White Sox

Sox grades: Breaking down the South Side infield

White Sox
USA Today

The Chicago White Sox' season ended in disappointment, much earlier than hoped.

But the team accomplished plenty during the 2021 campaign, winning the American League Central crown and playing playoff baseball on the South Side for the first time in 13 years. After years of rebuilding, there was indeed progress toward achieving the franchise's ultimate goal of winning a World Series championship.

At the same time, the expectations of reaching that goal this year were realistic back in the spring, and the White Sox fell well short. A sour AL Division Series loss to the Houston Astros resulted in the same number of postseason wins as the White Sox had a year earlier, before a managerial change and roster upgrades.

So how should we judge these South Siders?

If we're just handing out grades for those four games in October, not many would receive a passing mark. But a baseball season is not four games long, and though the group disappointment was huge following a quick playoff exit, most of the players excelled during the regular season, setting up reason to believe that the White Sox can improve in 2022 and move closer to a championship.

Here's a player-by-player review of the 2021 campaign, continuing with catchers and infielders.

1B José Abreu: A-

The fact that a 30-home run, 117-RBI season was considered “up and down” for Abreu speaks to how high the reigning MVP has set the bar for himself. But he found a rhythm at the plate in the second half of the season and logged his fifth season with at lease 30 home runs and 100 RBI.

 

That mark put him in an exclusive club. In White Sox history, only Frank Thomas (eight) and Paul Konerko (five) have hit both marks in as many seasons.

SS Tim Anderson: A

Anderson collected his first All-Star selection this year, even though he won the batting title in 2019. For the third straight season, he hit better than .300.

As successful as Anderson’s regular season was, his postseason was better, despite his team’s quick exit. Anderson went 7-for-19 in the ALDS, including back-to-back three-hit performances.

3B Yoan Moncada: B+

Moncada was coming off a tough 2020 season, in which he battled the aftereffects of COVID-19. But an offseason strength program, paired with a slight shift in approach midway through the year, propelled Moncada back to himself by the end of the season.

Moncada’s bounce back included a career-high 19-game hitting streak.

2B César Hernández: C-

The White Sox acquired the gold-glove second baseman at the deadline in an effort to fill the hole at second base left when Nick Madrigal suffered a season-ending hamstring tear.

Hernandez, however, continued a down year at the plate once in Chicago. Those struggles limited him in the postseason, while Leury García’s hot bat demanded playing time.

UTL Leury García: B+

García played every position but first base, catcher and pitcher. But for his importance to the team, and clutch heroics, White Sox manager Tony La Russa rejected the label of “utility player” for García.

García earned a permanent spot in the ALDS starting lineup, split between second base and the outfield.

C Yasmani Grandal: A-

Injuries shortened Grandal’s season. But after struggling at the plate to begin the year, he came back from a mid-season IL stint  to finish on a blazing hot streak.

Grandal hit .337 with nine home runs from Aug. 27 through the end of the regular season, raising the question, what kind of season could Grandal have put together if he’d been healthy from the start?

C Zack Collins: B-

Collins played in a career-high 78 games this season, recording a career-best .210 batting average. He and Seby Zavala shared backup catcher duties, but Collins won the spot on the postseason roster. With Grandal back from the IL, his offensive production outweighed Zavala’s defensive boost.

C Seby Zavala: B-

Zavala’s season highlights included a historical three-home run game. He became the first player to hit his first three MLB home runs in the same game. In 37 games, the rookie hit .183.

 

DH/C Yermín Mercedez: B

The reign of the Yerminator was brief but spectacular. The rookie made MLB history by going 8-for-8 in his first eight at-bats of the season, the first player to do so in the modern era.  But after a slump in mid-June, the White Sox sent him back down to Triple-A.

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