Baseball season is on the horizon, and players are showing up to spring training with their eyes set on October. Everybody wants to be the X-factor that sets their team above the rest.
For the White Sox, the question for the year lies in who is going to be that difference maker. Jose Abreu has been the heart and soul of that ball club for years, but with his departure to Houston in free agency, all eyes turn towards the rest of the lineup, wondering who is going to fill his shoes.
There is an abundance of talent on the White Sox roster, which is starting to feel like a lot of untapped potential over the last two years. They have players with ceilings as high as MVP and Cy Young Awards but have no players on the roster who have earned awards that prestigious. Which players seem as though they could be League Award winners by the end of the year? Here are my top three White Sox candidates for each.
3. Andrew Vaughn
Andrew Vaughn comes as the next heir to the throne in a line of successful White Sox first basemen. Sitting in the company of Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, and Jose Abreu, Vaughn has big shoes to fill and high expectations. These expectations don’t come without reason. One of the more reliable hitters on the team since he was brought up, the homegrown talent looks to take a leap as he gets his approach and role down at a major-league level and could be due for an impressive season at the plate.
2. Luis Robert
Luis Robert’s combination of speed and power opens a door for something unlikely and nearly superhuman to happen at every plate appearance. He can leg out ground balls and hit the ball to the fence with ease. If he continues to improve on his plate discipline, he could yield one of the highest OPS in the entire MLB and be near the top in BA.
1. Tim Anderson
This one felt obvious. Anderson was the 2019 Batting Champion with .335 and has averaged above .300 in every season since. The shortstop has consistently been expected to get on base and get hits, and he has delivered with relative ease. He is the White Sox Batting Champ until someone takes the throne from him.
Home Run Leader
3. Andrew Vaughn
This is another area that Vaughn could see incredible success as he continues to grow. As a prospect, White Sox fans saw Vaughn as the next coming of Barry Bonds and hoped he could come in and hit 60 home runs a year. While that obviously has not happened yet, he has shown flashes of power and can be surrounded by a lineup that gives him a great opportunity to jump up to the top of the home run leaderboard.
2. Luis Robert
As mentioned earlier, Luis Robert packs a lot of power. Especially for having such a slender and quick body type compared to the likes of Aaron Judge, Vlad Guerrero Jr., or Mike Trout, he makes it look surprisingly effortless to hit the ball 400+ feet. Don’t be surprised to hear his name a lot this summer.
1. Eloy Jimenez
At the top of the home run projections is Eloy Jimenez. He has missed a large chunk of the last two seasons due to injury and has not played more than 100 games since 2019, his first year in the league (including the 2020 shortened season). In his 139 games since the start of 2021, Jimenez has hit 26 bombs. While not enough to be the Home Run Champion, the lack of consistency and injured play is hopefully coming to a close in 2023, and Jimenez is likely the best pure power hitter on the roster. If he plays a full season in 2023, Eloy Jimenez could possibly hit the most home runs in the AL.
3. Eloy Jimenez
Here we see Jimenez represented again, primarily due in part to his ability to hit the ball deep. While not every at-bat can be a home run, his .500 slugging percentage led the White Sox in 2022, as his power allows the opportunity for doubles and RBIs whenever he is at the plate. Jimenez has the ability to change the game with one swing, and for that alone, he deserves recognition as a potential Silver Slugger.
2. Tim Anderson
As mentioned earlier, Anderson is the most reliable batter the White Sox have. He puts the ball in play, moves guys around the bases, and gets on base. As leadoff man, his job is to create momentum for the offense, and he does exactly that. Often times it is Tim Anderson’s bat that sparks an early run or keeps an inning or game alive. If there is anybody on this roster to trust with an at-bat, it is likely Tim Anderson as it currently stands.
1. Luis Robert
If you haven’t guessed by now, La Pantera has all the makings of a young superstar. His discipline at the plate left a bit to be desired over his first few seasons. However, with a new hitting coach coming in this season since the White Sox and Frank Menechino parted ways, Robert might take that next step into being an offensive force. His speed and power leave no doubt that he could get any number of bases on any given swing, and now that he has a few years of big-league experience, he could be the most impactful batter for the White Sox this year.
