The AL Central seems to have a new sheriff in town as the White Sox look like the cream of the crop. Cleveland and the Twins have been at the top of the division for the past five years or so, but Chicago threw their hat in the ring last season and it seems they’re not satisfied with just one year of success. The team made it to the postseason for the first time since 2008 and was dispatched by Oakland in the expanded playoffs. What’s in store of the south side this season? It seems something special.
Key Additions: Lance Lynn, Adam Eaton, Liam Hendricks
Key Subtractions: Steve Cishek, Alex Colomé, James McCann, Gio González, Edwin Encarnación, Nomar Mazara
Thinking the White Sox are going to be better in 2021 while seeing the number of subtractions to their roster feels a little off. In reality, the additions they made are much better quality, and therefore, makes up for the quantity of players lost. The one thing that’s a bit of a head-scratcher is Edwin not having a job. He wasn’t very good last season, but he’s legitimately been one of the best hitters in the league for the past decade. Only once since 2012 has his OPS dipped below .850 (2018, .810) so there’s no reason to believe he inexplicably fell off a cliff in 2020.
Other than that, I think the team did very well for themselves. Bringing back Spanky (Eaton) while getting two very solid arms helps make this team scary. Lynn will be the number three starter behind Giolito and Keuchel, giving the White Sox a rotation they can rely on in the regular season and in the playoffs. Hendricks has been one of the better relievers in baseball for the past few years and he adds a go-to, shut down guy out of the pen very few can compete with. Adding Liam into the mix to go along with Aaron Bummer, Jace Fry, Matt Foster, and Evan Marshall makes this bullpen look like one of the best in baseball.
Beyond the additions made, the team should have better production from returning players. Yoán Moncada wasn’t very good in 2020, but there’s reason to believe it was a fluke and that he’ll look more like his 2019 version this time around. His improvement to go along with the natural progression of Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert should make this an extremely formidable team. I think Moncada is going to make the biggest impact on this team compared to anyone. Yoán was the best prospect in baseball at one point in time with some comparing him to Robinson Canó with 30-steal potential. Outside of his 2019, Moncada hasn’t lived up to that. He’s still only 25 and all the data I’ve seen suggests he should be starting his prime now. I know many think Robert may be the all-world talent on this team, but it may be, in fact, Yo and this could be the year he shows it.
There are a number of top prospects in Chicago’s farm system that could impact the Major League roster this season. Garrett Crochet impressed in his debut after being drafted in 2020. The lefty from Tennessee made it the Majors very quickly but he was not overwhelmed in the slightest. It was only six innings of work, but his eight K’s with no runs allowed was very impressive. He has the stuff to compete at the highest level right now and he showed a glimpse of how that would work. Micheal Kopech is another live arm the White Sox have at their disposal who will more than likely be in Chicago as some point this season. The tall righty is armed with a deadly one-two combo in his triple-digits fastball and wicked slider. If he made enough improvements during the 2020 season in which he sat out, he could be an absolute stud.
Andrew Vaughn, the team’s best prospect, is also someone to look out for in 2021. The former Cal Bear standout has been a menace in the Minors at the plate and he isn’t far off from doing damage in the bigs. Officially, he hasn’t played above High-A but there was nothing but positive things going out of the team’s alternate site about the first baseman. He’s one of the best hitters in professional baseball and he should get the chance to show that in a White Sox uniform sooner rather than later. I mentioned it being a bit odd the team didn’t bring back Encarnación; this guy is probably the main reason for that. Another guy worth mentioning is Johnathan Striever. The righty from Indiana didn’t perform well in his debut, but I think we can chalk it up to nerves and a small sample. Striever had never played above High-A before 2020 so going to the Majors was quite the leap; one many don’t make easily. He has the stuff to get hitters out and it is plausible he could be an important piece out of the pen come October.
This team has talent coming from everywhere so it is easy to see why many people expect them to win the division. I’m pretty comfortable saying this is the best team in the AL Central and that they’re likely to win 95 game or so. Some people have them pegged to win it all. For now, I think we best stick with a division title.