AL CentralAnalysis

White Sox 2021 Season Preview

2020 Season-In-Review

2020 Record: 35-25, 2nd Place in (AL Central)

Team MVP: Jose Abreu

Team Cy Young: Lucas Giolito

The 2020 season for the White Sox was an overall success as we saw Jose Abreu win the MVP award, Lucas Giolito pitch a no hitter and most of the guys get better. This group of players was one the best Sox fans have seen since arguably 2005. The bullpen was lights out for the most part and the lineup mashed. If they can continue to have success in both those departments, then there is no reason the White Sox can’t return to the playoffs in 2021.

Off-season Review

Key losses from 2020: James McCann, Alex Colome and Dane Dunning

Notable Free Agent Additions: Adam Eaton and Liam Hendriks

Notable Trades: Lance Lynn for Dane Dunning and Avery Weems

Everyone figured the White Sox would be big players in the free agency market this past off-season, and they had their name in a few races at the beginning. Then it ultimately became clear that they were on a budget to fulfill all their needs. Their first move came on the first night of the Winter Meetings when they traded SP Dane Dunning and RP Avery Weems to the Texas Rangers for Lance Lynn. The White Sox were rumored to be in on Lynn at the 2020 Trade Deadline, but they decided it was best to stand pat as it was only a 60 game season. Lynn, who is owed just $8 million in 2021, was a perfect start to this off-season. Most people didn’t expect a second move so soon, but in less than 24 hours from the Lynn trade the White Sox brought back Outfielder Adam Eaton on a 1 year $8,000,000 contract. After that, we heard Rick Hahn’s “Stay Tuned” comment, which sparked White Sox twitter thinking that the blockbuster move was coming. Whether it was signing Trevor Bauer or trading for Blake Snell or Yu Darvish, there was hope that a big starting pitcher was coming. Unfortunately, none of those came to reality, but Sox fans got that “Stay Tuned” move in January. The last big move was announced later: the White Sox would be signing All-Star reliever Liam Hendriks to a 4 year $54,000,000 contract to be their closer and help fortify the bullpen. Before the start of Spring Training, the White Sox brought in Catcher Jonathan Lucroy to compete for the backup catcher’s spot after the loss of James McCann. The White Sox will definitely look to be in the hunt to win the AL Central in 2021.

2021 Season Preview

Projected Roster

Projected Lineup

1) Tim Anderson (SS)

2) Yasmani Grandal (C)

3) Jose Abreu (1B)

4) Yoan Moncada (3B)

5) Eloy Jimenez (LF)*

6) Luis Robert (CF)

7) Adam Eaton (RF)

8) Andrew Vaughn (DH)

9) Nick Madrigal (2B)

Projected Bench: Leury Garcia (UTL), Jonathan Lucroy (C), Adam Engel (OF), Danny Mendick (INF)

Projected Rotation: Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodon

Projected Bullpen: Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, Kyle Kubat, Evan Marshall, Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, Aaron Bummer, Liam Hendriks

I constructed the lineup to how I think Tony La Russa will ultimately create his lineup with everyone healthy. It was announced that Eloy Jimenez would miss at least 5-6 months with a torn pectoral, which is a big blow to this lineup. With Eloy starting on the IL, I will have Zack Collins take his spot on the Opening Day lineup. I wanted to add as much balance between the righties, lefties, and switch hitters in the lineup.

The lineup has a lot of power ranging from Jose Abreu to Andrew Vaughn. The White Sox lineup does struggle with walking, as they ranked 24th in BB% with a 7.9% in 2020, the lowest among all playoff qualifying teams. Having Yasmani Grandal in the lineup certainly helps, as he draws many walks. Also, adding lefty Adam Eaton into the 7th spot breaks up the righties in the lineup and adds another player that can have a 60 walk season. Nick Madrigal rounds out the lineup as a high contact guy who rarely strikes out and puts together very good at-bats. The bench is pretty self-explanatory as Leury Garcia and Adam Engel have been household names for the past few seasons that add good value offensively and defensively. Danny Mendick will be the utility infielder that can play pretty much anywhere he has needed, just like Leury Garcia. Lucroy earns the backup catcher’s job as he brings a veteran presence and is raved about by White Sox pitchers. Zack Collins, who has put together a great spring, earns Eloy’s roster spot over Billy Hamilton, Yermin Mercedes, and others. It is not only because of Collins’s impressive spring but also because he provides a power lefty bat and can play 1B, C, and slot in at DH when needed.

