Friday, December 30, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: White Sox


The Chicago White Sox were supposed to dominate the AL Central this year. Instead they ended the season in 2nd place at exactly .500, losing to the one team that made the least strides to compete going into 2022.

On one hand, I want to think the evil has been vanquished after Tony LaRussa was sent packing. But on the other hand, Pedro Grifol is not the sure bet I figured the team would go for this season, nor is he the sure bet I figured Miguel Cairo would be. And, in addition, the White Sox lost a lot of ground this year, and will be heading into 2023 without Jose Abreu. Yes, they have a lot of great players left, and could still make a run at things, but they are no longer the proven success they were in 2020 and 2021.

One of the uncertain aspects of this team is Yasmani Grandal, who was signed to catch three years ago and has not been giving prime material. Grandal did have his best season to date in 2021, but it came in a shortened season. 2022 was also shortened for the veteran backstop, but here he hit a disastrous .202 with 27 RBIs and 5 homers in 99 games. He got so much done in 93 that it was upsetting to see him so listless. 
2023 Prediction: This will be Grandal's last year on the contract, so either he's a success and gives the team what they paid for, or he's a throw-in for a deadline contender.

Also fighting injuries this year was corner infielder Yoan Moncada, who led the team in strikeouts despite only playing 104 games this year. Moncada hit .212 with 51 RBIs and 12 homers, which aren't bad power numbers, but for a guy that's wrapped up for a few more years and was supposed to be one of the big pieces of this team, it's still disappointing. At least Rhys Hoskins quieted the detractors and had an incredible year this year. Moncada needs one of those.
2023 Prediction: An improvement, and more contact production for his age-28 season. Might be one of the heroes of this team.

Lucas Giolito has been one of the league models for consistency since 2018, only missing a game or so and providing the White Sox at least 160 innings per the full seasons. The only downside is that since umpires have started checking for tack, Giolito's ERA has mysteriously gone up a bit. This season, in 30 games he had a 4.90 ERA, lowered in the last month of the season, and gave up 88 earned runs while at least striking out 177. Even though Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech have taken Giolito's place as pure aces, it's gotta be upsetting watching Gio now and thinking about what he could have been.
2023 Prediction: Maybe he recovers a little, but I don't see his ERA going below 4.

A.J. Pollock was a late throw-in to a trade that sent Craig Kimbrel to Los Angeles. Pollock's deal was beginning to grate on the Dodgers, so the Sox hung onto it. Due to injuries to Robert and Jimenez, Pollock ended up playing a lot of games in the outfield, and the 2nd-most games of any White Sock behind Jose Abreu. In that time, Pollock hit .245 with 56 RBIs and 14 homers. Far from his Phoenix days for sure.
2023 Prediction: Somebody takes a flyer on him, but I don't think he has much left.

With Grandal injured and McGuire terrible defensively, the White Sox turned to longtime minor league backstop Seby Zavala to start some games for the Sox, and he actually did pretty well, hitting .270 with 28 RBIs and and 48 hits in 61 games, in addition to some halfway decent defensive catching. Like Tomas Nido in New York, fans took to him relatively quickly.
2023 Prediction: Primarily backing up Grandal but could be starting again by the second half.

The White Sox brought up two infield prospects in 2021, and they were both firmly in the picture during the 2022 season. Gavin Sheets played 124 games this year, mostly in right field, and hit .241 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs. Pretty much on par with a lot of this team's other hitters.
2023 Prediction: I think this season means he's starting in the outfield next year? I think the plan is to DH Vaughny? But either way he'll hit 20 homers.

Meanwhile, Jake Burger, while subpar on the field, hit 8 homers and held a .250 average in 51 games. He was mostly a fill-in for Moncada, but Moncada is ultimately a bit more versatile. 
2023 Prediction: Surprise power boost from the bench, possibly doesn't make it to September?

The big surprise was netting Elvis Andrus in a waiver deal and turning him into a fitting backup for Tim Anderson. Andrus looked beaten down in Oakland, and upon joining the Sox he felt renewed, as he hit .271 with 9 homers, 28 RBIs and 11 steals in 43 games. Even if Andrus didn't get this team to October, he at least made sure they finished the season higher in the standings than the Twins.

Finally, tomorrow we look at the members of a Yankee team that did the same thing the Yankees always do.

1 comment:

  1. The Sox were a tremendous disappointment, not only with the whole manager fiasco, but the team's stars once again couldn't stay healthy. Losing Abreu will hurt for sure. Happy New Year!