2021 White Sox: Spring Training-Early Returns For LaRussa’s Boys

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The 2021 White Sox began spring training with high hopes, after their breakout 2020 season. New manager Tony LaRussa is settling in nicely, and there seems to be good chemistry developing between him and his players. This should ease the fears of Sox fans who disapproved of his hiring. Those concerns seem to be diminishing, and now the South Siders can focus on what happens between the white lines.

2021 White Sox: Raising The Bar

The White Sox were one of the surprise teams in all of MLB in 2020. Lead by MVP Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, and Eloy Jimenez, the Sox offense was one of the strongest in the American League. Meanwhile, Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel were the mainstays of the rotation. The bullpen was solid, with excellent performances from several pitchers, veterans, and rookies alike.

However, the 2021 White Sox hopes are set even higher, and with good reason. They made some key upgrades during the offseason, and they are expecting some growth from a few younger players. These youngsters include such players as Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, and rookie Andrew Vaughn. Coming to Arizona, there is much reason for their optimism.

Spring Training: Early Returns

While some Sox fans follow the results of exhibition games, keeping everybody healthy and getting them some game experience is what matters most. Yes, winning is more fun than losing, but, not the highest priority. Spring training is a team’s opportunity to assess what they have, and determine just what their roster should look like come Opening Day.

So, while the White Sox have won a total of one game so far, there is no need to panic. (Although some fans have begun their grumbling.) Things have been pretty smooth on the injury front, as only Yasmani Grandal has been sidelined by an injury. He suffered a minor knee injury and has been dealing with some inflammation. The Sox expect him to be healthy and ready for Opening Day.

What Have We Learned So Far?

What we have learned is something that we already knew. New manager Tony LaRussa and his coaching staff are making their assessments of all the players. Even as the Sox struggle to win meaningless exhibition games, it will be LaRussa’s call on who heads north. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the roster may be shaping up for the 2021 White Sox.

The Starting Rotation

The top three spots have been known for a while. Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, and Dallas Keuchel will lead the rotation. The question has always been who would fill the fourth and fifth spots. At this point, Dylan Cease appears to be the frontrunner for the fourth spot. With Michael Kopech ticketed for bullpen duty, the battle for the final spot looks like it will come down to Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez. While Sox fans won’t be thrilled about this, whoever earns the spot will be on a short leash.

The Bullpen

While things may still develop, it looks like Kopech and Garrett Crochet will begin the season in the bullpen. Conceivably, they would join a solid core of six fellow relievers, including closer Liam Hendriks and premier lefty set-up man Aaron Bummer. This could change later in the season if Kopech slides into the rotation. However, that move is not a sure thing, and LaRussa will adjust and adapt as the season goes forward.

Designated Hitter

It sure seems as though rookie Andrew Vaughn is going to be the DH for the 2021 White Sox as early as Opening Day. Some Sox fans may have concerns with that, as Vaughn is an unproven rookie whose highest level of competition is High A ball. LaRussa seems to think highly of him, which is all that really matters. Will the White Sox play the service time game with Vaughn? Time will tell.

Backup Catcher

This is the final spot where the 2021 White Sox need to make some decisions. Currently, it appears that veteran Jonathan Lucroy has the edge, although nothing has been decided. Younger players like Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes are still hanging around, but there is not much buzz (at least among Sox coaching staff) about either at this point. If the Sox keep three catchers, one of the younger players will head north; but that seems unlikely at this point.

Early Roster Predictions

Based strictly on observing the White Sox activities so far, here are early predictions for the open spots when the 2021 White Sox break camp. Dylan Cease will be the fourth starter, with either Carlos Rodon or Reynaldo Lopez in the fifth spot. If Rodon wins the spot, Lopez will likely not break camp with the club. Michael Kopech and Garret Crochet will be in the bullpen. Andrew Vaughn will be the DH on Opening Day, for better or for worse. Finally, Jonathan Lucroy will be the backup to Grandal behind the plate. If Lucroy is healthy, his veteran presence should be an asset to the pitching staff.

These predictions are subject to change, in the event of unforeseen injuries, or pother events. Yet, the sound coming out of Glendale seems to suggest that these players are very likely to be a part of the White Sox on Opening Day. We will see.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Mike Fisk is a lifelong baseball fan. For him, there is nothing like being at a baseball game, with the sights, the sounds, the smells. Writing about baseball is a bonus!