3. Andrew Benintendi
Defense has been a weak spot for the White Sox since this core has come up. Though having incredible offensive potential, they have been average at best in the field. Benintendi is the opposite of that dynamic. Though just about average on defense, he will provide solid, reliable, and often impressive defense in left field, taking some weight off of the shoulders of center fielder Luis Robert. His defense could be a big difference-maker in the outfield on the south side.
2. Yoan Moncada
Perhaps the flashiest defender on the roster, Moncada’s quick reflexes, and ball speed have been impressive, especially in connection with Jose Abreu. Hopefully, he relays that connection to Andrew Vaughn, and the hot corner continues to make plays that many people couldn’t. Though his play-making ability is among the top in the league, Moncada’s control in routine plays is actually more worrisome, making more throwing errors than expected in those types of situations. However, if he is able to control what he should be able to, Moncada could be a top third baseman in the American League.
1. Luis Robert
I know we have seen a lot of him on this list, but Robert has the most untapped potential on this entire roster, and a breakout year for him would put him top three in a lot of categories on this team and that includes defense. The center fielder hasn’t exactly had All-Stars by his side out there (unless you count 2022 teammate A.J. Pollock’s 2015 season) but has still been able to expand his range and cover a significant portion of the outfield. Benintendi’s arrival may allow Robert to play a little more comfortably and show even more success than in previous years.
3. Lance Lynn
Lance Lynn is probably the most reliable, seasoned veteran on this roster. Giolito has been up and down since 2019, and there aren’t any other guaranteed veteran starters on the White Sox roster right now. Lynn has two All-Star appearances, and two top-five Cy Young finishes, with a third, sixth-place finish. He will be one of the best pitchers on this staff, and a good season for him would put him near the top of the league.
2. Michael Kopech
Michael Kopech’s injuries and COVID opt-out year put him a couple of years back in his development, but he now looks like the starter the White Sox were hoping he could be. With a 3.64 ERA and 9.9 K/9, Kopech has shown flashes of being great. Provided he avoids pitching into jams and can bring his pitch count down a bit, he could be one of the top starters on this team.
1. Dylan Cease
Cease is the obvious answer to have as the top of the list. 2022 Cy Young runner-up and second in the A.L. in strikeouts (30 less strikeouts in 16 less innings than Gerrit Cole). On his best day, he is unhittable. He had a career-high 78 walks in 2022, which may have been the deciding factor in him not winning the Cy Young. If he continues to show increased control, there is no reason to think Cease isn’t destined to win a Cy Young at some point in his career, if not as early as this season.
3. Dylan Cease
If there is going to be a pitcher represented on the MVP ladder for the Sox, it is likely Cease. He finished 22nd in MVP voting last year and gives the White Sox a very realistic chance at winning every fifth game. You can’t win games scoring zero runs, and Cease is the most likely reason any opposing team goes scoreless. Any day he is on the mound, Cease is often the Most Valuable Player on the team.
2. Tim Anderson
Tim Anderson is the intangible leader of this team, especially without Abreu in the clubhouse. As mentioned earlier, a large volume of the White Sox offensive success is sparked by or continued through, his bat. When Tim is on, the rest of the lineup follows suit, and it’s a bad day to be the opposing pitcher. That said, he has been playing at about what his ceiling is offensively the last few years, and it can’t be expected that he continues at that level forever. But he is still young enough and in his prime that I wouldn’t sell any TA7 stock quite yet.
1. Luis Robert
The most likely candidate that could represent the White Sox in MVP voting is Luis Robert. He can simply do it all. He has the potential to be a star defender, batter, and baserunner, and his success could catapult the White Sox to the top of the division and American League. With a few years of major league experience now, it wouldn’t be surprising if this is the year he takes that next step. If the Sox find themselves deep in the playoffs, it will be in no small part a result of Luis Robert having himself a year.