The White Sox are currently reclaiming the spotlight after years of rebuilding. Though stars like Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, and Yasmani Grandal have had long stints on the injured list, Rick Hahn got serious at the trade deadline. With so many talented players back in the lineup and impressive trades, one thing is obvious on the South Side of Chicago: the White Sox are all in for 2021.
Like many others, I had a feeling this White Sox season was over before it started. With Jiménez and Robert, two promising young players suddenly out for a good chunk of the season, it felt like the rebuild was suddenly back on. Injuries would continue to pile on for the young team, and it felt as though the Charlotte Knights had been relocated to Chicago and were taking on Major League Baseball teams.
What Makes This 2021 White Sox Team Special?
However, there were certainly stars that were apparent from early on, especially the pitching. The White Sox had an abundance of fantastic starting pitchers that have only improved on Ethan Katz’s watch. Carlos Rodón’s story should certainly be highlighted. Coming from multiple surgeries, being non-tendered last winter, re-signed for a year, and now is arguably the best starting pitcher on the team with a no-hitter under his belt and whispers of being a Cy Young candidate.
The White Sox also picked up another potential Cy Young candidate, Lance Lynn. Lynn has had an incredible season with a 10-3 record and an ERA of just 2.26. He was extended for two years ahead of the trade deadline, another smart move by the front office.
Perhaps one of the smartest decisions happened within the coaching staff with the hire of Ethan Katz. Katz has worked with Dylan Cease, making Cease a bit more reliable with his command and mentality on the mound. Reynaldo López, post-eye surgery, has been able to have spot starts and appears to be great in this sample size with an earned run average of only 1.08. For reference, he ended the 2020 season with an ERA of 6.49. Katz has also worked his magic on bullpen arms, ensuring Michael Kopech is back to throwing absolute heat in his relief role while he stretches out for spot starts and a possible starting rotation spot for 2022.
Missing Some Stars? No Problem!
With the early injuries, the White Sox made a few acquisitions, bringing in Billy Hamilton and Brian Goodwin. Quite a few players were called up from Charlotte. This allowed a record-breaking month for Yermín Mercedes. Gavin Sheets, and Jake Burger were other stars that provided consistent run support. Even Seby Zavala has been connecting the bat for multiple home runs in his short time on the team to be the backup while Grandal is out.
But the biggest story here might be the evolution of Andrew Vaughn. In a lights-out rookie season, Vaughn has proven his talent in just about every position. Vaughn was a first baseman that has taken on many forms in 2021, filling the gap for Jiménez, giving José Abreu a day or two off, and serving as a successful designated hitter. Vaughn is slashing .263/.335/.457 with 15 home runs and 42 RBIs thus far. While there are plenty of worthy candidates for rookie of the year, Vaughn’s name should be included.
The AL Central and Beating Good Teams
The American League Central is certainly a weak division. The White Sox are up 10.5 games from the second-place team, Cleveland. Their run differential is +136, the second-highest is -22. At time of publication, the magic number to clinch a playoff berth is 30. But can the Sox beat good teams? The answer is probably. The Yankees and Astros swept the White Sox early in the season, causing many to press the panic button. As time went on, the White Sox started winning against the top-ranked teams, recently winning three of four. At the moment, the White Sox are split with the Rays. The White Sox, while losing the recent series against the Yankees, still managed to show off on national TV during the Field of Dreams game with a walk-off two-run home run from team leader and fan-favorite Tim Anderson.
2021: The Year of the White Sox
There is no doubt in my mind that the White Sox will go far this season. As someone that always proceeds with caution, I’m hyped. Grandal returns soon. Robert and Jiménez are back to being offensive threats and run stealers in the outfield. Anderson and Abreu share the role of veteran leaders. Abreu is currently the RBI leader with 92 this season. Finally, the pitching squad is one of the best in baseball right now. The White Sox continue to climb in power rankings, and so long as they continue to stay healthy, the odds of hoisting some serious hardware this fall is pretty high.
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