While the Chicago White Sox sit and wait idly as the clock ticks on during the lockout, fans’ minds tend to wander as mine often does towards next season and what the team may look like and what they can accomplish. The Southsiders accomplished plenty in 2021 winning the AL Central and hosting a home playoff game for the first time in what seemed like forever. As always, there will be new challenges and new challengers making a push towards the AL Central crown and an American League pennant. So what team or teams will be ready to take on the Southsiders and give them a run for their money?
The Cleveland Guardians previously known as the Cleveland Indians will have a new team name and a new brand to sell to their fans. Could the Guardians make a run to the postseason and pass the White Sox in their inaugural season? While Cleveland has a solid fan base and is beloved in their city, many baseball fans don’t know what to expect from the club in 2022.
While the Guardians will undoubtedly have holes to fill on their 2022 roster the starting rotation looks good on paper. We cannot predict what the rest of free agency and the offseason will bring but I would be shocked to see Cleveland add a frontline starter or even one who could crack the rotation barring an unforeseen injury or trade before, or during spring training. The current rotation includes Cy Young award winner Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, Cal Quantrill, and youngster Triston McKenzie. While a few of these may not be household names, the Guardians like what they have in the rotation, and judging by a quick glance at their 2021 numbers, they should.
With Bieber as their ace, at least every fifth day could prove to be tough for teams around the league including the White Sox. Bieber has posted an 11.5 career WAR and a respectable 3.29 career ERA. While the rest of the staff are relatively unknown, their projections are pretty good. The five starters mentioned are projected to have a combined 3.84 ERA and a combined 1.176 WHIP. These projections combined with a good bullpen would put them right near the top teams in 2021. That is of course assuming everyone stays healthy happy and in Cleveland.
While Cleveland will be able to pitch at or near the top of the American League next year, they may prove to be offensively challenged. The opening day lineup may look something like this. I will add the White Sox lineup so you can give it a quick comparison for yourself. These are only projections based on what I think the two clubs may look like.
Cleveland Guardians Chicago White Sox
- Myles Straw ( CF ) 1. Tim Anderson ( SS )
- Amed Rosario ( SS ) 2. Yoan Moncada ( 3B )
- Jose Ramirez ( 3B ) 3. Jose Abreu ( 1B )
- Franmil Reyes ( DH ) 4. Eloy Jimenez ( LF )
- Bobby Bradley ( 1B ) 5. Luis Robert ( CF )
- Bradley Zimmer ( RF ) 6. Yasmani Grandal ( C )
- Oscar Gonzales ( LF ) 7. Andrew Vaughn / Gavin Sheets ( DH )
- Austin Hedges ( C ) 8. Michael Conforto ( RF )
- Andres Gimenez ( 2B ) 9. Jean Segura ( 2B )
While Ramirez and Reyes slotting in the middle of the order can definitely do damage, who will consistently be on base for them to hurt opposing teams? Josh Naylor and other Guardians figure to be in the mix to get considerable amounts of playing time as well in multiple positions. The question marks in left field and second base are just exactly that. While there is still time for teams to make roster moves once the lockout ends, the Guardians don’t seem all that interested in making any large free-agent acquisitions and I can’t blame them. I just do not think this roster is ready to win or compete with teams like the White Sox.
Terry Francona will manage his tail off and have these guys in contention for a good stretch of the season but I just cannot envision the Guardians being able to produce enough runs offensively to keep up with high-powered offenses like Chicago. If they fall out of contention early or find themselves too far off the pace at the deadline in July, I would also expect them to trade a piece or two possibly including the two best players on their roster in Bieber, and Ramirez. Jose is a switch-hitting monster that fits in the middle of any lineup and Bieber becomes most teams’ first or second-best starter immediately depending on where he would land. Bottom line: the Guardians should not compete for AL Central supremacy in 2022. This division should again, belong to the White Sox.
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