Prior to the start of the 2021 season, I wrote about three players I felt would have a bounce-back season. Now that the playoff schedule has been released and we’re reaching the final stretch, I wanted to check in on the players I selected for the White Sox. I think it’s safe to say these players have had a bounce-back season and will continue to shine for the White Sox in 2021. I might even say the White Sox have some of the best pitchers in baseball right now.
2021 Bounce-back Player #1: Dylan Cease
Coming off an incredible outing against the Blue Jays earlier in the week, Dylan Cease reminded everyone that he can in fact be very good. I will admit that I occasionally worry about what version of Dylan will take the mound on any given day, but as playoffs loom, I’m surprisingly less concerned about Cease. He seems to be keeping a level head in tough situations, something I couldn’t say in 2020. His ERA has continued to improve as well. In 2019 his ERA was 5.79. In 2020, 4.01.
As of right now in 2021, his ERA sits at a 3.92, proving that he has come a long way as a young pitcher. Though he continues to surprise as he soon turned into a pitcher that can rake. In his first-ever major league at-bat on May 4, he had a base hit that loaded the bases for Tim Anderson. Cease ended the game by going 3-3 for every plate appearance and recorded six strikeouts. Turns out Cease was one of the best hitters on his high school team where he played Shortstop.
2021 Bounce-back Player #2: Reynaldo López
“This year will be the year we get 2018 Reynaldo López back. I can feel it in my bones.” – Me in March of this year.
Shall we take a painful journey through his stats? For his first year, he played in the Dominican Summer League for the Nationals before getting the call-up in July of 2016. López had an ERA of 4.91. In 2017, the first time in a White Sox uniform, 4.72. The next year got a little better, more consistent at least with a posted ERA of 3.91. But 2019 and 2020 would prove to be rough, finishing with 5.38 and 6.49. López did not make the Opening Day roster in 2021 as he continued to bounce between Charlotte and Chicago. It seems as though corrective eye surgery and time in the minors would put López back on track. His spot starts while Carlos Rodón has been out, albeit a sample size, has been nothing short of incredible. His current ERA is 1.86 in his 29 innings pitched with 30 strikeouts.
2021 Bounce-back Player #3: Micheal Kopech
Even in the original article, I admitted to not really doubting Michael Kopech. He was on my list after missing a considerable amount of baseball due to injury and taking the 2020 season off to focus on his physical and mental health and growing family. Kopech is currently serving as a bullpen arm, often going one or two innings, and has had the occasional spot start on doubleheader days.
It seems as though Tony La Russa’s plan is to stretch him out for a potential starting rotation start for 2022, though as of late, only pitching an inning or two every few days leads me to wonder if that is still the plan for Kopech. That said, Kopech has been a threat this season. In 49.2 innings pitched, Kopech has 69 strikeouts, an ERA of 2.92, and a WHIP of 1.107. His ERA in 2018, the last season he pitched professionally, was 5.02.
2021 Bounce-back Player Bonus: Carlos Rodón
Where do I even begin with Carlos Rodón? Plagued with injuries, being non-tendered in 2020, signed for a cheap one-year contract for 2021, and then throwing a no-hitter and becoming an absolute threat to the league this season. I think that’s the best short synopsis, but I wrote a longer article about his journey if you’re curious.
Rodón has had a rough career, with his highest ERA coming in at 8.22 for the 2020 season and 5.19 in 2019. After the announcement of his return for 2021, I said in my best Michael Bluth impression “that guy? Him?” Now I’m happily eating crow and finding myself looking forward to ever start as if it’s appointment viewing. I was elated to see him pitch in person in July. Rodón has pitched 109.2 innings and recorded 160 strikeouts. Oh, and that no-hitter back in April. I never know what to expect from the White Sox front office, but if Rodón isn’t going to be calling the South Side of Chicago home next season, I’ll suddenly fear him on whatever team he ends up with.
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