Previewing The 2023 Chicago White Sox

- Sam Fretto

By: Sam Fretto

Spring training is wrapping up and the regular season is right around the corner. Baseball is back! For some this is a breath of fresh air as their team is a World Series contender, such as the New York Mets, or they’re a young squad with unlimited potential that made strides and are looking to break out, such as the Seattle Mariners. For others, you may not be as excited. You could be a Chicago White Sox fan, a team that flashed insane potential in 2020 and 2021 and threw it all away in 2022. After finishing the 2022 campaign 81-81 and finishing 2nd in a very bad AL Central, it’s hard to determine where the White Sox will finish in 2023.

Headed into the offseason, the White Sox had a lot of question marks. Tony La Russa had stepped down and the White Sox were in the search for a manager. They hired Pedro Grifol, a bench coach for the Kansas City Royals. Outfield has been a hole for the White Sox with Eloy Jimenez being a butcher in the outfield and the Sox not having a real right fielder since Avisail Garcia in 2019, they could’ve signed Bryce Harper in 2019, but he was too expensive for them. This offseason they went out and signed Andrew Benintendi to the franchises’ largest contract in history, 5 years and $75 million. On the farm, right fielder Oscar Colas quickly made a name for himself and has earned the opportunity to be on the Opening Day Roster and likely be the starting right fielder. They re-signed Elvis Andrus to a 1 year $3 million deal to play 2B, a spot that he played and provided valuable at bats in. The last big move the White Sox made was letting Johnny Cueto walk and signing Mike Clevinger to a 1 year $10 million deal. He rounds out the starting rotation for the White Sox.

The Floor – (78-84) 3rd Place in AL Central

The Chicago White Sox 2022 season was abysmal by their standards heading into the season and it seemed like their 81-81 record was absolute rock bottom. Between injuries to the team, mismanagement, career-worst seasons from players and a roster that had many holes that couldn’t be filled with midseason additions, finishing 81-81 seemed like a miracle. Yet that’s what the White Sox finished.

The team is very talented and heading into 2023, the team is arguably just as talented. With Andrew Vaughn, a former 3rd overall pick, primed to have a breakout season and continue the lineage of great White Sox first basemen going all the way back to Frank Thomas, he can fill the shoes of what Jose Abreu brought to the table in 2022. Other players that are looking to bounce back from their awful 2022 seasons are 3B Yoan Moncada and C Yasmani Grandal. Both of these guys struggled with injuries much of the year and Yasamni Grandal posted a career-low -0.4 WAR meanwhile Yoan Moncada posted his worst WAR in his career with over 100 games played in a season with 0.9 WAR.  Luis Robert only played 98 games and Eloy Jimenez only played 84. These things could happen again and it would be rock bottom, this is why 78 wins is the absolute floor for this team.

The Ceiling – (87-75) 1st Place in AL Central

92 wins was more than enough to win the AL Central in 2022 as the White Sox finished in 2nd at 81 wins. However, the AL Central is supposed to be much better than it was last year. The Royals and Tigers, two teams that are rebuilding, but slowly improving will certainly be playing better. The Minnesota Twins, who finished 78-84, also had a lot go wrong last year such as having star CF Byron Buxton play in just 92 games. As it currently stands, the Cleveland Guardians are the odds favorite to win the division just edging out the Minnesota Twins. On Fangraphs, the Twins are the favorite to win the division. The projected win total for the Twins to win the AL Central is 83. The Guardians sit at 2nd with 82 projected wins, and the Chicago White Sox sit 3rd projected at 80 wins. 87 wins will be more than enough wins to win the division and this is the White Sox ceiling.

The stats mentioned in the previous section are the exact reason their ceiling is at 87 wins. The White Sox did lose Jose Abreu and he was one of their best hitters, but Andrew Vaughn is looking to break out. Beyond that, the odds that Yasmani Grandal puts up a negative WAR again are very low just because Grandal is so good at drawing walks his OBP alone will keep him near replacement level.

Yoan Moncada has had an up-and-down career thus far, in 2018 not quite living up to his number 1 prospect title, but having a breakout season in 2019 putting him in the conversation as one of the best 3rd basemen in the league. Then in 2020, a weird year for everyone he was awful. However, he bounced back in 2021, not replicating the power he had in 2019, but doing most of what he did that season. I believe in Moncada and I don’t see him having another down year like how he did in 2022. However, this is a make-or-break year for Moncada.

Luis Robert was an absolute force en route to his call up to the majors, he was a 5 tool player that could do it all. In reality, Julio Rodriguez is what many thought Luis Robert could be when he hit the majors. However, that hasn’t been Luis. Robert has been a very good defender in CF and has flashed power potential but he chases pitches far too often as of now to ever hit 30+ home runs in a season. Luis Robert is set to not only play more than 100 games in a season but also put it all together and finally break out to be the superstar many thought he could be.

One of the final keys for the White Sox to truly reach their ceiling is Eloy Jimenez. In his rookie season in 2019, Jimenez hit 31 home runs. Many thought he was the next elite power hitter of Major League Baseball. If you combine his next 3 seasons together, he hit a total of 40 home runs… Eloy Jimenez had a hard time staying healthy after the 2020 season, as he played in 55 of the 60 games that season. The following season he only played in 55 and then 84 in 2022. Eloy Jimenez is slated to be a DH for much of the season with occasional play in the outfield when one of the starters needs a day off. This will surely increase how many games he will be available because Eloy has injured himself multiple times in the outfield. Infamously in 2021, he tore a pec during a spring training game because he decided to hang on the wall with his arm trying to rob a home run he had no chance of robbing. Getting him out of the outfield is imperative.

All the possible things that could have gone wrong for the Chicago White Sox in 2022 did go wrong. Injuries, underperformance, mismanagement, and just plain bad luck during some of the games, yet they still finished 81-81. I’m not sure where the White Sox finish in the AL Central or if they make the playoffs, however, I say it is much more likely they hit their ceiling than hit their floor. I’m not overly optimistic for the White Sox this year as they haven’t given me anything to be thrilled about and they’re going to have to make me buy-in for this season. However, if there was a season to do it, it would be this one as they have many of their former top prospects ready to break out.

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