When I think back to the 2020 White Sox season, I thankfully can’t say a lot of players had a bad season. Despite never feeling 100% after contracting COVID-19, Yoan Moncada still batted .225 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 52 games and was a finalist for a Gold Glove Award. I have a feeling the 2021 White Sox team will only get better.
After scouring stats for the team and remembering the more painful to watch games in the 2020 season, I settled on three players that I feel confident will have a bounce-back season for this 2021 White Sox team.
2021 White Sox Bounce Back Player #1: Dylan Cease
Last month I wrote about why we should give Dylan Cease a chance. Ethan Katz and Yasmani Grandal seem to believe that Cease has started to figure out his command and can earn a spot in the starting rotation. Yes, I’m well aware that it’s only spring training and he was great in spring training and summer camp in 2020. Cease ended the season with an ERA of 4.01 after 12 starts. While his pitches reached a high velocity, he only had 44 strikeouts to his 34 walks.
Not great, right? But I’m an optimist to a fault when it comes to baseball. I kept going back to the quote from Grandal. “I feel like if we get him to where we see him going, this guy could be a Cy Young finalist — he could be a Cy Young winner,” Yasmani Grandal said. “He’s got the tools to do it — there’s no doubt on that. Now it just comes down to the process and making sure he gets to do it and sees the vision that we have for him. And the future is only going to dictate whether we can get him to be what we want him to be or not.”
He has the tools, he has a great pitching coach in Ethan Katz, and hopefully he has some confidence instilled from having a successful spring training. I’m looking forward to seeing what Cease will do and if Grandal is right about being a Cy Young finalist.
2021 White Sox Bounce Back Player #2 Reynaldo Lopez
This year will be the year we get 2018 Reynaldo Lopez back. I can feel it in my bones. After posting ERAs of 5.38 in 2019 and 6.49 in 2020, I wondered if Lopez needed a new direction. Since re-signing and working on a tightened-up arm swing, Lopez seems to feel good about his pitches. That was made apparent during his spring training debut as he pitched two perfect innings with one strikeout against the Cleveland Baseball Team.
‘‘With the new arm action, all my pitches are better,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘They’re going to have better action, more life, especially my fastball. I’ve been more consistent with it. But all my pitches are going to be better.’’ White Sox manager Tony La Russa and Pitching Coach Ethan Katz have been impressed with what Lopez has been putting out. With more command and a little confidence, I think Lopez will be back to being a consistent starter with a 3.91 (or better) ERA.
2021 White Sox Bounce Back Player #3 Michael Kopech
I’m really excited for this season. The White Sox have a perfect blend of young talent and trusted veterans, making them the team to beat in the American League. (Just ask Tim Anderson.) Adding Michael Kopech back to the roster and to an already skilled White Sox bullpen was a great move.
I worried that Kopech would regress after being away for an entire season, but after seeing a few videos and interviews, my worries faded. Kopech appears to be back in the right mindset after taking a year off for his own personal reasons. Kopech also appears to be healthy, even after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018. He’s ready to play, learn and grow within the White Sox organization. He ended the 2018 season with an ERA of 5.02 and is projected to have a 4.35 ERA going into the 2021 season.
Final Thoughts: 2021 White Sox Bouncebacks
As I mentioned at the beginning, I was a little concerned about Moncada after claiming to only ever reach 90% after contracting COVID-19. Luis Robert even hit a slump during the back half of the 2020 season and has had a slow start at Camelback Ranch this year. Yet I didn’t worry about them as much as I did the pitching throughout 2020. Seeing Cease, Lopez and Kopech succeed under new management is my top concern. Based on what I’ve seen in the last few weeks, I think they’ll be the ones to bounce back.
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