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2020 White Sox Report Card: The Pitchers

In the second installment of a three-part series, it’s time to grade the team’s pitching staff

After an extensive look at the position players on the South Side, our focus now turns to the mound. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox had the 11th-best pitching staff in all of baseball despite essentially operating with a three-man starting rotation.

Regardless of this handicap, the Sox pitching staff was Top 10 in wins, runs allowed, ERA, ERA+, H/9, hits allowed, runs allowed, and stranding runners. The bullpen was very quietly the eighth-best in the league despite losing the team’s best reliever, Aaron Bummer, to the IL for the vast majority of the season.

There were certainly some sour moments, particularly due in part to a shockingly-mismanaged bullpen, and the “good guys” sometimes looked downright bad, particularly in terms of value. (FanGraphs ranked the 2020 White Sox 11th with a respectable 5.8 WAR, but Baseball-Reference shows them in the bottom 10 with a measly 3.4.)

By comparison, Cleveland led the league in team pitching value with a 11.2 WAR and 10.4 WAR on the same two scales, respectively. In other words, Cleveland’s pitching staff was collectively more valuable in just 60 games than the Sox projected for a full, 162-game season.

Did the Sox exceed expectations in 2020? Absolutely. But is there room to improve? Without a doubt. In the second of a three-part series, let’s examine which players excelled (and which didn’t) in a season-long retrospective report card for the South Siders.

Grading is formulated based on a combination of stats, playing time, contributions in the clutch, clubhouse presence, relation of output to salary, relation of output to designated role, official accolades, and fan response. Following every grade is the player’s WAR according to Baseball-Reference. If the player contributed a positive WAR, it’s followed by the player’s 162-game projected WAR.

Part three, looking at executives and management, will be released at the conclusion of the offseason so that the entire body of offseason work can be included in their adjudication.

Dallas Keuchel: A+ (2.1 WAR/5.7 WAR)

On August 10, the White Sox blew what should have been an easy win against the Detroit Tigers by a score of 5-1, dropping their record to 8-9. Keuchel, who was arguably the team’s most consistent player to that point, was none too pleased. He quickly established himself as a fan favorite and a team leader by doing something about it, giving a pep talk to rouse the troops in a highly-publicized team meeting. It worked. After addressing his teammates, the Sox went 28-7 in their next 35 games.

And Keuchel backed up his words with action. Even in a short season, Keuchel’s stat line in 2020 was exceptional. In 11 starts, he went 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, 42 strikeouts, and just 17 walks, on pace to set career bests in almost every category and finishing fifth in AL Cy Young voting. And despite lacking power pitching traits, Keuchel confused hitters better than anyone on the roster, pacing the team in Hard Hit % as a result. Critics were expecting Keuchel’s metrics to decline, but he spent the year proving you don’t have to be in Texas enjoy Dallas.

Lucas Giolito: A (0.8 WAR/2.2 WAR)

Stats don’t tell the entire story of Giolito’s 2020; he won just four games on the year and his ERA and WAR all trended in the wrong direction. Yet even in a shortened season, Giolito’s WHIP, FIP, H/9, and SO/9 all improved dramatically.

And it’s not what lies on the page that had the most impact for his team. In addition to a clear sense of focus and command that remains steadfast from his fantastic 2019 season, Giolito streamlined his pitching arsenal, all but dropping his curveball, and thereby improving his effectiveness on the mound. His presence in the clubhouse as a team leader also began to blossom, a trait he surely has picked up from Keuchel and Tim Anderson. Oh, and he threw a no-hitter.

Gio was also top 10 in strikeouts, innings, and hits allowed, finished seventh in Cy Young voting, and he was dazzling in his first postseason appearance, holding a white-hot A’s team hitless through six innings and striking out eight before collecting the win. He needs to work on lowering his walk rate and keep his pitch count down so he can stay in games longer, but Giolito proved he is a true ace, and easily puts himself into consideration for one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

Alex Colomé: A (1.0 WAR/2.7 WAR)

Age isn’t slowing Colomé down, but Sox fans still held their collective breath when he came into the game. He had a predilection towards letting baserunners on early in the ninth, and he didn’t miss as many bats as he has in the past, relying on essentially two pitches that show metrics in decline. What’s worse, Colomé saw an uptick in BB/9 and a drop in SO/9.

Nevertheless, he ultimately had an excellent year. Few closers played to his level in 2020, getting career bests in ERA (0.81) and WHIP (0.940), and finishing the year tied for fourth in saves. Colomé remains a free agent and I’m sure that’s because he’s negotiating a much-deserved, top-dollar contract; while certainly unlikely, Sox fans would have to be pleased if he returns in 2021. Bottom line: he played like an All-Star in 2020 and he’s earned a hearty contract because of it — even if he ends up somewhere other than Chicago.

Codi Heuer: A (0.8 WAR/2.2 WAR)

If there was an award for “Most Pleasant Surprise” in baseball, Codi Heuer might have won. Projected to be years away from the majors, Heuer made the roster at age 23 and didn’t disappoint. With an electric, 98 mph fastball that moves and a plus changeup/slider combo in the high 80’s, Heuer confounded hitters all season, finishing the year 3-0 with a 1.52 ERA and 0.887 WHIP in 23 23 innings. But what made Heuer truly shine was a level of composure years ahead of his time. Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, perhaps no one in the bullpen looked more comfortable in high-leverage situations than Heuer. Not only does he put himself in the conversation for a future closer, dollar for dollar he might just be one of the most valuable players on the team. Heuer makes the grade, and his future is as bright as anyone else in the bullpen.

Matt Foster: A- (0.7 WAR/1.9 WAR)

Speaking of pleasant surprises, Matt Foster was Heuer’s shoe for the other foot. Also projected as a mid-tier prospect still a ways away from the majors, Foster forced his way into the equation and not only showed up, but remained consistent all year. Aside from paying for a couple of mistakes he left out over the plate, the young righty led the bullpen in strikeouts (31), WHIP (0.872), Zone% (52.3) and innings (28 23) while finishing the year 6-1 with an ERA of just 2.20. He also started two bullpen games for the Sox and excelled in just about every situation he was thrown into. With a formidable arsenal, evidenced by a 30% whiff rate, Foster was one of the best pitchers on the team in 2020. He makes a valuable addition to a stout Sox bullpen and should rightfully factor into the team’s plans in 2021 and beyond.

Evan Marshall: B+ (0.6 WAR/1.6 WAR)

Marshall’s second consecutive year of great pitching for the Sox was rewarded with a $2 million salary for 2021, more than his MLBTR estimate — and rightfully so. After struggling as a journeyman, Marshall has had great success since coming to Chicago, posting an impressive 6-3 record with 71 strikeouts, 2.44 ERA, 1.181 WHIP, and just 31 walks in 73 13 innings. Those stats were buoyed by a sublime 2020, where his SO/9 rate went up and his BB/9 rate went down to join Colomé, Heuer, and Foster as stalwarts in one of Major League Baseball’s most underrated bullpens. Marshall was first in efficacy, leading the entire team in percentage of pitches chased out of the zone and he doesn’t rely on overpowering batters to succeed. Marshall does, however, need to stick to the margins of the plate if he’s going to continue to show his prowess in a competitive American League, but with his command and experience, he added remarkable depth and leadership to the bullpen in 2020 and metrics suggest that trend will continue in 2021.

Garrett Crochet: B+ (0.3 WAR/0.8 WAR)

The comparisons with Chris Sale were inevitable, but not even Crochet himself could have foreseen such a rapid ascension to relevance. Crochet’s sample size was limited, but it’s doubtful anyone did more with less time in 2020 than he did. Averaging 100.1 mph on his fastball, the rookie dominated on the mound straight from college with no minor league play before his callup, boasting a 0.00 ERA, 0.500 WHIP, with no walks and a 12.0 SO/9 in six innings. Even more impressive, Crochet hit the strike zone more than 50% of the time despite throwing harder than anyone else on the team. He also led the entire bullpen in Whiff %.

If he had pitched another 10 innings with a similar statistical output, this grade would be higher. Crochet projects to continue his dominance from the starting rotation at some point (even if he loses a little velocity as a result), but he’ll make a valuable addition to the bullpen until that day comes. It’s unclear how the Sox plan to deploy the flame-throwing lefty in the 2021, but a stint in the minors to test his starting mettle seems likely. No matter what his immediate future looks like, Crochet is carving out a long-term home with the Sox. And comparisons to Sale notwithstanding, he didn’t even need scissors to do so.

Aaron Bummer: B (0.3 WAR/0.8 WAR)

Despite spending most of the season on the IL due to a bicep strain, Bummer came back with a vengeance. And like Crochet, his WAR reflects that, despite a small sample size of playing time. Bummer’s metrics continue to trend up in his young career and vindicate Rick Hahn’s decision to lock him before 2020 to a long-term deal. In just 9 13 innings, Bummer went 1-0 with a 0.96 ERA, a 1.071 WHIP, just five walks and an insane 13.5 SO/9. Bummer lacked the sample size to deserve an elite grade, but his performance when he was available was impressive enough to make him a standout in 2020. With Heuer, Foster, Marshall, Crochet, and a yet-to-be-named closer helping him shoulder the load, not to mention added depth from Jace Fry and slew of young arms on the brink of notoriety, Bummer is set up for long-term success without the threat of being overworked. He’ll help anchor the bullpen in 2021 as one of the best lefty relievers in the game thanks in no small part to the momentum he re-established in 2020.

Dane Dunning: B- (0.1 WAR/0.3 WAR)

“The Curious Case of Dane Dunning” was hard to predict; as a prospect he looked excellent, but Tommy John surgery derailed his progress. He has since reclaimed a surprising level of talent, boasting an effective, five-pitch arsenal, above average control, and impressive movement ... with some red flags: poor contact metrics, weak mound presence, and questionable stamina. He ran the gambit in 2020, showing elite strikeout skills and throwing five innings of no-hit baseball before being pulled due to workload concerns, but he also lost momentum quickly and showed an unhealthy reliance on contact to get outs.

His journey with the Sox came to a thrilling conclusion in December when Rick Hahn wisely maximized Dunning’s value by trading him to Texas for proven starter Lance Lynn. Even so, Dunning did a lot worth celebrating, finishing the short season 2-0 with 35 strikeouts in 34 innings. Considering the lack of starting pitcher depth the Sox were plagued with all year, Dunning exceeded expectations. But with an ERA floating around 4.00 and a Meatball Swing % of 90.2, he’s nowhere near the frontline starter he has the potential to become. Even so, Dunning’s ability to produce at all (especially given his lack of experience) deserves applause.

Jace Fry: B- (0.1 WAR/0.3 WAR)

Fry is a bit of an anomaly. Sometimes he appears unhittable, blending his five-pitch arsenal in and out of the zone and making batters look downright silly; other times, he seems lost, leaving meatballs out over the plate for righties and lefties alike. Still, his 11.0 SO/9 in 19 23 innings was something to behold, and he led the team in chased pitches out of the zone. Furthermore, Fry set career bests in ERA, ERA+, and HR/9. His contact metrics remain mediocre, but Fry’s ceiling is still high as he continues to show clear signs of progression as a deceptive lefty.

He cemented his place as a reliable middle reliever by avoiding arbitration with the Sox last month, a sign that the team sees how close he is to putting it all together. After all, the Sox have plenty of bullpen depth and could have sought to fill his role on the free-agent market if they were skeptical about Fry’s potential. But if Fry can learn to spot his fastball, he, Crochet, and Bummer might just give the Sox the best trio of left-handed relievers in all of baseball.

Dylan Cease: C+ (0.1 WAR/0.3 WAR)

Cease dropped his ERA almost two runs, to 4.01, in 2020, on his way to five wins and a winning record, and he was on pace to cut his H/9 rate by nearly 25%. But with worsening WHIP, FIP, SO/9, and BB/9 rates, Cease needs to put in the work with newly-minted pitching coach Ethan Katz this offseason if he wants to earn a long-term role with the Sox.

It clearly hasn’t been all sunshine and flowers for Cease since being called up to the majors, but the signs of growth, improvement and progress are evident. He still offers an elite fastball/changeup combo with a late-breaking slider and a big-bending curveball, not to mention nearly 20 mph gap of speed from his fastball to his curve. But Cease needs to work on his control in a big way, particularly with hitting his spots on the corners of the plate, otherwise he runs the risk of ballooning his already sub-par whiff and contact metrics. Even so, if he can learn to command the strike zone, Cease showed enough in 2020 to convince us he can still become one of the best pitchers in the league.

Jimmy Lambert: C+ (0.1 WAR/0.3 WAR)

Speaking of small sample sizes, Jimmy Lambert has plenty to say about bad breaks. The Sox looked to have a fourth magical wunderkind in Lambert, adding depth to the bullpen in 2020 after an excellent showing early in the year, until a forearm strain put an early end to his season. But in his two appearances, Lambert was lights-out, flashing a fastball that touched 97 mph and three off-speed pitches that drew a 29% Whiff rate. Lambert also showed excellent control and surprising confidence given his lack of experience, and since he started in the system as a starting pitching prospect, he will likely prove quite valuable for new manager Tony La Russa as an arm capable of coming in for multiple innings at a time. But from what Lambert showed us in his limited exposure, he also might just possess the composure required to be called upon in high-leverage situations if necessary. Lambert is young and exciting, and if he maintains the excellent traits he’s shown so far, he figures to add elite depth to an already-excellent bullpen.

Alex McRae: C (0.1 WAR/0.3 WAR)

McRae didn’t start the year on the team, but when he got the call, he looked solid. In two appearances, he pitched three near-perfect innings, finishing his short season with a sterling 0.00 ERA. Nevertheless, the Sox have so much bullpen talent that he was DFA’d at the conclusion of the year. If the Sox had more struggles from their relief corps, McRae would have likely been given more opportunities to prove himself, and he still just might after clearing waivers. McRae, like Marshall, reads and performs like a reclamation project gone right after coming to Chicago (he struggled mightily in Pittsburgh). But given the opportunity, McRae just might force his way into the bullpen in 2021 if he continues to improve. And even if he doesn’t right away, he certainly adds peace of mind to the organization should injuries play a larger role going forward.

Ross Detwiler: C (0.1 WAR/0.3 WAR)

After spending the beginning of his career in Washington with moderate success, Detwiler saw it all fall apart over the last five years, bouncing in and out of the majors with many struggles, in both starting and relief roles. Then, in 2020, against all odds and at 34 years old, something clicked. Detwiler had his best season in nearly a decade, posting a 1-1 record, 3.20 ERA, 1.220 WHIP, and 15 strikeouts on just five walks in 19 23 innings, and he set career bests in WHIP, BB/9, and H/9. It didn’t go perfectly, as Detwiler still let up seven homers in fewer than 20 innings, and the Sox ultimately designated him for assignment before the playoffs, but his progress has paid off. Detwiler earned a spot in the pen for Don Mattingly’s fiery Marlins in 2021 and he might just be one of the savviest signings of the winter, providing a reliable left-handed thrower with experience and perseverance. We at South Side Sox wish him well and applaud him for a solid performance in 2020.

José Ruiz: C- (0.1 WAR/0.3 WAR)

In his limited time on the mound in 2020, Ruiz showed some very positive progression. He cut his ERA in half, finishing the year with only one earned run in four innings and an impressive 11.3 SO/9. But he will need to prove himself to be consistent if he wants to remain on the Sox. Ruiz was terrible in 2019, posting a 1-4 record with a 5.63 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP over 40 innings, with 24 walks and just 35 strikeouts. But with a fastball that dances at 97 mph, a late-breaking slider in the mid-80’s, and a quality changeup that improves every year, Ruiz showed up for the Sox in their shortened season, setting career bests in BB/9, H/9, WHIP, FIP, and ERA+. Despite a small workload, Ruiz proved he at least deserves our attention going forward. But with his struggles in the past, it’s fair to assume he won’t have much room for error.

Gio González: C- (-0.3 WAR)

The long-awaited reunion between González and the White Sox did not go as either party had hoped. The veteran was brought in to flex in and out of the starting rotation while providing long relief depth and leadership for a young team. And in his 31 23 innings and four starts, Gio left a lot to be desired, posting a disappointing 1-2 record with a 4.83 ERA, 1.863 WHIP, and a 5.4 BB/9 — his highest number since his rookie year in 2008. Worse, González was easily rattled, showing his emotion freely after simple errors. It wasn’t all bad; Gio made some clutch appearances, including 3 23 innings of shutout ball against the Cubs on August 22 in relief of Reynaldo López. And some of González’s struggles came at the behest of some terrible management decisions by Ricky Renteria. But attitude problems aside, González struggled to find the strike zone for much of the year and saw further decline in most contact metrics. It wasn’t a total failure, but all things considered, it was a very underwhelming 2020; he didn’t even make the playoff roster.

Jimmy Cordero: D+ (-0.9 WAR)

Poor, poor Jimmy Cordero. He was doomed to fail thanks to inexcusable misuse and overuse by Ricky Renteria in 2020. In just about every imaginable middle-inning scenario, Renteria threw Cordero out on the mound, even when analytics suggested it wasn’t a good matchup. He was mismanaged worse than any other player in the Sox bullpen, and he did fairly well given the circumstances. After all, he’ll have his job in 2021 and Renteria will not. And rightfully so. With a fastball that flirts with triple digits, a sinker in the high 90’s, and three off-speed pitches that illicit a Chase % of 34.1 (third best on the team), there’s lots to like about Cordero. But he finished the year 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA, 1.575 WHIP, and the worst walk rate since his rookie year, so concern is justified. Cordero sported the staff’s worst WAR in 2020, of which only so much blame can be attributed to Renteria. With better coaching and usage, something Cordero figures to get a great deal of in 2021, he has the skill set and the pitching arsenal to surpass his current value by a wide margin. But in 2020, he forced his stock to drop.

Zack Burdi: D+ (-0.6 WAR)

Burdi just isn’t ready for the big leagues yet. Taken by the Sox in the first round in 2016, things haven’t clicked for the flame-throwing righty from Downers Grove. His numbers in 2020 were atrocious, culminating in a 0-1 record with an ERA of 11.05, a WHIP of 1.909, and four homers in 7 13 innings. Burdi was, without a doubt, the one of the biggest disappointments of 2020, but Sox brass misjudged his progress. He still showed a dominant fastball and boasted the second-best Whiff % and Zone Contact % on the team. With some work, he still projects to be an elite, late-inning specialist, but in 2020, the average exit velocity of 94.1 mph on balls hit off Burdi was second-worst on the team. Here’s hoping he puts in the work to improve his grade in 2021.

Carlos Rodón: D (-0.4 WAR)

There is perhaps no player on the Sox who has had a tougher run over the last three years than Carlos Rodón. Once lauded as the golden boy of the Chicago farm system, the lefty workhorse fell from grace slowly but consistently. For all intents and purposes, his 2020 stats read as pathetic: 0-2, 8.22 ERA, 1.565 WHIP, and a career-low 7.0 SO/9, but his lingering injuries are obviously partially to blame. Even so, while Sox fans might have hoped for redemption, Rodón’s descent has been too consistent. The Sox have hedged their bets and have let the former first round draft pick hit free agency, a sad ending to a once-hopeful tale.

Reynaldo López: D- (-0.6 WAR)

Once one of the top prospects in the White Sox farm system, López finished 2020 with a pathetic 1-3 record, 6.49 ERA, 1.633 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9, and the worst contact metrics of his career through 26 13 innings. He also had the second-worst Whiff % among qualified teammates and the worst Chase % on the team. For a power pitcher who was once compared to Pedro Martinez, things are looking bad. It’s worth noting that López’s ability to strike out batters is among the best in the organization, and he flashed that skill set just enough to retain his job, but strikeouts mean very little with an inflated walk rate and six earned runs per game. After a terrible showing in 2020, López likely has a very short leash left to prove himself.

Ian Hamilton: D- (0.0 WAR)

Once one of the bright spots of their minor league system, Hamilton looked lost in 2020, posting a 4.50 ERA, 2.250 WHIP, and an atrocious 11.3 BB/9 in four innings. The sample size wasn’t ideal, but on a team so close to championship contention, there is no room for mediocrity. Hahn and company agreed, as the Sox waived Hamilton in September. The Phillies, who claimed Hamilton off waivers in December, might just prove to have made a valuable addition to their young team; Hamilton still has a high ceiling and a dominant fastball. But his work for the Sox in 2020 made his dismissal inevitable. There were just too many talented pitchers ahead of him to warrant the risk of keeping him around.

Jonathan Stiever: D- (-0.3 WAR)

Stiever’s year was bittersweet. Appearing ahead of schedule and showing an arsenal of plus pitches with late life, Stiever looked like he might be a diamond in the rough. But things fell apart quickly in his second start, as he let up six runs in 2 23 innings against the Reds. His season stats ballooned to 9.95 ERA and 1.737 WHIP, with a measly 4.3 SO/9 and a terrifying 5.7 BB/9 on his way to letting up four home runs in just 6 13 innings. Furthermore, his 14.5 Whiff%, Chase %, and 22.7 Barrel % were all worst on the team. The young righty is still a long way from being major-league ready (particularly on a team as dominant as the Sox), but at just 23 years old, Stiever has plenty of time to refine his craft and still projects as a mid-rotation starter. Until then, he’s doomed himself to the minors for the foreseeable future. Then again, he’d make excellent trade bait …

Bernardo Flores Jr.: D- (-0.1 WAR)

In his limited appearances, Flores led the Sox in Edge %, Exit Velocity Against, and drawing poor contact — but was among the worst on the entire roster in just about every other contact metric. The lefty finesse pitcher still shows the possibility of immense growth, but all he did in 2020 was prove he’s not ready for the majors yet. If he can continue to improve in the minors, there’s still a chance he can work his way into a starting role somewhere down the line or, more realistically, a long relief role. If he doesn’t, he’s going to be looking up at a lot of talented arms until he finds a different home.

Drew Anderson: F (-0.3 WAR)

Drew Anderson was bad on the Phillies, but he was worse on the Sox. In fact, he did so poorly he was demoted after just one appearance and released in short order. Anderson finished his single day of work with a 40.50 ERA, 4.500 WHIP, a hilarious 13.5 BB/9, and an astronomical 24.19 FIP. He also let up two homers and six earned in just 1 13 innings. It could not have gone worse for Anderson, who now sits on an oversaturated free agent market with terrible career numbers. His only chance to rectify his career at this point will be to retool his abilities with a minor-league deal, likely for a team that is nowhere near contention. After his performance in 2020, he should be so lucky.

Steve Cishek: F (-0.2 WAR)

If it wasn’t for Kelvin Herrera and Edwin Encarnación earning ridiculously high salaries, Cishek would have been the least valuable player on the roster. After five straight seasons of sub-3.00 ERA ball and dominant WHIP numbers, Cishek put in a 2020 with an ERA double that of his career mark and a WHIP at a career high. In 20 innings, he amassed no decisions while throwing an embarrassing stat line of 5.40 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, and a career-high 9.5 H/9. He didn’t have a single noteworthy performance all year and his Hard Hit %, WOBA, XBA, XSLG, Launch Angle, Exit Velocity, and Barrel % were all career worsts. He turned it around a bit towards the end of the season, but much like Nomar Mazara, it was far too little too late. Bringing Cishek to the South Side proved to be a bad decision for all parties involved.

Kelvin Herrera: F (-0.1 WAR)

Quite possibly the worst pitcher signing in Hahn’s tenure with the Sox, Herrera was on the books for $8.5 million in 2020. His leash proved to be very short, as the Sox released the aging setup man after just two appearances, eating the rest of his (prorated) contract. In just 2 13 innings, Herrera posted a 15.43 ERA with a 1.714 WHIP and a disastrous 7.7 HR/9. Furthermore, his Barrel %, Exit Velocity Against, and Hard Hit % were all career worsts by a large margin. He might still be able to retool his arsenal, but thankfully it won’t be with the Sox. Good riddance.

Overall: B

The White Sox only had three effective starting pitchers for the entire 2020 season, but two of them proved to be aces — and the Sox bullpen outperformed expectations at almost every turn. But a combination of poor management and underdeveloped talent left the Sox with too many hurdles to overcome as they ran into a talented Oakland A’s team in the playoffs. Renteria’s failings aside, arguably nothing factored into the losing streak at the end of the season more than poor pitching, a clear precursor to their postseason struggles.

There are still questions about how Cease and Michael Kopech figure into the team’s short- and long-term plans, and it’s no secret that the Sox are actively trying to add an elite, proven closer to the back of the pen with Colomé likely departing, but the 2020 Sox gave fans and critics a lot to like going forward — and most importantly, much more to celebrate than to fear.

And with whispers of another high-end starter on their to-do list, assuming they can also add someone like Liam Hendriks to the fold, the Sox pitching staff could be baseball’s valedictorian in 2021.