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MLB Team Roundup: Chicago White Sox

Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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2021 Record: 93-69

First Place, AL Central

Team ERA: 3.73 (5th in MLB)

Team OPS: .758 (7th in MLB)

What Went Right

Do you remember 2008? Of course you do. Folks formed lines to purchase the iPhone 3G. Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak was released. That year was also the last time the White Sox made a postseason appearance. After what seemed like a perpetual rebuild period, the White Sox ran away with the division title by remaining in first place for most of the 2021 season. The starting rotation proved to be a five-headed monster at least for the first half, including Carlos Rodon’s breakthrough season post-return from injury, including a no-hitter on April 14, making him the first MLB pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter within two years after having Tommy John surgery. Lance Lynn, acquired during the 2020 offseason in a very “let’s win now” trade, led the entire team with 5.4 bWAR and was given a well-deserved two-year, $38 million contract extension. Yasmani Grandal’s wacky slash line has been dissected often, but let’s turn your attention to his second half explosion post-return from injury, where he posted a .337/.481/.673 line over 129 plate appearances. Picking up Liam Hendriks during the 2020 offseason was a splendid move, evident in his American League-leading 38 saves, then a 2.54 ERA and 113 strikeouts against six unintentional walks over 71 innings. Rookie Gavin Sheets made a great impression, showcasing pure lefty power. Sheets hit 11 home runs with 34 RBIs over 54 games, and was especially effective against right-handed pitchers. Ryan Tepera also proved to be a worthy deadline acquisition, with a solid 2.50 ERA over 18 innings with the White Sox.

Don’t ask about the rest of the deadline acquisitions just yet.

What Went Wrong

One step forward, three steps back. Eloy Jimenez missed a good portion of the season due to an injury he suffered while attempting to rob a home run during spring training. Luis Robert tore his hip flexor in early May, and the absence of both Jimenez and Robert were sorely felt. Late-season injuries befell some key members of the starting rotation, including Lynn, Rodon, and Lucas Giolito. Rodon’s workload was understandably limited later on in the season, given he had pitched more innings in 2021 than his previous two years combined. Dallas Keuchel had an underwhelming season, and carried a 5.28 ERA in 32 games (30 starts). Keuchel fell apart in September, forcing the White Sox to leave him off the ALDS roster. Though the White Sox were active at the trade deadline, their acquisitions fell short. The Craig Kimbrel trade was largely unsuccessful, evident in a 5.09 ERA over 23 innings pitched after being traded to the White Sox; during his first-half tenure with the Cubs, he racked up a .049 ERA over 36 2/3 innings pitched. Cesar Hernandez was brought on at the deadline to bring Gold-Glove caliber defense to the spot left by Nick Madrigal at second base. However his bat left much to be desired -- after being traded to the White Sox, Hernandez left a milquetoast .232/.309/.299 line, often contributing to those late-season bottom-of-the-order doldrums.

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Fantasy Slants

**A fantasy favorite and face of the franchise, Tim Anderson continues to be a BABIP slayer as he makes fantastic contact. He’s had a BABIP north of .328 for five of his six professional seasons. Anderson got his first all-star nod in 2021 and is one of the best leadoff hitters in the league. He finished 2021 with an impressive .309/.338/.469 slash line over 551 plate appearances, including 17 homers and 18 stolen bases.

**Luis Robert is your quintessential five tool player. He’s speedy, hits well, showcases power, throws well, and flashes some great leather. Robert has the makings of a bona fide superstar and finished the regular season with an impressive .338/.378/.567 line, including 13 homers, 43 RBI and six stolen bases in an abbreviated 68 games, due to injury. Robert has a potential 30 home run/30 stolen base season upon him soon, contingent upon staying healthy.

**Yoan Moncada may be a little controversial fantasy-wise. In 2021, he knocked out 48 extra-base hits with a .375 on-base percentage, and garnered a very respectable career-high 19 game hit streak and 28 game on-base streak, but also went through a stretch where he had trouble with hitting fastballs. Moncada can still be considered a good long-term fantasy option, but it’s easy to go through bouts of frustration with him.

**Jose Abreu is undoubtedly the team’s leader -- and went through a rough patch where if it seemed like he was getting hit by a pitch often, that’s because he was. Abreu was one of the most hit batsmen in the entire league, getting plunked 22 times. The captain finished the season with a respectable .261/.351/.481 line, including 30 home runs and 30 doubles. He also finished second in the AL with 117 RBIs. He’s been a catalyst for run production for the entirety of his career, and should continue that tradition in 2022.

**Lucas Giolito remains the ace of the starting rotation though a small handful of shaky outings caused his 2021 numbers to depart slightly from his breakthrough 2019 season. The 27-year-old hurler finished the season with an 11-9 record, 3.53 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 201/52 K/BB ratio in 178 2/3 innings pitched over 31 starts. Giolito has high strikeout potential as his game relies on missing bats, and should remain a top starting pitcher taken in fantasy drafts.

**Yasmani Grandal had two main outcomes in 2021: He takes walks. He hits homers. Though he finished the season with a .240 average, he’s an on-base powerhouse, and absolutely clobbers the ball. Despite being out with a torn tendon in his left knee for a short stint, the switch-hitting backstop still finished the season with 23 home runs, 62 RBIs and a .939 OPS. Grandal revealed via Instagram that he underwent a second surgery after the White Sox exited the postseason, and should be ready for a fully-healthy 2022.

Key Free Agents: Carlos Rodon, Cesar Hernandez, Leury Garcia, Billy Hamilton, Ryan Tepera

Team Needs: Bringing back Rodon after the best season of his career would be a welcomed and pleasant surprise, though he’s likely to explore what’s possible in free agency. For the rest of the 2022 roster, the White Sox will perpetually continue to roll a boulder up a hill for a second baseman, a left-handed bat for right field, and a back-end rotation pitcher. If the goal is to build a team that can last past a divisional series, diving into the free agent market for all positions is a must. It’s more in tune with “win right now,” the same melody as the Lance Lynn trade from the 2020 offseason.