2022 White Sox: The Big Six Need to Produce

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Chicago White Sox fans were left with a feeling of unfulfilled promises after the Sox lost in the first round of the 2021 playoffs to the Houston Astros. The Sox were outplayed in every phase of the game by the playoff-tested Astros and went home empty for the second year in a row. It was a bitter pill to swallow for South Side fans, and almost immediately, the blame game began. The starting pitching was poor, the Sox could not get a clutch hit, and the defense was not playoff-caliber. Nobody escaped the blame for their poor showing

Once the dust settled on another disappointing playoff loss, however, Sox fans began looking ahead to the 2022 season (if there is one). Specifically, how is Rick Hahn going to take the Pale Hose from first-round losers to serious contenders? After all, the White Sox have holes at second base, right field, in the rotation, and in the bullpen. That is a lot of holes to fill for sure. However, fans who hold these sentiments may be missing out on something here. While there are holes to fill, if the White Sox are to contend for a World Series title in 2022, the Big Six must produce.

So, Who Are The Big Six?

When we say “The Big Six,” we are referring to the core of the Sox lineup as it currently exists. They are the mainstays of the team, the guys that manager Tony La Russa needs to be able to count on for the bulk of the Sox offense. If the core players do not come through, there is no second baseman, right fielder, or designated hitter that is going to carry the South Siders to the promised land in October. So, if the Pale Hose are going to seriously compete for a championship, they need consistent production from these players: Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, and Luis Robert. Let’s take a look at each of these core players.

Tim Anderson

Anderson is no doubt the ignitor of the White Sox offense. While he is not the prototypical leadoff man, when he is hitting, the Sox generally score runs in bunches. In 2021, Anderson had a slash line of .309/.338/469. He had an OPS+ of 118, his lowest in three years. While he will never be a high OBP hitter, it would be helpful if he could get closer to his numbers from 2019 and 2020, when he had OPS+ numbers of 128 and 140, respectively. He also should hit 20 home runs and steal bases in 2022. Finally, he needs to stay healthy, as he has only played in 123 games in each of his last two full seasons.

Yoan Moncada

Moncada seems to be that guy whose hometown fans either love or hate. Reading posts on social media, one can find posts suggesting he is an MVP-caliber player, while others would just as soon trade him anywhere. His 2021 season was unusual, in the sense that his overall numbers were not spectacular. He has a slash line of .263/.375/.412. Coming off a 2020 season where he battled illness all season long, his 2021 numbers were still respectable. He showed flashes of the player he could be but needs to find some consistency, especially in the power department. If he can come close to duplicating his 2019 slash line of .315/.367/.548, that would go a long way to appeasing his detractors. Perhaps more realistically, an OPS north of .850 would be a big plus to the Sox lineup.

Jose Abreu

Abreu has been Mr. Consistency since coming into the American League in 2014. He has been an RBI machine over his eight-year career, averaging over 100 RBIs a season. In 2021, Abreu managed 30 home runs and 117 RBIs, solid numbers to be sure. However, some fans will point to his career-high 143 strikeouts and 28 double-play balls as signs that he may be showing signs of age. That may or may not be the case, but one thing is certain: Jose Abreu will be in the lineup virtually every day. Excluding the 2018 season when he was injured, Abreu has missed a total of 47 games in seven seasons. As 2022 will be his age 35 season, Sox fans should not expect a sudden surge in his numbers. If he can reach 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, his teammates should pick up the slack.

Eloy Jimenez

Now things get a little interesting, as Jimenez does not yet have benchmarks in his young career. While he has a career slash line of .270/.316/.437, his contributions in 2021 were limited, due to a serious injury. Eloy only played in 55 games in 2021 and had the least productive of his three MLB seasons. Many Sox fans still believe that this young slugger still has MVP-caliber talent, and we tend to agree. If he can avoid injury while playing left field, he should be a major force in the South Siders’ lineup. A slash line of .280/,330/.550 with 30 home runs and 90 RBIs for Jimenez would go a long way to helping the Sox get to where they want to go.

Yasmani Grandal

Similar to Moncada, Grandal is somewhat of a lightning rod for South Side fans. There is very little ground when it comes to fans assessment of the veteran catcher. While his defense has been spotty, fans continue to debate his effectiveness at the plate. However, his slash line in 2021 was .240/.420./520, with an OPS+ of 157 in 93 games. Fans may not like walks, but a .420 OBP is rather exceptional. Grandal also hit 23 home runs in just 93 games, providing the Sox some left-handed power (he is a switch-hitter). He also played hurt for part of the season. Returning healthy in 2022, there is no reason to believe that he would experience much of a decrease from his 2021 numbers. A slash of .240/.400/.500 would be a solid contribution.

Luis Robert

Last, but certainly not least is Luis Robert, perhaps the most gifted player in the White Sox organization. The budding superstar was limited to just 68 games in 2021, due to an injury suffered early in May. However, in that span, he compiled a slash line of .338/.378/.567, with a robust OPS of .946. Yes, it is a small sample size, so it would not be prudent to project future production strictly off of the 2021 numbers. So Robert, like Jimenez is a wildcard, in terms of expectations for 2022. Yet, we expect him to have a solid season in 2022, assuming that he stays healthy. That said, it would not be unreasonable to expect Robert to put up a .290/.340/.480 slash line with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs. Perhaps he could add 20 stolen bases for good measure; time will tell.

The Bottom Line

So, while many Sox fans are in a panic over right field, second base, and perhaps DH, these six core players are the ones who will bear the load for the Sox offense in 2022. Sure, getting production from the other lineup spots would be very helpful to the Sox hopes. Maybe Hahn will add through free agency or trades before the season starts. Maybe the Sox will fill the open spots with players already in the organization. Either way, though, there is no way the White Sox will be serious contenders without big offensive production from the Big Six. They must be ready to carry the load on Opening Day, and, if they carry it through the season, the 2022 White Sox will be a handful for any and all foes.

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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!