Well, here we are. The 2021 season, aka Year No. 2 of the contention window, a year where the White Sox should be able to overcome nearly any obstacle thrown their way, is upon us.
When the rebuild kicked off in December 2016, it was clear that the goal was to have an extended period of time as a serious World Series contender. Also, 2020 was a clear target for Year No. 1 of the contention window, but given the premium trade assets readily available, 2019 was on the table. After a disastrous 2018-19 offseason full of missed opportunities, the front office effectively punted on the 2019 season, and focus shifted towards 2020.
Fortunately, the White Sox broke their 12-year playoff drought in 2020 and appeared to be heading toward what was promised. With an excellent opportunity to add to a roster that went 35-25 in an abbreviated 2020, the White Sox added elite reliever Liam Hendriks and starter Lance Lynn. However, they settled for Adam Eaton in right field and are banking on him having a bounce-back season as the starter.
After the offseason, many of the same reservations remain. While the core is strong, the White Sox still lack depth at many areas. It is clear that while most of the starters have a solid amount of promise, reinforcements are hard to come by.
Eloy Jiménez’s injury is an unfortunate one for a multitude of reasons. All fans should feel for one of the team’s most exciting players. In addition, from a projections standpoint, the injury clarifies that losing one key player is a pretty big deal. Typically, losing one player in this sport, especially one with negative defensive value, is not that costly. With the White Sox, however, the downgrade is significant.
As White Sox fans searched for solutions, a common sentiment was, “Can [Insert Player Who Has Never Played Left Field] play left field?” Considering it has been more than four years since a rebuild (kicked off with premium trade assets) started, there is no excuse for this. In a year where the South Siders should be one of MLB’s powerhouses, one injury should not leave the team in such a precarious state.
Despite this significant source of frustration, the White Sox should find themselves in the thick of the playoff race come September.
Lucas Giolito has transformed himself into one of the best pitchers in the American League. He will continue to make progress and get even more Cy Young votes than he did last year.
Luis Robert’s September slump has given many reservations about how he will fare moving forward, but this is a great time to buy his stock. Robert’s versatility and excellence in the field will allow him to be the most valuable position player on the team. He will be considerably more patient at the plate and reduce the difficulties he faced against off-speed pitches.
It will be a tight race for the second wild card spot. But, largely thanks to those two and one of the best bullpens in the game, the White Sox outlast the Athletics, Angels, and Rays to secure back-to-back postseasons for the first time in franchise history.
In the Wild Card Game, the White Sox head north of the border for a crucial matchup against the Blue Jays. Trailing 3-2 in the eighth, Tim Anderson launches a go-ahead, two-run homer and then launches his bat farther than José Bautista did six years earlier. Garrett Crochet and Liam Hendriks seal it with nearly perfect eighth- and ninth-inning performances, and the South Siders advance. The White Sox then take on the Yankees, and they put up a good fight before falling short in Game 5.
Around the American League, the Twins win the AL Central, and finally break their postseason losing streak. Minnesota also wins its series against Houston before losing to the mighty Yankees in the ALCS.
In the National League, the Central turns out to be quite competitive, but no team runs away with it. The Cardinals, assisted by their acquisition of Nolan Arenado, outlast the Cubs and Reds to win the division despite just a 86-76 record.
The Braves manage to run away with the NL East, while the Mets snag the second Wild Card spot.
In the West, the Dodgers finish with 101 wins, tops in all of baseball. Their division rival Padres, despite reaching 96 wins, are forced to play the Wild Card Game, but the Mets prove to be no problem for them.
The Padres then upset the Dodgers, winning the series in five games. The Braves defeat the Cardinals to set up a San Diego vs. Atlanta NLCS, where Fernando Tatís Jr. and new acquisition Yu Darvish pop off.
That sets up a World Series matchup between the Yankees and Padres. Manny Machado, who was cold in the NLCS, makes up for it with a monstrous World Series. This is enough to capture World Series MVP and bring San Diego its first title.
Here’s a detailed look at how I foresee the White Sox roster performing in 2021:
Projected 2021 standings:
And some awards predictions!