Fantasy Breakdown: Chicago White Sox for 2021

A preview of the White Sox lineup, rotation, and bullpen for 2021

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

At A Glance

Despite subjecting their fanbase to perhaps the most widely-panned managerial hire since Dwight Schrute, it’s hard to recall the last time the South Siders approached a season with such anticipation. After missing the AL Central division title by one game with a 35-25 record in 2020, the White Sox move forward with expectations befitting a team that has seen the light at the end of a long and dark rebuild. All three phases of this team’s game have strong foundations, and a look at the top two-thirds of the lineup and rotation makes it easy to see why they’re viewed as neck-in-neck favorites with the back-to-back reigning division champion Minnesota Twins. The Pale Hose led the American League in hits, home runs, and slugging while finishing second in runs scored. Even with reigning MVP José Abreu due for some regression, this remains one of the most feared lineups in the game, though depth is a real issue. The rotation’s front three of Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance Lynn can run with any other in the AL, but the difference-maker will be whether Dylan Cease and/or Michael Kopech can finally make good on their tantalizing potential. And with the addition of Liam Hendriks, their bullpen shifts from sneaky-good to not-so-sneaky good, now boasting three of the league’s 15 most valuable relievers by rWAR since 2019. The Sox will hope to follow in the footsteps of their crosstown rivals in moving from afterthought to breakout stars to World Series champions, but it remains to be seen how they’ll respond to a level of pressure they have yet to experience in their young careers.

 

Hitters

By Austin Bristow II

Projected Lineup

 

Infielders

 

Yasmani Grandal (Catcher)

2020: 27 R, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB, .230/.351/.422 | C #9

2021 ADP: 140.49 (C #5)

Yasmani Grandal has been a top catcher for nearly a decade, providing a high on-base and solid power option at the weakest hitting position on the diamond. This is still the case, despite a relatively worse 2020 season. In 46 games, Grandal had his lowest average since 2014 likely due in part to a career-high 30% K-rate. However, none of this is should deter you from drafting Grandal as a safe top-ten catcher with top-five upside.

 

José Abreu (First Base)

2020: 43 R, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 0 SB, .317/.370/.617 | 1B #2

2021 ADP: 34.1 (1B #4)

The reigning American League MVP, José Abreu had a career season (or a very hot two and a half months, depending on who you ask). Playing in all 60 games of the season, his numbers were career-highs across the board. Despite providing zero stolen bases, Abreu’s monstrous numbers made him the 7th best player in fantasy. While he’ll likely not perform to this level again, Abreu will still be a reliable source of power and counting numbers at a relatively weak first base position. Whether you want to invest a 3rd round pick in him will be up to you.

 

Nick Madrigal (Second Base)

2020: 29 games, 8 R, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB, .340/.376/.369 | 2B #45

2021 ADP: 189.4 (2B #17)

The newest member of the White Sox infield, Nick Madrigal will almost certainly have the second base starting role locked down from the start of the 2021 season. Known as a contact-first prospect with very little power, he backed up every bit of that reputation with a 92.4% contact rate and a .029 ISO. For context, that contact rate would have ranked as the best in the league while the ISO would have ranked as the worst in the league, had Madrigal maintained them long enough to be a qualified hitter.

Looking at the Steamer projection of a .306 batting average, 7 home runs, and 20 steals sounds about right. You should not expect power from Madrigal, but if I can take him 15th or 16th round, I would happily do so.

 

Yoán Moncada (Third Base)

2020: 28 R, 6 HR, 24 RBI, 0 SB, .225/.320/.385 | 3B #46

2021 ADP: 87.4 (3B #10)

Yoán Moncada tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of July, keeping him out of Summer Camp until July 16th. While he claimed to mostly asymptomatic, his season clearly suffered. His exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate all dropped to career-lows and he struggled to remain even a league-average player. Moncada talked with the media in September about how he had not physically recovered to full strength, saying “Definitely my body hasn’t felt the same after the virus. I feel a lack of energy, strength, it’s just a weird feeling. It’s different.” His 2020 campaign can be chalked up as a lost season. Hopefully, with a full offseason of recovery and conditioning, he’ll be healthy and prepared to compete again in 2021.

I do want to take a moment to remind folks that a 25-year-old physical specimen of a professional athlete with access to the best medical care available was brought low by COVID-19. Please wear a mask, stay socially distant, and wash your hands often.

 

Tim Anderson (Shortstop)

2020: 45 R, 10 HR, 21 RBI, 5 SB, .322/.357/.529 | SS #8

2021 ADP: 39.3 (SS #9)

After a 2019 season many saw as a fluke – myself included – Tim Anderson came out and proved his naysayers wrong by just as good a season if not better. His power production increased while he maintained a very high average and scored a ton of runs at the top of a strong White Sox lineup. While I’d love to see him steal a few more bases (his 9.21% SBot was among the lowest in his speed bracket, but that’s a tease for another article), he is absolutely among the best batting average sources in baseball. He does come at the cost of a fourth-round pick now, which doesn’t offer much room for profit, but seems fair nonetheless.

 

Outfielders

 

Eloy Jiménez (OF/DH)

2020: 26 R, 14 HR, 41 RBI, 0 SB, .296/.332/.559 | OF #20

2021 ADP: 38.9 (OF #10)

Guys, I really like what Eloy Jiménez does every time he steps up to the plate. His hard-hit rate was among the 98th percentile of hitters while his barrel rate was 96th. At just 24 years old, he may be among the best pure hitters in baseball, with a solid contact rate and huge power. The biggest thing holding him back at this point is a poor eye at the plate. Among qualified hitters, Jiménez’s 41% O-Swing% (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) was 8th highest in the league. If he learned to be more selective at the plate, he’d be a perennial first or second-round pick. As it is now, he will cost you a third-round pick, one I’ll happily pay for a four-category stud.

 

 Luis Robert (OF)

2020: 33 R, 11 HR, 31 RBI, 9 SB, .233/.302/.436 | OF #17

2021 ADP: 34.4 (OF #9)

Perhaps the most exciting rookie of the 2020 season, Luis Robert both impressed and disappointed baseball fans in his debut season. After signing a six-year contract in January that eliminated any question of when he’d debut, Robert proceeded to showcase the power-speed combo that had many fantasy players drooling, pacing himself for a 30-24 full season. However, he also struck out in 32% of his plate appearances, limiting him to a .233 batting average. Swing and miss has been a part of his game from the outset of his professional career, and I doubt we see it go away soon. Still, if Robert can provide a .250 average while hitting 30 home runs and stealing 20-25 bases, fantasy players across the nation will happily roster him.

 

Adam Eaton (OF)

2020: 22 R, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 3 SB, .226/.285/.384 | OF #94

2021 ADP: 396.6 (OF #98)

After declining Edwin Encarnación‘s option for the 2021 season, there was a hole to fill in the lineup. For now, the answer seems to be Adam Eaton. The team has reunited with the veteran outfielder, who is set to be the starting right fielder, allowing Eloy Jiménez to serve as the full-time designated hitter.

Eaton had a rough 2020, which may either be a sign of slowing down for the 32-year-old or a two and a half month slump. Many of his underlying numbers are in line with his career numbers, including a productive 15-15 season from 2019. Eaton likely isn’t the same player he was when he left Chicago in 2016, but he may still have a few productive seasons left in him. I would be willing to take a flier on him in a deep league or AL-Only.

 

Adam Engel (OF)

2020: 11 R, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 1 SB, .295/.333/.477 | OF #113

2021 ADP: 719 (OF #167)

Adam Engel was a part-time player in 2020, sharing playing time with Nomar Mazara, now a free agent. As Mazara exits and Eloy shifts to DH, Engel finds himself seemingly in line for a starting role in left field. That said, it is very unlikely he becomes fantasy relevant. The White Sox have options like Leury Garcia who may take time from Engel and Eloy would slot into left field on days he does not DH. Add in the possibility of an Andrew Vaughn debut slotting Jiménez in left with regularity, and there just isn’t reason to be excited about Engel.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

The only hitter of note to consider outside those listed above is first base prospect Andrew Vaughn. Vaughn is seen as one of the best pure hitters to be drafted in the past few years; his college numbers look like they’re from a video game. While he’s going to be just 23 in 2021, there are many who see him as ready for big-league pitching. He would be a natural fit into the White Sox lineup, splitting time with Abreu at first and DH. I would not be surprised to see him in June, though we may have to wait a bit longer depending on how minor league baseball is handled in 2021. 

 

Starting Pitchers

By Zach Hayes

Lucas Giolito (Locked In)

2020: 4-3 W-L, 72.1 IP, 97 K, 3.48 ERA, 1.04 WHIP | SP # 18

2021 ADP: 20 (P #7)

Repertoire: 51% Four-Seam, 33% Changeup, 16% Slider

Giolito did well to show that his 2019 breakout was no fluke in 2020, finishing top-seven in Cy Young voting for the second straight season and giving baseball a moment of mid-pandemic magic with a dominant August no-hitter against Pittsburgh. Giolito’s fastball-changeup combo is nothing short of dominant, though he has a tendency to labor through early innings with questionable fastball command, walking  3+ hitters in six of his 12 starts in 2020. Nonetheless, his slider is still sharp enough as a third pitch to generate innings and strikeouts in volume even when he doesn’t have his complete A-game. Now reunited with high school pitching coach Ethan Katz, it’s unclear what the team’s pitching philosophy will be moving forward, but given Tony La Russa’s old-school tendencies (a sentiment seemingly reflected in his off-the-field behavior as well) and Giolito’s evolution into a workhorse, 2021 presents an opportunity the 26-year old to establish himself as one of the league’s few remaining true 200-inning aces.

 

Dallas Keuchel (Locked In)

2020: 6-2 W-L, 63.1 IP, 42 K, 1.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP | SP # 20

2021 ADP: 196 (P# 71)

Repertoire: 35% Sinker, 31% Cutter, 27% Changeup, 7% Slider

Even with Lance Lynn now in the fold, Keuchel likely slides in as the number two starter in name after a 2020 resurgence saw him allow 2 ER or fewer in 10 of his 11 starts despite losing a tick of already-low velo and posting a career-worst 6.0 K/9. Though that level of success isn’t close to a sustainable expectation—most projection systems have him tabbed for a mid-fours ERA—Keuchel was a different pitcher in 2020 than years past, almost entirely ditching his slider and four-seamer in favor of a nearly even distribution of sinkers, cutter, and changeups, to the effect of much weaker contact, if fewer strikeouts. With multiple Gold Glove candidates scattered around the field for the White Sox, he’s in the right place for his contact-oriented ways, though home runs are always a concern at Guaranteed Rate Field. Keuchel still has tremendous difficulty when facing a batting order for the third time, so even though he’ll almost certainly post respectable run-prevention and WHIP numbers, his days of accumulating gaudy innings totals are likely over.

 

Lance Lynn (Locked In)

2020: 6-3 W-L, 84 IP, 89 K, 3.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP | SP # 11

2021 ADP: 61 (P #22)

Repertoire: 50% Four-Seam, 22% Cutter, 18% Sinker, 8% Curveball, 2% Changeup)

Lynn joins the White Sox via trade after leading MLB with 84 innings pitched in the pandemic-shortened campaign. As that might hint, he was actually significantly better than his final rate stats, which were skewed by a 10-run shellacking in his final start of the season. Equipped with three different fastballs that vary between the high-80s and mid-90s, Lynn has bludgeoned his way through the AL over the past two thanks to a surge in velocity after fully recovering from 2016 Tommy John surgery and newfound control leading to a 6.9% BB rate that blows away his previous levels. Lynn has also trended more and more towards being a fly ball pitcher in recent years after relying on wormburners early on, which is always a concern in the White Sox typically hitter-friendly park. He’ll be reunited with his first-ever big league manager in Tony La Russa, and he’ll also now get plenty of opportunities to feast on the subpar lineups littering the AL and NL Central. As with Giolito, La Russa’s throwback style could be to the benefit of Lynn’s counting stats—the beefy right-hander has thrown 400 more pitches than anybody but Trevor Bauer since the start of 2019, and let’s just say that if he’s got two hits, no walks, and nine strikeouts in the sixth inning, Kevin Cash won’t be there to make the call to the pen.

 

Dylan Cease (Likely)

2020: 5-4 W-L, 58.1 IP, 44 K, 4.01 ERA, 1.44 WHIP | SP # 94

2021 ADP: 375 (P# 146)

Repertoire: 48% Four-Seam, 30% Slider, 13% Changeup, 9% Curveball

2021 looks like the make-or-break year for the former top prospect, whose 4.01 ERA on the 2020 season belies disastrous peripheral numbers including a 6.36 FIP, 3.9% K-BB, and .372 expected wOBA. Cease’s stuff is still ace-caliber; only Dustin May, Sanchez, and Jacob deGrom had a harder four-seamer on average than Cease (97.5 MPH), but his propensity for badly cutting it precludes him from turning its top-shelf spin into movement. His slider and curve feature significantly above-average spin and movement, and a firm changeup takes enough velo off the fastball to draw solid whiff numbers despite poor command. That being said, Cease is a mechanical mess, experimenting with a stretch-only approach at times and losing out on a rotation playoff spot after walking five-plus hitters three times and failing to reach the sixth inning in all of his final starts of the season. Other underlying metrics indicate the shocking drop in strikeouts he saw in 2020 is likely an aberration, but it won’t matter if he’s ticketed for the bullpen, which is where he’s likely to end up sooner rather than later if he can’t find a way to limit walks. The stuff is so good that substantial improvement there could make him an All-Star overnight, but with the Sox busting down the door contention, he’s running out of time to make that happen.

 

Michael Kopech (Likely)

2018*: 1-1 W-L, 14.1 IP, 15 K, 5.02 ERA, 1.52 WHIP | SP # NR

2021 ADP: 263 (P# 103)

Repertoire: 63% Four-Seam, 16% Slider, 11% Curveball, 10% Changeup

*Missed 2019 due to Tommy John surgery; opted out of 2020 season

Kopech might be the team’s most critical unknown quantity entering 2021. Per most evaluators, Kopech is still one of the twenty-ish best prospects in the game, and while his two-year layoff makes an early-season tune-up in AAA more likely than not, he’ll ultimately be given every opportunity to grab a hold of the rotation spot he had overtaken in 2018 before blowing out in his fourth start. The brief glimpse of data we got from those four 2018 starts is tantalizing, hinting at top-shelf spin and ride to go with the dangerous velocity on his fastball, as well as plus two-plane movement on his low-80s slider. His curveball and changeup have flashed enough to potentially be a reliable third option, but with none of his breaking pitches topping 85 MPH, he strikes me as an ideal candidate for the kind of low-90s cutter/slider hybrid employed by Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler to keep hitters off their fastball. As with Cease, if control or a viable tertiary pitch fail to materialize, the bullpen is his destination, but that determination more than likely won’t be made this season. His lone inning of 2020 Spring Training ball was electric, and there doesn’t appear to be much concern about regaining his pre-surgery stuff. The strikeouts will be there, and again similar to Cease, the stuff is good enough to post acceptable run-prevention numbers despite subpar control and peripherals.

Reynaldo López (Fringe)

2020: 1-3 W-L, 26.1 IP, 24 K, 6.49 ERA, 1.63 WHIP | SP # 246

2021 ADP: Undrafted

Repertoire: 51% Four-Seam, 29% Slider, 20% Changeup

López is the longest-tenured member of this White Sox pitching staff, though whether he’ll still occupy a rotation spot in 2021 remains to be seen. This is becoming a familiar refrain, but despite questionable command, Lopez’s arm is supercharged, with a four-seamer sitting in the mid- to upper-nineties, though shoulder soreness led to lowered velo at times in 2020. López has struggled with consistency since breaking out with a 3.91 ERA over 188 innings in 2018, and 2020 was a lost season, walking a career-worst 5.1 per nine innings and allowing 19 ER in 26.1 IP. Both Lopez’s slider and changeup have flashed plus for several games at a time, but never more, and rarely at the same time. Given Cease and Kopech’s fragility and the unknown consequences of a greatly reduced 2020 workload for the entire league, it seems almost certain that López will soak up some innings at the back end of the rotation. But unless he can overcome his below average spin and movement to turn that velocity into strikeouts or more weak contact, he’ll be quickly ticketed for the bullpen

Carlos Rodón (Fringe)

2020: 0-2 W-L, 7.2 IP, 6 K, 8.22 ERA, 1.57 WHIP | SP # 219

2021 ADP: Undrafted

Repertoire: 51% Four-Seam, 30% Slider, 19% Changeup

Re-signed to a one-year, $3 million deal in February, Rodón will spend the spring battling for a rotation spot, and will likely be favored over López to open the season as the team’s fifth starter (or sixth, in the event that Kopech begins the year with the big club). Despite showing flashes at times, Rodón never quite lived up to his billing as the third overall selection in the 2014 draft, failing to top 165 IP in any season and only breaking 100 IP once in the past four years while seeing his ERA rise successively every year from 3.75 as a rookie to an ugly 5.74 over 42.1 innings in 2019-20. While he once sported premium velocity, his fastball dipped to a career-low 91.4 MPH on average before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019, and it remains to be seen whether his velocity will rebound in a starting role after missing the bulk of 2020 with shoulder issues. Even when healthy, Rodón never managed to turn his changeup into a viable third pitch, so while his slider remains plus, he’s pretty firmly set in the “two-pitch pitcher” category at this stage in his career. If the fastball velocity returns, that might still be enough to allow him to stick in the rotation, but if it doesn’t, he’ll likely face a choice between continuing on as a quadruple-A depth starter and trying his hand at a relief role.

 

Watch List Considerations

With Keuchel as the team’s only secure left-handed starter, Bernardo Flores Jr. is a candidate to receive an extended look at the majors this year after making two appearances in 2020 and posting a 3.08 ERA over 450+ IP in the minors. He’s a classic low-ceiling pitchability lefty with a low-spin, low-90s fastball and three average but acceptable secondaries. 2018 fifth-rounder Jonathan Stiever also made his MLB debut in 2020 after shooting up prospect lists with a surge in velocity and a 5.7 K/BB ratio between A+ and AA in 20219. He’ll be a viable MLB depth option if he holds that form in the high minors in 2021, though his velocity was diminished and slider command subpar in his two 2020 starts. That’s about as far as the team’s internal depth goes, as top pitching prospects Jared KelleyAndrew Dalquist, and Matthew Thompson are all 18 months or less removed from high school. Expect several more quadruple-A type acquisitions before the regular season, and a reunion with Carlos Rodón or Gio González may not be completely out of the question.

 

Relief Pitchers

By Zach Hayes

Bullpen Roles

 

Liam Hendriks (CL)

2020: 14 SV, 0 HLD, 25.1 IP, 37 K, 1.78 ERA, 0.67 WHIP | RP #1

2021 ADP: 65 (P# 24)

Just two and a half years after being DFA’d (D’dFA?), Hendriks became the highest-paid reliever in MLB history by AAV with the three-year, $54 million deal he signed with Chicago in January, though that’s a bit of a technicality thanks to the bizarre, luxury-tax-circumventing fourth-year option that’s essentially fully guaranteed. Hendriks has been MLB’s most dominant reliever since the start of the 2019 season, and it’s not even remotely close—according to Fangraphs, the gap between Hendriks (5.2 fWAR) and second place Nick Anderson (3.0 fWAR) is as big as the gap between Anderson and 59th-place Ryne Harper. All in all, the Aussie has been about as close to the complete package as you could ask for from a reliever. His four-seamer has elite velocity, spin, and carry, and while his slider and curve have middling movement numbers, those don’t clearly tell the full story, because hitters haven’t been able to touch those, either. Even if you could fluke your way to a 13.1 K/9 in 110 IP, Hendriks sure didn’t. His Statcast percentile rankings can tell the story a lot more succinctly than I can:

Hendriks is the best reliever in the game until shown otherwise, and on a White Sox team aiming to top the 95-win pace they set in 2020, he’ll be in a position to rack up a boatload of saves, particularly given Tony La Russa’s well-known infatuation with traditional bullpen roles. He’s the real deal, and barring injury or an unanticipated velocity downtick, he’s one of the league’s most reliable bets for strikeouts and saves in the game’s late innings.

Aaron Bummer (SU)

2020: 0 SV, 3 HLD, 9.1 IP, 14 K, 0.96 ERA, 1.07 WHIP | RP #114

2021 ADP: 351 (P# 135)

It’s overwhelmingly likely that the Sox make further outside additions to the bullpen before the season; they’ve been connected to Liam Hendriks and their lack of proven options makes this unusually deep free agent reliever class quite enticing. However, Bummer might just be the nastiest reliever you’ve never heard of, it it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take over the closer role famously pioneered by Tony La Russa, whose unfortunate hiring has left the team’s pitching approach in 2021 unclear. Regardless, Bummer is the team’s most effective reliever. A 19th round selection out of Nebraska in 2014, Bummer debuted with an unremarkable 4.36 ERA through two partial big league seasons before breaking out for a 1.99 ERA and 1.00 WHIP between 2019 and 2020. Armed with a lightning-quick high-nineties sinker with more drop than just about any other in the league, Bummer is a grounder machine who finally added strikeouts to the equation in 2020, jumping from 24% to 37% K while maintaining an elite 68% groundball rate, inviting mouthwatering comparisons to Zack Britton. If those strikeouts hold in 2021, Bummer may emerge as one of MLB’s premier late-inning arms, whether he actually ascends to the closer role or not.

Evan Marshall (SU)

2020: 0 SV, 8 HLD, 22.2 IP, 30 K, 2.38 ERA, 1.06 WHIP | RP #50

2021 ADP: Undrafted

Another unheralded name who found new life in the Sox bullpen, Marshall allowed 29 ER in 30 IP between 2016-18 but has since been good for a 2.45 ERA over 78 appearances for the Pale Hose. Marshall relies primarily on a changeup with nasty fade, as well as a curveball with hellacious drop. He threw them both for strikes at will in 2020, and he leaned on them more than ever, ditching his sinker almost entirely and going with those two roughly 70% of the time. The result? Hitters couldn’t touch him, and his K-BB soared from 8.1% to 24.1% with an accompanying 2.04 FIP that bodes well this approach’s success in the future. So long as the secondary pitches continue to miss bats, his low-nineties velocity won’t pose much of a problem, though it will limit his ability to adjust if hitters start seeing the offspeed pitches better. Marshall has quietly been one of the game’s most solid late-inning relievers, with his 27 holds since 2019 ranking 15th in MLB. No matter who’s closing, Marshall will be in line to add to that total considerably with the White Sox hitting the gas in 2021.

Garrett Crochet (SP/LR/?)

2020: 0 SV, 0 HLD, 6 IP, 8 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP | Unranked

2021 ADP: 420 (P# 162)

The team’s biggest wild card this side of Michael Kopech, it’s unclear whether the team will continue to develop Crochet as a starter, or if his triple-digit heater and its absolutely bananas 20% swinging strike rate will be too tempting to keep away from their 2021 roster. We have little idea how his slider or changeup will play in an extended look in the majors, though we do know that with 11 inches of horizontal break, his slider has light years more movement than just about any other with remotely similar velocity, and prospect evaluators are lukewarm about the changeup’s viability as a third pitch. It’s a lazy comparison, but given the innings limits we’re likely to see across the board in 2021, the franchise’s handling of Chris Sale is an intuitive blueprint: after dicing his way to the majors several months after being drafted, Sale posted a 2.79 ERA in 71 innings out of the bullpen in his first year before shifting to the rotation, and the rest is history. This is a ready-made dominant bullpen arm at their disposal, but if the team thinks his control and changeup will play as a starter, fans of the team and pitcher might be in for a little delayed gratification.

Codi Heuer (MR/SU)

2020: 1 SV, 5 HLD, 23.2 IP, 25 K, 1.52 ERA, 0.89 WHIP | RP #24

2021 ADP: Undrafted

A 2018 sixth-rounder out of Wichita State, Heuer was one of several unheralded rookies to pop with vigor in 2020, allowing just four earned runs and striking out 25 in 23.2 innings pitched. Equipped with a sizzling upper-nineties sinker, a slightly unorthodox long-armed slide-step delivery, and a slider that drew an absurd 67% whiff rate despite unremarkable movement, hitters simply couldn’t find a barrel against Heuer, recording just three extra base hits against him the entire season. This probably sounds like a broken record from our analysts here at Pitcher List, but the best route for Heuer to avoid the regression monster might be to explore a switch in fastballs. Peripheral stats indicate that the success he saw with the sinker in 2020 (.196 BA, .257 wOBA, 24% Whiff) is probably not sustainable. However, Heuer possesses well-above average spin rates, even for his high velocity, and with 93% active spin per Statcast, the components for a dominant four-seamer are there. Whether he’ll need one remains to be seen.

Matt Foster (MR/Opener)

2020: 0 SV, 2 HLD, 28.2 IP, 31 K, 2.20 ERA, 0.87 WHIP | RP #9

2021 ADP: Undrafted

The other rookie reliever to unexpectedly seize control of a key bullpen role in 2020, Foster paced the Sox bullpen with 28.2 IP of 2.20 ERA, twice serving as an opener and recording an excellent 31-to-9 K/BB ratio along the way. Living in the low-to mid- nineties, Foster isn’t overpowering, but combines good command and above-average ride to draw whiffs at the top of the zone in tandem with a firm changeup that doesn’t move much but drops a full 10-12 MPH off the fastball. Expected stats think Foster is a major candidate for regression in 2021; contact metrics and putaway rates believe the swing-and-miss and batted ball outcomes than held hitters to a .161 BA on the fastball with a 33% CSW isn’t likely to repeat itself. There’s also a chance that the unusually small difference in movement between his fastball and changeup combined with its unusually large velocity drop means he’ll be able to keep hitters uncomfortable enough to outperform peripherals. His lack of pure velocity and movement means he’ll probably have to in order to maintain a high-leverage role.

Jace Fry (MR)

2020: 0 SV, 3 HLD, 9.1 IP, 14 K, 0.96 ERA, 1.07 WHIP | RP #114

2021 ADP: 351 (P# 135)

Thanks to the (as-yet) dearth of southpaws on the South Side, Fry seems ticketed for a role on Chicago’s staff for the fifth straight season, making him the longest tenured member of this inexperienced bullpen. Fry posted a career-best 3.66 ERA in 18 appearances in 2020, though his 4.66 FIP was less bullish. Stuff and strikeouts have never been the problem for Fry, who’s struck out nearly 30% of the hitters he’s faced over the course of his career. Control, however, is a different story, and he’ll be hard-pressed to maintain success with the 15% walk rate he ran with this year. Fry works with an unusually deep arsenal for a lefty middle reliever, with a cutter, four-seamer, sinker, curveball, and changeup all being viable options, though only the cutter is better than average. His role may depend on whether he can regain the 2+ MPH of velocity he mysteriously lost between 2019 and 2020; he likely slides in as a short-relief specialist thanks to his stuff, handedness, and lack of control, but no roles are truly set in this bullpen, and he may yet have a chance to take on more responsibility late in games.

Watch List Considerations

While the White Sox lineup and rotation are mostly stocked with known quantities, give or take a spot or two, the composition of their bullpen in 2021 is hugely up in the air, given the lack of track record for even the best pitchers discussed above. Their internal options are even more untested. Jimmy Cordero led the team with 30 appearances in 2020 despite running a 6.08 ERA and 1.58 WHIP; despite top-shelf velocity, a diving sinker, and the biggest biceps in the organization, his inability to avoid getting hit hard puts him on the bubble for 2021. Recent draftees on the 40-man roster with an opportunity to stick include 2016 first-rounder Zack Burdi, who’s likely to get a chance at a full-time role after making eight appearances this past year, 2017 fifth-rounder Tyler Johnson, who appeared to be on the fast track to the majors before losing the 2020 minor league season, and 2016 fifth-rounder Jimmy Lambert, whose 2020 season was off to a promising start before falling victim to Tommy John. Other possibilities include José Ruiz, who’s made appearances for the team in three straight seasons, recent waiver claim Emilio Vargas, and upper-level lefties Jacob Lindgren and Hunter Schryver.

 

ADP data taken from FantasyPros composite ADPs.

2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).

Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Zach Hayes

Based on the South Side of Chicago, Zach is a graduate student focusing on sports, politics, and culture, while contributing baseball analysis at Pitcher List. Follow Zach on Twitter (@pinetarkeyboard) at your own risk.

Account / Login
>