2023 Rival Preview: The White Sox are looking for a rebound with new management
By Evan Stack9 months ago
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each American League team and discuss their 2022 season, their offseason moves, and their 2023 outlook.
2022 Season Recap…
After a 93-win season in 2021 in which they won the AL Central, the White Sox took a few steps back in their 2022 campaign. Chicago finished at an even 81-81, and had several of their stars miss time with injuries. The unfortunate part of this was that the AL Central was one of the weaker divisions in baseball. Even the Minnesota Twins, who figured to be Chicago’s biggest competition for the division title, finished three games back of Chicago at the conclusion of the season.
CF Luis Robert, LF Eloy Jimenez, SS Tim Anderson, 3B Yoan Moncada, and C Yasmani Grandal were among the list of notable names to miss long stretches of time due to injury. Missing these key cogs threw more on the shoulders of Leury Garcia, Gavin Sheets, and Adam Engel, who had historically been reserve players in backup roles While Robert and Jimenez have routinely missed games thus far in their young careers, Moncada and Anderson were key building blocks in Chicago’s rise to champion form.
Chicago’s top offensive performers at the plate were 1B Jose Abreu and RF Andrew Vaughn. Abreu was his same, reliable self in 2022, playing in 157 games and batting .304 with 15 homers, 75 RBIs, and 40 doubles. Abreu has played in at least 128 games in every full season of his career. He even played in all 60 games of the COVID-shortened season in 2020.
Vaughn led the White Sox in both home runs and RBIs, and showed vast improvements in only his second MLB season. Vaughn offered some defensive flexibility as well, logging time at first base and in the outfield.
The rotation went through its ups and downs, but there were tons more downs. We’ll start with the biggest “up” in Dylan Cease, who finally broke through and had the best season of his young career. His strikeout stuff had always been there, Cease led the AL in 2021 with a 12.3 K/9. His ERA has improved every single year, but 2022 was the year he put his name on the map.
Cease owned a 2.20 ERA over 32 starts and 184 innings. Although he led the league in walks, he was 5th in the MLB in strikeouts. How he didn’t end up on the All-Star team is beyond me, but he finished second in Cy Young voting, and even received some MVP votes.
The rest of the rotation was abysmal. Dallas Keuchel was DFA’d after having a 7.88 ERA through 8 starts. After a 3rd place finish in the Cy Young in ’21, Lance Lynn missed the first portion of the season due to surgery on his knee, but he had a solid 3.99 ERA through 21 starts. Lucas Giolito was probably the biggest shock of them all, posting a 4.90 ERA through 30 starts. That ERA was Giolito’s worst since 2018, but hey, at least he was healthy.
When the White Sox are at full strength, they have nothing but talent up and down their lineup. That would hint at them being a contending team, hence, making the offseason moves of a contender. That simply was not the case this offseason, as Chicago’s biggest moves were signing LF Andrew Benintendi, SP Mike Clevinger, and 2B Elvis Andrus.
Benintendi was an All-Star last season with the Royals, and was eventually traded to the Yankees prior to the trade deadline. Although he got hurt towards the end of the season, his 140 hits would’ve placed him second on the ’22 White Sox in that category. He likely slides into a role near the top of the order where he’s been for the majority of his career, and replaces AJ Pollock (who signed elsewhere in free agency) in left field.
Clevinger’s case has turned into a very sticky situation. During his time in Cleveland, Clevinger evolved into a pitcher with ace potential, but since 2020, he has found himself in the news about his behavior more often than his pitching performance. Earlier this calendar year, Clevinger became the subject of a domestic violence investigation involving one of his children and the child’s mother. While the investigation is still ongoing, the White Sox have allowed Clevinger to participate in spring training as of now, and are preparing as normal.
If Clevinger is cleared to pitch, his track record suggests he will be a great addition to a rotation that already consists of established arms, but that’s a pretty big “if.”
Andrus is listed as a second baseman because that’s exactly what he will play; with shortstop being Anderson’s spot to lose, Andrus is likely to split time with Garcia and Romy Gonzalez at second. If Anderson gets hurt, the White Sox have Andrus to fill in as someone who is more than familiar with the role.
Chicago also signed INF Hanser Alberto, OF Jake Marisnick, CF Billy Hamilton, and OF Victor Reyes to minor league deals. While none of those guys are game-changers, they are guys who have seen plenty of major-league action that could come into play if and when their number gets called.
The White Sox unfortunately departed with a staple of their organization in Abreu, who signed a 3-year deal with the Astros. Abreu had been a member of the White Sox organization since 2014, and while the numbers and accolades are aplenty on his resume, what the team will miss more than anything is his consistency. As I mentioned earlier, Abreu’s availability has been his best ability. Per his MLB profile page, he has only been placed on the injured list twice in his tenure with the White Sox. I’d sign the petition that has his jersey retired by the organization, no doubt.
My take on Chicago’s 2023 outlook…
For the ChiSox, the ceiling is high, but the floor is really low. With the new league schedule changes, the White Sox aren’t going to get as many chances to beat up on the Royals and Tigers. It may be a hot take, but another mediocre season might push the White Sox into being sellers at the trade deadline in order to get value back for what they have. Giolito, for instance, is a free agent in 2024, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if contenders were on the phone kicking tires on a potential rental trade.
That’s only if the White Sox struggle again. The possibilities with a high ceiling/low floor are endless, so there’s a very real possibility that they win the division as well. For that to happen, they’re going to need bounce-back years from Grandal, Anderson, and Moncada. Furthermore, this would also be an ideal year for one or both Robert and Jimenez to have a breakout season. They’re both extremely capable, and more will be thrown on their plates offensively with Abreu out of the picture.
While the outfield spots are set, any injuries might provoke the promotion of prospect Oscar Colas to the majors. Colas is the second overall prospect in Chicago’s organization, and while he was at one point a two-way player, he appears to be a very good hitting prospect and will likely see time with the White Sox this season regardless of what happens.
A rebound season from Giolito would also be a welcome sight, especially with the White Sox seeing how good he is when he is positively producing. The team is also hoping to get an injury-free year out of SP Michael Kopech. Kopech is on track after having surgery on his knee during the offseason. He also suffered shoulder inflammation at the end of last year, but that’s been the narrative on Kopech – the talent is off the charts, but he just can’t stay healthy.
Some unfortunate news hit the organization in January, as the team found out that stud closer Liam Hendriks would begin treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Hendriks has been one of the game’s elite closers in the last few seasons, and his absence will allow Kendall Graveman to most likely serve as the team’s closer. The White Sox haven’t provided any time frame yet on how much time Hendriks could miss, but I can speak on behalf of Blue Jays Nation by saying that we hope he’s back out there soon!
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