment of riches at the shortstop position league wide, and what are your thoughts on his new contract?

I thought the deal was a bit soon for Tim Anderson, but you can't argue the value it brings to the White Sox. I understand the criticism's of his lack of walks, but Anderson can hit .300 with some surprising pop. That was the biggest surprise in his audition last year was how much power he has in his swing. Defensively, Anderson has made terrific strides every single year and has superb range thanks to his plus-plus athleticism. He may never be as good as Francisco Lindor, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Anderson will be a 4-win shortstop in 2017.

Once again, a big thanks to Josh Nelson and the rest of the South Side Sox staff for answering our questions. Make sure to check out South Side Sox all season long for the very best White Sox news coverage and analysis!

Opening Day 2017 Preview!

Posted by Bless You Boys: For Detroit Tigers Fans on Wednesday, March 29, 2017