The William Hill Sportsbook and sports betting sites FanDuel and DraftKings have the White Sox at 90.5 wins for the 2021 season. Predictions abound that they will surpass the Minnesota Twins and win the American League Central Division for the first time since 2008. Optimism about the South Siders seems to be ubiquitous, headlined by Tim Anderson’s declaration on a Chicago sports radio station that they are the best team in the American League.
So what could stop them?
10. Yoan Moncada: Moncada sandwiched one standout season (2019: .315/.367/.548) with two very pedestrian seasons (2018: .235/.315/.400; 2020: .225/.320/.385). He often looked lost against pitchers with quality breaking balls last season, flailing at pitches out of the strike zone like he did in 2018 when he struck out 217 times. In order for the Sox to succeed beyond a one and done playoff berth, Moncada will have to revert to his 2019 form and prove it wasn’t a fluke.
9. Yasmani Grandal: If you’re a Sox fan who believes that the best Sox catcher from 2020 is now wearing a New York Mets uniform, please raise your hand. I assure you, you’re not alone. The eye test alone contradicts the idea that Grandal is one of the best catchers in baseball, at least as far as his 2020 season with the Sox is concerned. He seemed to come up empty in every clutch situation, there were myriad defensive breakdowns, and their best pitcher enjoyed a unique synergy with a catcher named James McCann.
How important is pitch framing? Is it worth $73 million?
8. Jose Abreu: Jose Abreu is a stud. A monster. An elite nationally underrated first baseman. He is 100 percent deserving of the American League MVP award he earned last year. Without him, the Sox do not break their 12-year playoff drought. However, he is 34 years old, and it is imperative that he maintain the consistency that White Sox fans have come to expect since he signed with Chicago before the 2014 season. Any regression in performance offensively would be devastating to the White Sox.
7. The 5th starter spot: They re-signed Carlos Rodon. Reynaldo Lopez has stagnated since 2018 when he threw for 188.2 innings in 32 starts with a 3.91 era. Michael Kopech hasn’t thrown a Major League pitch in three years. This should have been tended to over the winter.
6. $54 million: This is the figure given to Liam Hendricks, the new White Sox closer. By comparison, Alex Colome, he of the 2-0 record, 0.81 era, and 12 saves in 21 games, was given a one year, $6.25 million deal by the Minnesota Twins. Will the Sox go after help if they need it at the trade deadline or did this deal hamstring them financially from making additional moves in July? Couldn’t they have re-signed Colome and spent this money on a proven veteran starter? Jose Quitana? Jake Odorizzi? Masahiro Tanaka?
5. Dallas Keuchel: Expecting Keuchel to win 75% of his decisions and pitch to an era under 2.00 again is unrealistic. It would be a lot more comfortable for Sox fans if Keuchel were the number 4 starter in the rotation rather than the 2 or 3.
4. Lance Lynn: At 34 years old in May, nothing is more essential than Lynn staying healthy for the duration of the season and taking the ball at least 30 times. He missed the entire 2016 season when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals recovering from Tommy John surgery.
3. Adam Eaton: Eaton isn’t good anymore. This seems like a soggy Band-Aid. With a lack of depth of outfield prospects in the system, right field could be an issue offensively (again) all season long.
2. DH: This is supposed to be the year. Contention and success are a requirement, not a faint, distant hope. Leaving this spot for a rookie, 2019 first round draft pick Andrew Vaughn, who has never played above High A ball (.252/.349/.411; 3 hr, 21 rbi in 129 plate appearances) is negligent.
Sox fans, keep an eye on how Kyle Schwarber does with the Washington Nationals this year. The Sox could have had Colome, Quintana, Odorizzi, and Schwarber for roughly the amount they chose to spend on Hendricks.
1. Rick Hahn: Dress him up in his pressed white button down shirt and expensive loafers and sprinkle in his Harvard vocabulary, fine. He is still the guy that traded Fernando Tatis, Jr. for James Shields.
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