Watch list: 5 White Sox to keep an eye on this season

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws during a game against the Detroit Tigers in 2018. Kopech is available to the Sox this season after spending the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

    Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech throws during a game against the Detroit Tigers in 2018. Kopech is available to the Sox this season after spending the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. AP File Photo

 
 
Updated 6/28/2020 5:54 PM

If the White Sox are going to be risking their health during the upcoming shortened season, they might as well make the most of it.

"I really think the mindset is going to be every single game's a must-win," starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. "Not in the sense that we need to put extra pressure on ourselves, but that we pretty much demand excellence from ourselves on a daily basis. It starts in spring training when we get back to work. We're going to be attacking the fundamentals, I know that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Do everything we can to prepare and be ready to go out and play at our highest level on a daily basis. If we do that, we'll find ourselves at I think a pretty good spot because we're a very talented team."

The Sox haven't had a winning season since 2012, but they are loaded with young talent and general manager Rick Hahn added proven veterans Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, Dallas Keuchel, Steve Cishek and Gio Gonzalez over the winter.

After enduring a three-year rebuild, the White Sox finally have big expectations. If they have to realize them while playing an abbreviated schedule under difficult conditions, so be it.

The Sox report to Guaranteed Rate Field for training camp on Wednesday. Here are five players to watch:

Luis Robert

On a video call late last week, Hahn acknowledged the challenges of playing baseball during the coronavirus pandemic. He also mentioned several players he is anxious to see after the long break, starting with a touted rookie.

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"It's going to be good to see Luis Robert running around center field," Hahn said.

Robert signed a six-year, $50 million contract on Jan. 2, the largest deal in major-league history for a player with no service time.

Given his wide range of skills, the 22-year-old outfielder could very well end up being a bargain for the White Sox.

In 122 combined games with high Class A Winston-Salem, AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte last season, Robert hit .328/.376/.624 with 31 doubles, 11 triples, 32 home runs, 92 RBI and 36 stolen bases.

Michael Kopech

When the season starts on July 23, teams will be carrying 30 players on the roster.

Most of the extras will be pitchers, and Kopech is available after missing the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Getting the right-hander back on the mound, either as a starter or reliever, is big for the Sox. Kopech was able to make one Cactus League appearance before COVID-19 stopped play on March 12 and he pitched 1 scoreless inning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We'll wait to see where we are from a health and performance standpoint once everyone shows up at big-league camp (Wednesday)," Hahn said. "We talked about where Michael was in spring training and about how impressed we were with how he came out of the gate despite the layoff.

"Hopefully, he's still in that spot when we all get together in Chicago. He's certainly someone who could make a real impact for us over the course of 60 games."

Yoan Moncada

The 25-year-old third baseman will try to build off a fantastic final month of the 2019 season.

Moncada led the major leagues with a .412 batting average last September while adding 11 doubles, 2 triples, 3 homers and 15 RBI over 26 games.

Yasmani Grandal

Slowed by a calf injury early in spring training, the White Sox's new catcher has had plenty of time to heal up.

Grandal signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Sox on Nov. 21 and he'll get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate.

Last season, Grandal played in his second All-Star Game and hit a career-high 28 home runs while playing for the Brewers.

Nick Madrigal

The second baseman was probably going to open the season at Class AAA Charlotte before the coronavirus hit.

Now that the minor-league season has been canceled, Madrigal should be on the White Sox's major-league roster.

"We only got to see him for a handful of games in Glendale (Ariz.), but he's been as (good as) advertised so far," Hahn said. "He is a consideration for breaking with us, and if not immediately then certainly helping us at some point over the course of this summer."

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