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MLB Team Roundup: Chicago White Sox

Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago White Sox

2020 Record: 35-25

Second Place, AL Central

Team ERA: 3.99 (6th)

Team OPS: .779 (8th)

What Went Right

The White Sox came up just short on an AL Central title in 2020 but did still capture their first postseason berth since 2008 in nabbing a Wild Card spot. It was a quick exit, though, as they were downed by the Athletics in the Wild Card Series. The Pale Hose had one of the more well-rounded teams in baseball as one of only three clubs to finish in the top-10 in both ERA and runs scored. Their best position player was their longest-tenured player, Jose Abreu, who slugged 19 home runs while leading the majors with 60 RBI. Tim Anderson followed up his batting title-winning 2019 season with arguably an even better showing in 2020. Eloy Jimenez also had an excellent showing with 14 dingers and a .891 OPS. Luis Robert slumped badly down the stretch but still hit 11 homers, stole nine bases and won a Gold Glove in his rookie season. The White Sox had one of the best catching combos in the game, with Yasmani Grandal hitting eight homers with a .773 OPS and James McCann bettering him with a .896 OPS and seven bombs. Lucas Giolito proved that his 2019 breakout was no fluke, posting a 3.48 ERA with 97 strikeouts over 72 1/3 innings and throwing the 19th no-hitter in team history. Dallas Keuchel finished third in baseball with a 1.99 ERA. Dane Dunning wasn’t promoted until late August but looked like a potential rotation mainstay. Closer Alex Colome allowed just two earned runs all season. The club also got superb relief work out of Codi Heuer, Matt Foster and Evan Marshall, among others.[[ad:athena]]

What Went Wrong

Yoan Moncada tested positive for COVID-19 during summer camp, and while he made it back in time for Opening Day, he later admitted that he never felt quite right. It showed up in his numbers, as he experienced a more than 200-point drop in his OPS. Edwin Encarnacion managed to pop 10 home runs but really struggled overall with a .627 OPS. The change of scenery didn’t work wonders for Nomar Mazara as hoped, as he put up a feeble .228/.295/.294 batting line while hitting just one home run. Reynaldo Lopez continued to move in the wrong direction, holding a 6.49 ERA across eight starts. Carlos Rodon dealt with more injury issues and posted an 8.22 ERA when healthy. Dylan Cease had some nice moments, but his control continued to abandon him and he saw his strikeout rate plummet. The White Sox had to continue waiting on Michael Kopech, as he opted out of the 2020 season after missing all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery.

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Fantasy Slants

** It was a tale of two months for Luis Robert. Through the end of August, the exciting young rookie was one of the best fantasy performers out there, posting a .298/.348/.612 batting line with 10 home runs, 24 RBI, 22 runs scored and four stolen bases. He then promptly cratered in September, hitting just .136/.237/.173 with one homer over his final 23 contests. Robert struck out at a 34 percent clip in the final month, although that wasn’t much different than the 31 percent rate he fanned at through the end of August. The 23-year-old is an extremely aggressive hitter who’s sure to continue to strike out at a high clip. Thus, he can’t be counted on in the average department. However, even with his deficiencies Robert was still a top-20 fantasy outfielder due to his dynamic power/speed combo. It gives him a pretty high floor even though there figure to be ups and downs, and we know the ceiling is sky-high.

** Is it fair to wipe the slate clean with Yoan Moncada? Moncada was diagnosed with COVID-19 during summer camp and just never got going, eventually admitting that he had difficulty with his energy and strength. He saw his exit velocity drop from 93.7 mph in 2019 all the way down to 87.8 mph in 2020, and he also watched his strikeout rate jump back up to 31.2 percent. Moncada was due from *some* regression in 2020 after posting an unsustainable .406 BABIP in 2019. That said, between his elite exit velocity and improved contact rate, his breakout that year sure seemed legitimate. Moncada seems like a good bet to bounce back to being a premiere fantasy option in 2021.

** It was a strange 2020 campaign for Dylan Cease. The young right-hander has had major control issues throughout pro ball and that didn’t change last season as he issued 34 free passes over 58 1/3 innings. Only Robbie Ray walked more batters. However, the bigger concern is that Cease notched just 44 strikeouts after he whiffed well over a batter per frame during his rookie year. Among starters, only Jacob deGrom and Dustin May threw harder than Cease, so it’s odd to see his strikeout rate so low. The same goes for May, by the way, but the difference is Cease, unlike May, had consistently posted big strikeout totals prior to 2020. While Cease does seem like a safe bet to bounce back in the bat-missing department, his command and control is not yet at the level to where fantasy managers can trust him.

** Unless you count the one inning he threw in spring training in mid-March, Michael Kopech hasn’t appeared in a game that counts in over two years. He missed all of the 2019 campaign following Tommy John surgery, of course, and in 2020 he decided to opt out over coronavirus concerns. Kopech’s stuff reportedly looked all the way back during the spring, and he is committed to coming back and pitching for the White Sox in 2021. There are certainly still question marks here, though. Kopech has often had command issues, and those problems could potentially be exacerbated by such a long layoff. Additionally, he would seem likely to be facing workload restrictions. Kopech remains an intriguing arm as we consider his 2021 fantasy outlook, but it might be fairer to not expect the real breakout until 2022.

** Garrett Crochet became the first and only member of the 2020 Draft class to appear in the majors when he came up at the end of the regular season to throw six scoreless innings, yielding just three hits to go along with an 8/0 K/BB ratio. Crochet then suffered a flexor strain during an appearance in the Wild Card Series versus the Athletics. Fortunately, he seemed to recover quickly and should have a relatively normal offseason. The White Sox figure to stretch Crochet back out as a starter in the minors next season, although it’s possible he will ultimately profile better as a flamethrowing reliever. It’s in the bullpen where he would have a much better shot to make a dent in fantasy leagues in 2021. There could be an opening in the closer role with Alex Colome headed to free agency, although the White Sox have a few capable options to step into the role beyond Crochet (Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Codi Heuer and Matt Foster stand out).

** Will we see Andrew Vaughn debut in 2021? One of the better college hitters in recent memory, Vaughn was taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 Draft and advanced to High-A by the end of the season. He projects to fly through the system and has a good shot to reach the majors next season even after losing a year of development. Vaughn has the look of a perennial All-Star bat with the ability to hit for average and power and also draw walks. Jose Abreu is coming off a big season and is slated to man first base on Opening Day. He’s not a good defender, though, so it seems inevitable that he’ll eventually be moved to the designated hitter spot as the White Sox install Vaughn at first base. It could happen sooner rather than later.

Key Free Agents: Alex Colome, James McCann, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez

Team Needs: The White Sox are rumored to be one of the teams anxious to do some spending this offseason. A bat – probably one that can play the outfield – makes sense, and they are one of the clubs speculated to have interest in George Springer. The club could also use some more certainty in their rotation, as there is mostly unproven talent behind Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel.