2022 Record: 81-81 (.500 win%, 2nd in Division)
2022 Total Payroll: $203,205,326 (7th)
Projected 2023 Lineup (ZiPS)
- SS Tim Anderson, .293 AVG/.324 OBP/.432 SLG, 3.3 fWAR
- CF Luis Robert Jr., .273 AVG/.319 OBP/.464 SLG, 4.5 fWAR
- LF Andrew Benintendi, .274 AVG/.352 OBP/.420 SLG, 3.0 fWAR
- DH Eloy Jiménez, .269 AVG/.321 OBP/.487 SLG, 2.4 fWAR
- 3B Yoán Moncada, .251 AVG/.329 OBP/.413 SLG, 3.1 fWAR
- 1B Andrew Vaughn, .267 AVG/.336 OBP/.482 SLG, 2.9 fWAR
- C Yasmani Grandal, .226 AVG/.353 OBP/.397 SLG, 2.7 fWAR
- RF Oscar Colas, .237 AVG/.283 OBP/.408 SLG, 0.4 fWAR
- 2B Elvis Andrus, .239 AVG/.290 OBP/.364 SLG, 1.2 fWAR
Projected 2023 Rotation
- RHP Dylan Cease, 184.0 IP/3.43 ERA/1.19 WHIP, 3.7 fWAR
- RHP Lance Lynn, 176.0 IP/3.90 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 2.8 fWAR
- RHP Lucas Giolito, 181.0 IP/3.97 ERA/1.18 WHIP, 3.0 fWAR
- RHP Mike Clevinger, 135.0 IP/4.58 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR
- RHP Michael Kopech, 143.0 IP/4.24 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 1.6 fWAR
Projected 2023 Top Relievers
- RHP Kendall Graveman, 69.0 IP/3.53 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR
- LHP Aaron Bummer, 66.0 IP/3.18 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR
- RHP Joe Kelly, 63.0 IP/3.72 ERA/1.32 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR
- RHP Reynaldo López, 64.0 IP/4.16 ERA/1.22 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR
- LHP Jake Diekman, 60.0 IP/4.50 ERA/1.42 WHIP, -0.1 fWAR
The White Sox entered the offseason after an incredibly mediocre 2022 campaign, finishing 2nd in the AL Central with a .500 record and failing to make the playoffs for the first time since 2019. Perhaps the most notable change to the ball club over the last several months has been the replacement of manager Tony LaRussa by Pedro Grifol.
LaRussa stepped down permanently in September due to ongoing health concerns that made him unable to coach beginning late August. The departure of the 78-year old, emphasis on old, is likely a relief for many Southsider fans who viewed the aging veteran as out of touch and unfit to coach. A stand out moment that alienated the fanbase from LaRussa (aside from a DUI), occurred during a press conference in the spring of 2021.
After a blowout win against the Twins, he chastised rookie sensation Yermín Mercedes for swinging and hitting a homer on a 3-0 count while facing non-pitcher Willian Astudillo in the 9th. LaRussa claimed the fan favorite had made a ‘big mistake’ and would face ‘consequences’. The old-timer’s stress on unwritten rules contrasted the team’s young and energetic roster who sought to make baseball fun again.
Hopefully fans will find success through Grifol, who spent the past three seasons as the Royals’ bench coach. The former minor league catcher has experience across all facets of the game (including as a scout).
While speaking on the White Sox Talk Podcast earlier this month, Royals catcher and All-Star Salvador Perez expressed his admiration for Grifol, confident he has been ready to lead a team for ‘the last three or four years’. Perez indicated that Grifol’s emphasis on relationships and prioritizing transparency will allow him to perform as ‘one of the best managers in the game’.
In addition to changes in coaching, the White Sox failed to re-sign first baseman José Abreu, arguably the face of their franchise. The Cuban has played his entire career on the south side, debuting and winning rookie of the year in 2014.
Abreu also won AL MVP during the pandemic abridged 2020 season, when he led the league in hits (70) and RBIs (60), sporting an fWAR of 2.9 (6th in MLB). Fans will miss Abreu for his raw power, clutchness with runners in scoring positions and his excitement for the game.
Other notable losses include…
RHP Johnny Cueto: The 36 year-old finished 2022 with an impressive, yet deceptively low ERA of 3.35 (4.02 xERA). His last two seasons in Chicago rejuvenated his faltering career, achieving an fWAR of 1.5 and 2.4 in 2021 and 2022 respectively. The last time he performed at such a level occurred back in 2016 when Cueto had an fWAR of 4.9 with the Giants (12th among pitchers in MLB). Cueto signed a one-year $6 million contract with the Marlins for 2023, with a $10.5 million team option for 2024.
OF AJ Pollock: AJ voluntarily left Chicago, opting out of his final contract year, leaving $8 million on the table in the process. The former LA Dodger and World Series winner struggled to perform offensively during 2022, slashing .245/.292/.389 (0.5 fWAR). Pollock claims that he enjoyed his teammates but decided that Chicago was not the right fit. He figured that a $7 million contract with the Mariners, where he will start under Jarred Kelenic (a 23 year-old with 558 MLB plate appearances and a 2022 55 wRC+) was a better “fit”.
2B Josh Harrison: Despite providing an energetic clubhouse presence and solid offensive performance, the White Sox declined his 2023 club option. During 2022, he led the team in triples (2) and contributed more hits (99) than team staples Móncada (84) and Grandal (66), with comparable plate appearances.
His most exciting season highlight came in late June against the Blue Jays, when he drove in Abreu with a walk-off single during the bottom of the 12th. Sporting the team’s iconic ‘Southside’ City Connect jersey, Harrison assured commentator Steve Stone he was just trying ‘to pick up his teammates’ during a modest post game interview. The veteran will enter his 13th season with the Phillies this spring on a 1-year, $2 million contract.
OF Adam Engel: Engel has been with the team since they drafted him in the 19th round of the 2013 June Amateur draft. Best known as a reliable utility outfielder always willing to lay out, Engel holds an impressive career Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) of 38.9, achieving a season high 17.9 DEF during his debut 2017 season (1st in MLB among rookies).
Fans will likely remember him most for his clutch shoestring catch to save Lucas Giolito’s first career no-hitter against the Pirates in 2020. After Chicago’s decision to non-tender Engel, the Padres signed him to a 1-year contract for 2023 for an undisclosed amount.
OF Andrew Benintendi: The signing of Yankee outfielder Benintendi signifies the largest contract signing in the history of the Chicago White Sox organization. Guaranteed $75 million over 5 years, the 2021 Gold Glove winner and 2022 All-Star will hopefully provide the team with much needed defensive improvement and a left-handed bat.
Benintendi slashed .304/.373/.399 last year overall, fairing even better against right handed pitchers. Since the 2015 draft, the White Sox have sought out Benintendi. He was initially picked by the Red Sox during the first round, one slot ahead of Chicago’s draft position (ended up drafting RHP Carson Fulmer).
RHP Mike Clevinger: In order to replace Cueto, the White Sox signed Clevinger to a 1-year, $8 million deal with a $12 million mutual option for 2024. He missed all of 2021 due to an elbow injury he received during the 2020 postseason and a subsequent second Tommy John surgery.
While back in action last season, Clevinger posted his worst ERA in a season with over 100.0 IP (4.33). The velocity on his fastball also dropped 1.7 MPH to 93.5 (his lowest mark since 2017). Despite his misfortune, Clevinger retains a rather impressive resume.
Holding a career ERA of 3.39 and WHIP of 1.19, the Jacksonville native has contributed to several playoff berths while playing for the Guardians (2016-20) and Padres (2020-22). During his 7-year career, he has only failed to make the postseason twice (2019 & 2021).
Earlier this month, MLB issued a statement dismissing their investigation into claims of domestic abuse by the mother of Clevinger’s baby daughter. Even while the case was pending, the league allowed Clevinger to play with the team’s spring training roster in Arizona.
He has already made two starts in the Cactus League, pitching 6.1 innings and incurring an ERA of 7.11. While answering questions at Camelback Ranch pertaining to the accusations, Clevinger reassured fans that he is ‘here to win’ and that he chose Chicago in large part for the team’s culture.
SS/ 2B Elvis Andrus: The White Sox re-signed Andrus for a 1-year, $3 million contract earlier this year. After filling in for Tim Anderson following an injury towards the back half of last season, Andrus is now expected to serve as the team’s primary second baseman for the 2023 campaign.
The veteran, who has more service time than anyone else on the team, provided a strong bat during the late summer. While with Chicago, Andrus slashed .271/.309/.464 (181 ABs) with 9 home runs and 11 stolen bases. Andrus proved his worth during a series in September against Oakland, the team that released him a month earlier.
While at the Coliseum, the former Athletic hit 6-18 over four games, with 1 double and 2 homers. Fans are surely eager to see the Anderson-Andrus double play combo going into this season.
2023 Season Preview:
The White Sox enter the upcoming season with a lot to be excited about: A new coach who garners praise from some of the game’s best, a strong lefty bat in Andrew Benintendi, and the acquisition of a league proven pitcher.
Cease, who finished second last year in AL Cy Young voting, ended the season with a career high 184.0 IP and career low 2.20 ERA. His strong performance cemented himself as the team’s most effective slinger, but can likely not be counted on alone to propel the White Sox back to the playoffs. Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito will have to improve upon last year’s subpar performances.
With 2022 ERAs of 3.99 and 4.90 respectively, both players posted their worst earned run averages over the past 4 years. Lynn, who missed the beginning of the season due to a knee injury, had to undergo surgery, and did not start his first game until June. Giolito, a 2019 All-Star, has improved tremendously overall from his 2018 season when he posted an embarrassing 6.13 ERA (worst among qualified starts).
He blames his lackluster 2022 performance on an ‘experiment gone wrong’ when he gained 20 pounds in the offseason in order to increase strength and stamina. A concerted effort towards nutrition and maximizing athleticism this offseason can hopefully return Giolito to his 2019-2021 era, where he held an average ERA of 3.47.
Michael Kopech proved his capabilities as a starter last season with a 3.54 ERA, while pitching 50 more innings than any year during his career. Although he may have benefited from a generously low opposition BABIP of .223, nearly 100 points lower than the last two seasons, his increased experience and confidence in the starter position provides an opportunity for Kopech to contribute to a strong rotation.
As a pitcher who gained popularity from chucking heat out of the bullpen, fans may want to see an increase in velocity during 2023. His fastball speed dropped from 97.4 MPH to 95.1 from 2021 to 2022 as he pivoted to the starting role. Perhaps he can begin to notch up close to 96 MPH as he continues to develop mechanically and physically.
Only time will tell how Mike Clevinger will impact the 2023 White Sox. Fans likely desire two things: No more Tommy John or allegations.
Undoubtedly, the absence of Liam Hendriks due to a cancer diagnosis in January has impacted the team from an emotional and performance standpoint. As soon as Hendriks arrived in Chicago in 2021, he began to make an outsized impact. The Australian has made the AL All-Star team the past two years and led the league in recorded saves during the 2021 season (38). His 2.81 ERA last year was the best among White Sox relievers with at least 30.0 IP. Clearly, the bullpen has a large hole to plug entering 2023.
In addition to Hendriks, Garret Crochet (LHP) remains on the IL as he recovers from Tommy John. Crochet burst onto the scene in 2021 after Chicago drafted him a year earlier out of Tennessee. He was originally drafted by the Brewers in 2018, but denied the offer in order to play college ball. During 2021, Crochet posted a 2.82 ERA through 54.1 IP. Fans are looking forward to his return as early as May (rumored), when they can again witness his 96.8 MPH on average heater, striking out 10.77/9 IP during 2021.
Matt Foster also joined the IL on March 20th due to a strained forearm. Leading up to his injury, Foster had pitched only three innings in the Cactus League, but earned three strikeouts, giving up just one hit. Foster hopes to show a return back to his 2020 performance of a 2.20 ERA over 28.2 IP. Perhaps his 2020 xERA of 4.51 signaled the impending downtick he experienced the next two years, earning an ERA of 6.00 in ‘21 and 4.00 during ‘22.
Among the healthy relievers, Fangraphs projects Kendall Gravemen as the White Sox’s top bullpen arm. Graveman arrived in Chicago during November 2021 from the Astros and has the third highest service time among relievers on the team (behind Joe Kelly and Jake Diekman).
Since his big league debut in Toronto and the bulk of his career in Oakland, Graveman has relied predominantly on his sinker, throwing the pitch 42.6% of the time in 2022. This number is actually a career low, with the Alabama native typically reaching a mark of 55.4% during his 7-year career. The 31-year old enjoyed a season best performance in ‘21, notching a 1.77 ERA over 56.0 IP.
Graveman’s ERA and FIP stats have improved noticeably since he transitioned from a starter to a full time reliever in 2020. A benign bone tumor in his neck forced him to make the switch away from a starter while playing for the A’s, a role he certainly does not miss. When describing the shift in roles, Graveman explained he appreciates ‘being in ball games more often’.
ZiPS projects White Sox bullpen arm #1 to throw 68.0 IP (career high as reliever), notching an ERA of 3.53. Fans are eager to fill the shoes of Hendriks, a role Gravemen may very well be capable of.
Aaron Bummer, Chicago’s most prominent (healthy) lefty bullpen arm, has the opportunity to contribute to the club in a big way this season. Although Bummer has served as an excellent reliever over the last six years, with a career ERA of 3.03 (2.36 2022 ERA), his injury proneness limits his absolute effectiveness. A left lat strain last season relegated him to 26.2 IP, an injury which has carried soreness into spring training.
He just made his first Cactus League appearance against Oakland on March 24th, giving up one hit and striking out 2 over 1.0 IP. Bummer is arguably best known for his mind-bending slider, which absolutely fools Luis Arraez in this Pitching Ninja clip. During 2021, he finished behind only Jacob DeGrom in slider swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) with a rate of 32.5% (pitchers with 100+ sliders thrown). However, Bummer’s sinker, a pitch he learned at Applebee’s, has contributed the most to his career.
Although the details on the exact restaurant are fuzzy, Bummer claims his inspiration for the pitch came in 2017 while playing for the Winston Salem Dash (White Sox Class A affiliate). During a dinner with teammate Ryan Riga, the two watched Zack Britton deal his filthy slider on TV. Mesmerized, they scoured Youtube and figured out the grip, working on the pitch during BP the next day.
That same pitch has allowed Bummer to post the 4th best GB% among all MLB pitchers from 2017-22 at 68.1% (at least 50.0 IP). If he can stay healthy, there is no telling what Bummer can accomplish during the 2023 campaign.
Veteran Joe Kelly seems poised for a comeback after a career high 6.08 ERA last season. Another starter turned reliever, Kelly also suffered multiple physical hiccups throughout 2022 including a nerve injury that belated his season start. The veteran has played in three World Series, winning two of them (2018 & 2020). He won the hearts of MLB fans around the country, after throwing at and striking out Carlos Correa in the same at-bat in 2020 (during the wake of Houston sign stealing scandal).
Jomboy Media provides an excellent analysis and lip-reading of the moment here. Kelly also used his unorthodox character to make teammate Yasmani Grandal smile last year, often when no else could. Grandal experienced a frustrating injury ridden 2022, appearing at times closed off from his wife and teammates. Kelly’s comic relief was enough to make the catcher profess his love during an interview with Chuck Garfien.
White Sox fans should also expect solid performances from Reynaldo Lopez and Jake Diekman. Lopez is coming off an incredible 2022, earning an ERA of 2.76 and fWAR of 2.0. His 2022 opponent BABIP of .281 (higher than the previous two seasons) and xERA of 2.92 suggest that last year may not be an anomaly. Notably, Lopez experienced a 1.3 MPH uptick in average fastball velocity, reaching 97.1 MPH. Although Diekman posted a career worst ERA of 4.99 last year, ZiPS projects a regression towards a more positive mean, with an expected 2023 ERA of 4.50.
The 2022 White Sox finished 18th in MLB in wRC+ (99), 17th in wOBA (.306) and 22nd in HRs (149), all notable drops from 2021. Last season’s elevated .304 team BABIP (4th in MLB) indicates that their poor offensive output was not simply a product of bad luck on balls put in play. Their performance on the base paths certainly did not help the situation.
A BsR stat (Baserunning) of -3.0 put them among the bottom of the league with an abysmal 58 stolen bases (24th in MLB). Perhaps this year’s bigger bags will inspire more aggressiveness on the base paths. In an era where steals have become rare, fans are certainly hungry to see young studs like Anderson, Robert and Moncada stealing more bases. So what happened last season? Injuries were certainly the largest culprit, with Chicago’s key lineup rarely on the field at the same time.
Many expect Moncada and Grandal to make huge rebounds this season. Both players performed dramatically below preseason projections, haunted by nagging injuries that limited playing time. The Cubans each flirted with the Mendoza line during 2022, with Moncada slashing .212/.273/.353 (76 wRC+) and Grandal following suit: .202//.301/.269 (68).
Interestingly, both players’ 2022 BABIP figures of .265 and .249 represented close to career lows, implying that bad luck served a role in their less than stellar performances. ZiPs projects a 2023 turnaround for both players, with Moncada and Grandal expected to achieve wRC+ figures of 112 and 118 respectively. Each player has already juiced a tater this spring as of March 27th, two very likely previews for a season to come for both core Chicago players.
White Sox fans also enjoyed the bat of minor league stud Jake Burger this spring. The 26-year old was originally drafted by Chicago in 2017, and has spent most of his time in their farm system. Persevering through an injury riddled season, Burger got his first chance in the bigs last year, filling in for Moncada earlier in the season.
He slashed .250/.302/.458, sporting an impressive 113 wRC+ through 183 plate appearances during 2022. Burger’s Cactus League performance has also turned heads, hitting 4 home runs and driving in 9 through March 27th. Although he was not offered a roster spot for opening day, Burger is certainly a name to look out for at the hot corner.
Last year’s defensive performance leaves much to be desired for the Southside. The 2022 White Sox finished 28th in MLB defense, posting a horrendous -34.3 DEF. The worst offenders included Andrew Vaughn (-26.7), José Abreu (-11.7), Gavin Sheets (-9.2) and Eloy Jiménez (-8.6). According to Baseball Savant all three outfielders of this group (Vaughn, Jiménez, Sheets), rank in the bottom 10% in ‘Outfielder Jump’, with Vaughn scoring in the bottom 1%.
Thankfully, due to the addition of Andrew Benintendi and loss of Abreu, many of Chicago’s defensive problems may now be solved. Vaughn will return to his natural position at first and hopefully avoid contributing to more than half the team’s runs below average (fans would love DEF to be positive this season). Benintendi’s presence also allows Jiménez to stay off the field in the DH position.
Although Colas has no experience in RF, his projected -8.3 DEF is slightly better than Sheet’s performance last season. All things considered, White Sox fans should enjoy a better defensive performance from a logistics standpoint, further benefiting from improved discipline at positions like shortstop (Anderson had 12 errors last season over 79 games).
Player to Watch #1: OF Oscar Colás
Left-handed Colás originally played in Japan’s Pacific league for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, where he homered during his first team plate appearance. After defecting from Cuba in 2020, he signed with the White Sox, enjoying a $2.7 million bonus.
Throughout 2022, Colás progressed through the organization’s minor league affiliates, finishing the season with the Class AAA Charlotte Knights. Over 33 plate appearances in Charlotte, the Cuban slashed .387/.424/.645, with a wRC+ of 182. Despite this small sample size, Colás has also performed well in Arizona this spring. As of March 27th, he has gone 17-for-65, with three home runs and three RBIs.
Prospect Report rates Chicago’s #2 ranked Colás with 60/60 ‘Raw Power’ and 40/40 ‘Speed’. With more development, Grifol believes that the non-roster invitee could serve as a weapon on the base paths in addition to his slugging power. Notably, Colás has also fared well against southpaws, indicating he can succeed against any pitching matchup. During 2022, he slashed .362/.417/.533 through 115 plate appearances against lefties.
Leading up to a spring training at-bat against the Angels in early May, Colás begged Grifol for a chance to play, promising he “was going to hit a homer”. Then he did… He is certainly a player to watch this season as he competes for a starting lineup spot.
Player to Watch #2: 1B Andrew Vaughn
Vaughn seems poised for a breakout season as he returns back to his natural position at first after Abreu’s exit. While at Berkley, the California native slashed 379/.688/.485, winning the ‘Golden Spikes’ Award as a sophomore, the first Cal player ever to do so.
The most attractive aspect of Vaughn’s game is his raw power: According to Baseball Savant, he stands in the 90th and 82nd percentiles for ‘HardHit%’ and ‘Average Exit Velocity’ respectively. During 2022, Vaughn posted the 17th highest HardHit% in all of baseball at 46.8% (203 balls hit with 95+ MPH exit velocity)
The 24-year old quietly led the White Sox in homers last year (17), beating out Jiménez (16) and Abreu (15). ZiPS projects Vaughn to slash .267/.336/.482 with a 2.9 fWAR and 29 homers this season, receiving the highest 2023 home run projection out of anyone on the team. The only other player who comes close is Colás with 21.
After improving upon his stamina the prior two seasons, Vaughn believes he is “ready to play all 162 games” and has made a concerted effort during the offseason to stay more balanced in his stance, avoiding getting out in front of pitches. Will Vaughn fully replace Abreu in all of glory? Almost certainly not immediately, but he most definitely has the tools to get there.
Player to Watch #3: RHP Michael Kopech
Coming off a career best season and his first full fledged year as starter, Kopech has the opportunity to cement his role in Chicago’s main rotation and dominate against hitters in 2023. Albeit a mediocre spring training performance so far, posting an ERA and WHIP of 5.40 and 1.92 respectively through 8.1 IP as of March 27th, his prior season speaks more to his long term potential.
During 119.1 IP, Kopech achieved a career low 1.13 HR/9 ratio, with a consistent downtrend in opponent Barrel% since 2018. The 6 ‘3 slinger, who is not afraid to sport a man bun, relies predominantly on his heater (61.7% of the time), but also incorporates a slider, curveball and changeup into the mix.
Interestingly, his fastball frequency dropped down 2.6 points from 64.3% in 2021, which was coupled with a nearly 100% increase in changeup usage over the same period. Perhaps this change indicates a shift away from a strikeout-centric mentality.
Kopech has matured significantly since his Tommy John surgery in 2018 (including a lot more facial hair). His largest point of improvement will be mimizing walks, especially after a season high 11.5% BB percentage last year. Nonetheless, all indicators point in a positive direction for Kopech, with ZiPS projecting a 2023 fWAR of 1.6 (+0.6 from last season), setting up for another exciting season.
Record Prediction: 87-75 (+13 ZiPS differential)
The White Sox have taken the necessary steps to improve as a ball club. If the roster can stay healthy and Grifol executes during his managerial debut season, they certainly have a chance to take the division. Fans’ biggest concern likely focuses on the first ‘if’.
The 2022 White Sox had unbelievably bad luck with injuries. During the calendar year, Chicago incurred injuries at every one of the 16 anatomical regions of the body. This amounted to 53 total injuries and 31 IL stints, averaging an injury every 3 games last season. Perhaps management should consider trading for a better training staff.
Strength of Division:
ZiPS Projected AL Central Standings:
Cleveland Guardians: 83-79
Minnesota Twins: 80-82
Chicago White Sox: 74-88
Detroit Tigers: 71-91
Kansas City Royals: 70-92
Cleveland poses the greatest risk to the White Sox’s aspirations of a 2023 division title. Their two biggest offseason moves included signing switch hit slugger Josh Bell and veteran catcher Mike Zunino. Bell struggled in the back half of the season after his trade to the Padres. During his 53 games in San Diego, he hit below the Mendoza line, slashing .192/.316/.271.
His performance earlier in the season still proved enough to carry him to a Silver Slugger title, finishing the season with 17 home runs and a .422 SLG. Unlike Bell, Zunino struggled offensively throughout all of 2022, slashing an embarrassing .148/.195/.304 with a 0.0 fWAR. Cleveland surely expects Zunino to return to his 2021 self, when he crushed 33 homers, achieving a career high 16.0 Offensive Runs Above Average (OFF).
The club also extended 4x All-Star José Ramirez to a $141 million deal over 7-years, a similar contract fans hope management will offer former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. Cleveland’s offseason additions make them at least as dangerous as last season and therefore one of Chicago’s chief concerns, facing off 13 times this season.
The Minnesota Twins have arguably transformed their ball club more than any AL Central team this offseason. Their largest move involved signing and extending Carlos Correa for 6-years at $200 million. The 2015 AL Rookie of the Year is most known for his time in Houston, where he won the 2017 World Series and participated in the sign stealing scandal that has haunted the Astros since.
He can contribute with his bat and glove, posting a 2022 fWAR of 4.4, with ZiPS anticipating a 2023 wRC+ of 137 and All-Star caliber 5.9 fWAR. Minnesota also signed Christian Vazquez to a $30 million deal over 3 years for help behind the dish. Experience in the catching position will allow Vazquez to help develop young arms and provide leadership in the clubhouse.
Other notable moves include the trading of Luis Arraez for respectable pitcher Pablo López (3.94 career ERA) and a few prospects. Arraez has been a fan favorite in Minnesota since 2019, winning the AL batting title, a Silver Slugger award and making the All-Star team last year. Fangraphs currently projects López as the Twin’s #1 starter, and is set to start on Opening Day against the Royals. The club also traded away minor league pitcher Casey Legumina for middle infielder Kyle Farmer to serve as a utility option on the bench.
Farmer has spent the majority of his career in Cincinnati, with a career DEF of 16.3. In the hopes of some sort of revival, Minnesota also signed Joey Gallo to a 1-year deal for $10 million. Gallo went from an All-Star in 2021 to slashing .160/.280/.357 last year. Just like Cleveland, the Twins have also patched necessary holes, translating to another formidable opponent for Chicago in the AL Central.
Detroit’s offseason remained rather quiet, with the front office focusing on expanding depth rather than signing any big names. The organization’s largest offseason trade took place with the Phillies in early January, involving the movement of five players.
In exchange for giving up All-Star pitcher Gregory Soto, and INF Kody Clemens, the Tigers received utility player Nick Maton, OF Matt Vierling, and the Phillies’ 21st top prospect. Detroit also acquired veteran pitchers Michael Lorenzen (4.10 career ERA) and Matthew Boyd (4.90). Fangraphs projects Boyd as the team’s #2 starter behind Eduardo Rodriquez, while Lorenzen currently sits on the IL with a groin strain.
The Tigers allocated their attention to long term productivity, meaning their 2023 season will be determined by largely the performance of familiar faces. Unless Javier Báez, Riley Greene, Austin Meadows and Jonathon Schoop all have turnaround seasons, the Tigers will likely disappoint their fans once again during yet another year of ‘rebuilding’.
The Royals have also made it clear that a postseason run is not in the team’s immediate future. Kansas City traded away dependable Whit Merrifield to Toronto at the very end of last year’s trade deadline. In return, the Royals received two top 15 prospects from the Blue Jay’s organization. In terms of acquisitions, the club inked 7-time All-Star Aroldis Chapman to a 1-year, $3.75 million deal.
Although the 35-year old has seen his fastball velocity drop consistently since 2016, translating into a higher ERA, Chapman’s velocity still remains in the top 96th percentile of baseball. Zack Grienke was also signed on for an additional year, which will mark his 20th season in the bigs.
Kansas City also gained an additional arm in Jordan Lyles, who Fangraphs projects as their #2 starter. A few other recognizable players joined their bench including INF Matt Duffy and outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. & Franmil Reyes. Thankfully for the White Sox, Kansas City fans are likely in for another losing season, with front office focus set on the long term.
Just like the season prior, the White Sox find themselves amongst a lopsided division. Chicago’s true success will be dictated by their performances against the Guardians and Twins, with games against Detroit and Kansas City likely serving as extended spring training.
Strength of Schedule:
2023 Miles to Travel: 27,672 (28th in MLB).
Due to a new schedule implemented by MLB, teams will now face division rivals less, resulting in more interleague play. This means that the White Sox will only play the Guardians and Twins a total of 26 times in 2023. Although this may benefit the team somewhat, their loss of games against easier teams like Detroit and Kansas City may balance out any benefits gained from the schedule change.
According to Fangraphs, the White Sox will enjoy the easiest schedule out of all 30 clubs, facing teams with an average projected winning percentage of .492. This is a slight uptick from last season’s preseason estimates of .485 (+.007), alluding to the anticipated effects of more interleague play. Chicago will need to be prepared to face tougher out of division teams.
Late March and April will provide Chicago with multiple opportunities to prove themselves against non-AL Central opponents, including a season opening series against Houston on the road:
Opening Month Schedule:
- March 30-April 2 at Houston Astros
- April 3-6 vs. San Francisco Giants (Off April 4)
- April 7-9 at Pittsburgh Pirates
- April 10-12 at Minnesota Twins
- Off April 13
- April 14-16 vs. Baltimore Orioles
- April 17-19 vs. Philadelphia Phillies
- Off April 20
- April 21-23 at Tampa Bay Rays
- April 24-26 at Toronto Blue Jays
- April 27-30 vs. Tampa Bay Rays
ZiPS projects the Astros to take the AL West, while the Twins have just as good a shot as anyone to win the AL Central. The Rays, Blue Jays and Phillies are all coming off more than respectable 2022 seasons.
Toronto and Tampa Bay both earned Wild Card spots, while Philadelphia finished two wins short of a World Title last year. The White Sox will face eight opponents during March and April, who all hold an average 45.9% chance of making the postseason according to Fangraphs.
Despite Chicago’s tougher 2023 schedule, refreshing leadership under Grifol combined with strategic offseason acquisitions, create opportunity for sizable improvement over last year’s lackluster performance. As Joe Kelly put it: “We played terrible last year and were .500”. Assuming a healthier roster, an 87 win season certainly seems feasible.
Categories: 2023 Season Preview, Articles, Season Analysis
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