The rotation again is pretty self-explanatory, with Lucas Giolito being the ace as he was announced to be the Opening Day Starting Pitcher. Manager Tony La Russa has already announced that following Giolito, it will be lefty Dallas Keuchel, and after him, it will be the newly acquired workhorse, Lance Lynn. Now with the 4 and 5 spots that haven’t been officially announced yet, but with Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon showing massive improvements this spring, it is evident that they will be the 4th and 5th starters in the rotation. Now I believe that Dylan Cease will be the number 4 starter as he is here for the long haul. In contrast, Carlos Rodon’s future with the White Sox is only sure for 2021 as he was brought back on a 1-year contract. If he does pitch like how he has in Spring Training during the regular season, he may be brought back for longer. Ultimately there was only one spot up for grabs in the rotation, and that battle was between Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon. With Lopez being optioned to the Alternate Site already, Carlos Rodon will inevitably start the year in the rotation.

Lastly, we have the bullpen, which again didn’t have many spots to compete for, only just recently one opened up. As I mentioned with the starting pitchers, Reynaldo Lopez likely won’t be on the Opening Day roster, opening up a spot in the bullpen. I didn’t know who to give that last bullpen spot to; with most of the young arms having bad springs, such as Tyler Johnson, Jose Ruiz, and others, I decided on Kyle Kubat. Kubat has had an excellent spring, and being a lefty only helps his case since Jace Fry will be out to start the year. Kubat has appeared in 5 games and has pitched to a 0.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.83. It is a small sample size as it is only in 3.2 innings, but there isn’t a better choice. I feel Kubat has earned the last spot in the bullpen despite such a small sample size. Without Kubat, there are only two lefties in the bullpen in flamethrower Garrett Crochet and Aaron Bummer, and having the additional lefty option will supplement the pen nicely. Liam Hendriks will 100% be the closer, and beyond that it remains to be seen how La Russa will use his relievers. Anyone could be used in a setup role, from Codi Heuer to even Michael Kopech. Overall the White Sox bullpen has the talent to be one of MLB’s best if everything comes together right.

Record Projections

FanGraphs Projected Record: 88-74, 1st place in AL Central

PECOTA Projected Record: 81-81, 3rd place in AL Central

Personal Projection: 93-69, 1st place in AL Central

First off, I don’t know if these projections are taking into account the Eloy Jimenez injury or not. Now my projection does, and I will get to it. I will start with the projection I disagree with the most, and that is PECOTA’s. In my opinion, for the White Sox to go 81-81, a lot will have to go wrong. This team is far better offensively than Cleveland, mainly since they traded away Fransisco Lindor this past offseason. The White Sox are better at almost every position except third base. Jose Ramirez is one of the best third basemen in the league. After a down year from Moncada, it is safe to say that Ramirez is the superior player. I will argue with anyone about the Sox being better than the Indians as I think the White Sox improved this off-season while the Indians got worse. Now onto FanGraphs; I am personally okay with this projection as 88 wins is a fair assessment of this current White Sox team. They had the White Sox only one game better than Minnesota, and I agree that this AL Central race will be a close one between the White Sox and Twins.

My projection is 93-69, and before Eloy got hurt, I was going to have this White Sox team at 97-65. I felt that Eloy Jimenez would’ve had an MVP caliber season and be a big reason why the White Sox end up with the best record in the MLB. With Eloy going down, I think the Yankees hold the edge over the Sox in 2021. Minnesota will put up a good fight against the White Sox, but I think the White Sox are too motivated and determined and just a tad better than Twins, which will lead them to be the AL Central Champions in 2021.

Overall the White Sox will be a fun and exciting team to watch in 2021 and they should be pretty good as well. This team has a lot of potential to do some big things and with a Hall of Fame manager running the show, the White Sox should be in very good hands heading into the 2021 season.

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