In 2020, the Chicago White Sox chose the marketing slogan “Change The Game”. Since then, the Sox have made playoff appearances in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the team’s long history. The South Siders began a rebuild at the winter meetings back in 2016 by trading Chris Sale to the Red Sox in exchange for four prospects, most notably Michael Kopech and Yoan Moncada.
The team would spend the next few years collecting prospects and developing talent. That process is over, and the time to win is now. The 2022 version of the Chicago White Sox is ready to contend assuming they can get healthy and stay that way. Let’s look at five reasons Sox fans should get pumped about 2022 and ready for a parade following a World Series championship.
1. Light Tower Power
The Sox have power throughout the entire lineup and should hit home runs at an alarming rate for the rest of major league baseball. Zips projections have the White Sox tied for sixth with the Twins in all of baseball for home run totals in 2022 at 241. Considering the park the Sox play in, they may be able to cruise past this number while the Twins total could prove to be a stretch. Sluggers like Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Andrew Vaughn, and Yasmani Grandal could all easily hit 25 or more home runs. Yoan Moncada and Gavin Sheets could also add hefty twenty-plus home run totals to the mix.
The slugging ability on this team, particularly against left-handed pitching, should prove a positive for the White Sox. While the Sox are heavily right-handed hitters, the ability to slug shows no favoritism to a certain side of the plate and should give a big boost to the runs scored department for the Sox. With Tim Anderson leading the charge from the leadoff spot, the Sox should score early and often in ball games this year, resulting in a plethora of crooked numbers on the scoreboard for the good guys!
While the Sox were a good baseball team in 2021, the lack of depth showed up in a big way. Andrew Vaughn did everything he could to play several different defensive spots last year, it seemed to hamper his development at the plate. Vaughn was one of a few different White Sox fighting to fill in holes on the roster. With no definitive answer to right field, the carousel proved costly. The Sox traded Nick Madrigal leaving an additional hole at second-base which the Sox felt they filled with Cesar Hernandez coming over via trade from Cleveland. Hernandez fell well short of expectations in 2021 leading the Sox to decline his option in 2022.
This year looks different, and the opening weekend series in Detroit showed some of the differences. During the offseason the White Sox added depth especially with the position players and bullpen. Free-agent addition Kendall Graveman looked great out of the pen going 2 and 2/3 innings only allowing one hit. Among other additions, Josh Harrison looked steady at second base and played third base in the series finale looking outstanding in that role as well. With the loss of Yoan Moncada for the first three weeks or so of the regular season, having the experience and ability to play multiple positions is a definite plus and Harrison provides that. He does not need to hit .300 to get on base, turn the lineup over from the bottom, and play solid defense.
A.J. Pollock got off to great start going 4 for his first seven at the plate before being forced to exit Saturday’s contest due to a tight hamstring. Pollock was set to leave the team for a stint on the maternity list either way so he will be missing some time regardless. While the loss is definitely a blow to the Sox, starting Adam Engel in right field could actually be a defensive upgrade while also allowing Andrew Vaughn a few more opportunities for some at-bats.
This depth is a stranger to the White Sox, and something Rick Hahn and company have quietly snuck into the organization the past few weeks. The Pollock addition essentially for even money for Craig Kimbrel was more than most would have expected the Sox to get in return for the closer everyone knew they needed to move. While it doesn’t mean the Sox are clear of the original Kimbrel trade being a loss, it does take the sting out of it quite a bit assuming Pollock can come back healthy and be a contributor which he should be able to do.
Last year did not end the way the White Sox and their faithful had hoped, but the team did gain experience for the young stars, including some playoff games. Tony La Russa is no stranger to postseason baseball, and now his team is not either. Going into 2021, the addition of closer Liam Hendriks was huge for the Sox and added playoff experience also. Hendriks was a part of the Oakland A’s squad that knocked the 2020 White Sox out of the postseason. Hahn had been open with the media about wanting to add that experience and another year of baseball for the White Sox has done just that.
Part of experience is development of talent, and players like Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets should benefit immensely from the 2021 campaign. Vaughn is better equipped to handle 162 game season this year along with Sheets and a few others who had never experienced that. This should benefit the entire club as they take off for a marathon race to October.
Sox fans will have to hear me out on this one. While we all know the season has not started the way the Sox would have liked with ace Lucas Giolito and ace two Lance Lynn both headed to the injured list, we do have to remember that injuries are a part of the game. While the prognosis is less than appealing with Lynn having knee surgery, it could prove to be the extended build up pitchers typically get with a six week spring training. A front-line starter having surgery at the beginning of the season before he ever takes the mound in a regular season game is always less than ideal, but it is better than having Lynn go down at the beginning of a playoff push or worse yet, during the postseason. The Sox should be able to stay in front of the AL Central long enough for Lynn to return or at least in close contention. No reason to panic and rush Lynn back.
Lucas left his opening day start an inning or two before he would have liked due to what the ace described as “a little tweak” in his lower left abdomen on three straight pitches during the fourth inning. Again, better now than later. While the Sox are being cautious with Giolito and not rushing him back, the team said he could miss as few as a couple starts. Sox fans should expect this to be closer to four or five starts and possibly longer. If the Sox want to compete for a World Series in 2022 these two guys need to be at full strength and that could take some patience.
In the meantime, Dylan Cease looks poised to make a run at an AL Cy Young Award as long as he can stay healthy. The Sox flamethrower shut down the Tigers, allowing just two hits and one run through five innings on Saturday in frigid Detroit. Adding Kopech to the rotation this year means more strikeouts and whiffs, something White Sox pitchers are no strangers to. Lucas Giolito (483) and Dylan Cease (478) were both in the top five swinging strike leaders last year and should be close to that again this year.
- Lucas Giolito
- Lance Lynn
- Dylan Cease
- Michael Kopech
- Dallas Keuchel
While it may not be the best rotation in baseball, it is close, and with an offense that should be quite potent, this could equal a ton of wins.
5. Tim Anderson
The White Sox have indeed changed the game on the Southside. They are no longer looking forward to seeing what this team can be. The time to win is upon them and they know it. Jose Abreu has proverbially passed the torch as the team’s leader, and what a leader he passed it to. Tim Anderson leads the White Sox and as he goes, go the Chicago White Sox. It is long overdue this game and it’s fans start respecting Tim Anderson for what he is. A great baseball player that happens to be overly entertaining to watch.
A never say die attitude coupled with a passion for getting better every single day is exactly what this group needs and when Tim is in the lineup, watching a White Sox game is different. This team seems to follow suit with whatever Anderson does and with his passion for being great, they should not yield to anyone.
When fully healthy this rotation is scary. While the Sox should have given Carlos Rodon at least a qualifying offer, this staff is still nasty. If Dallas Keuchel can be serviceable and eat innings every fifth day, look out baseball. Adding Vice Velasquez and Johhny Cueto should be innings eaters throughout 2022 should the Sox deal with even more injuries to the rotation or a lack of production from Keuchel or Kopech.
Enjoy the ride White Sox fans, 2022 should be fun!
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images