It might only be February, but it’s never too early for 2021 White Sox Opening Day roster predictions!
The Chicago White Sox have made a few splashes in the off-season with Lance Lynn and Liam Hendriks joining the squad. They have also brought familiar faces back with Carlos Rodón and Adam Eaton. Let’s buckle in and speculate what the White Sox will do come April.
2021 White Sox: Catcher
(Catcher): Now that James McCann has signed with the New York Mets, Yasmani Grandal has the spotlight to himself. Last season Grandal had 32 starts and a .351 on-base percentage in his first season with the White Sox. While I might criticize the White Sox for not adding a veteran catcher, I do have confidence in the 2016 draft pick, Zack Collins. Collins has had 120 plate appearances in his career and will likely only improve as he grows into his role.
(First Base): AL MVP award winner and lovable White Sox staple José Abreu will start at first base. Abreu led the AL in RBIs for a second straight year (60 in 60 games played and crushed teams all season. Though he just turned 34, Abreu shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, he might be more determined now than ever to have a knockout season and get a ring with the White Sox.
(Second Base): I might have some comments telling me I’m wrong here, but I believe Nick Madrigal will be ready to start on Opening Day. As a reminder, Madrigal had a planned surgery after separating his shoulder sliding into the plate. Madrigal hit .340 over 109 plate appearances with only seven strikeouts. Though he only had a .369 slugging percentage, the White Sox organization seems confident in his ability.
(Third Base): Yoán Moncada had a rocky start in 2020. He tested positive for COVID-19 prior to Summer Camp and seemed to struggle with the recovery process. Despite never feeling 100%, he was still a finalist for a Gold Glove. I will continue to look back on the lights out 2019 season (.315/.367/.548 with 25 homers and 10 steals over 132 games) as an example of how a fully healthy and rested Moncada could be in 2021.
(Shortstop): Tim Anderson is hungry and it’s not just for his wife Bree’s spaghetti dinner. Anderson is hungry for the thing that matters the most in baseball, a World Series ring. Anderson believes the White Sox are on the right track with filling the holes within the clubhouse and is ready to motivate and build a championship-caliber team.
I will preface this by saying I’m less than excited about the outfield lineup. There was one star player in 2020 that covered most of the field, much to Eloy’s dismay. But I have to make predictions and shed some positive light so let’s go.
(Left Field): Eloy Jiménez had a wonderful season if you look at his at-bats. He was easily one of the best sluggers in the American League, the proof is in the Silver Slugger Award he won. However, the highlight reel for Jiménez in Left Field is mostly just Luis Robert running up in front of Jiménez to make the play. That said, Jiménez only has room to learn and grow, and he will.
(Center Field): Imagine winning a Gold Glove and placing in the top three for Rookie of the Year. Thankfully, the White Sox don’t have to because they have that player, Luis Robert. The second half of the 2020 season was not as ideal as everyone wanted for him, but Robert is only going to improve. At only 23 years old, Robert has plenty of time to cover and dominate in Center Field, and I can’t wait to see it.
(Right Field): Adam Engel often goes overlooked despite having a .811 OPS over 93 plate appearances. Not to mention his defensive skills — making that catch to secure Lucas Giolito’s no-hitter in August.
(DH): Andrew Vaughn was the No. 1 White Sox Prospect according to MLB Pipeline and continued to prove that during Spring Training, Summer Camp, and while playing in Schaumburg, Ill. Vaughn has only played 55 Minor League games, but I think it’s time to come up and start.
(Starting Pitcher): The White Sox have made some interesting moves this offseason when it comes to pitching. Did they acquire a new starting pitcher? No. Rick Hahn believes the team is complete, so aside from bringing Carlos Rodón back and trading off a very young and talented Dane Dunning for Lance Lynn, they appear to be sticking with what they have. Because why fix what isn’t broken, I guess? However, Ethan Katz is on board and while I refuse to believe one person can fix or improve every arm on the roster, I have high hopes.
Seeing Dylan Cease improve is very important. Cease is young and a little squirrely, so here’s to hoping Katz can help get Cease under control. Another young player that will be exciting to watch is Michael Kopech. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018, Kopech was unable to play in 2019 and opted out for the 2020 season. Kopech was a top pitching prospect and that talent does not just disappear. With Katz helping, Kopech should have a successful 2021 season.
With that covered, I predict Lucas Giolito will be the Opening Day Starting Pitcher. As the White Sox Ace, Giolito has proven his talent after a 180 from 2018. The No-Hitter only solidified why he deserves the start. Giolito ended 2020 with a 3.48 ERA, a clear improvement over the 6.13 ERA in 2018.
The White Sox already had a pretty solid bullpen in 2020. Adding Liam Hendriks somehow made it even better. After the White Sox lost to the Athletics on August 11, I remember thinking how I wish we had a closer like Hendriks. I had the privilege of sitting next to their bullpen that day so I watched him interact with White Sox fans and laugh off their taunts from the bullpen before he went out and closed the door on Harold Baines Day in 2019. Hendriks was a fun distraction from the painful White Sox loss. Hendriks is a likable guy and his 1.78 ERA in 2020 is nothing to scoff at.
The current bullpen is in no way a bummer — and that’s because we have veteran closers such as Aaron Bummer, Jace Fry, Jimmy Cordero, Matt Foster, and don’t forget about Evan Marshall. In addition to the already proven players, the White Sox called Garrett Crochet up and fans watched his pitches reach upwards to 99 – 101 MPH. Having a young guy like Crochet around will only provide the White Sox with more relief security.
The White Sox will need to bond and grow as a team and look to guys like Keuchel, Abreu, and Anderson to lead the team in the right direction. There is no doubt in my mind that the balance of young talent and veterans will make for an extremely exciting season. Would I like some security in starting pitchers and DH? Yes. But do I think this team (as is) will be competing in October? Absolutely.
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