The 2022 MLB regular season is just over two weeks away. Before it starts, I decided to take a break from some of my deeper, more analytical coverage and submit 10 bold predictions for the White Sox — 5 positive, 5 negative.
1. Tim Anderson hits below .300
I’ve probably written about half a dozen articles for Sox On 35th over the years about Tim Anderson and how negative reactions to his performance from the analytics community and/or national media (especially in 2019) are baseless, and that his performance is actually sustainable. Anderson has certainly sustained it over the past three seasons, and while I predict that he will have another solid year in 2022, it is very difficult to hit .300 or better in four consecutive seasons. I predict a .290/.330/.475 line for Anderson.
2. Eloy Jimenez plays in over 130 games
Eloy Jimenez’s lack of durability has been one of the most common concerns I have encountered about the 2022 White Sox. A couple minor injuries limited Jimenez to 122 games in 2019. In 2020, he played in 55 out of 60 regular season games, but missed most of the team’s playoff series. And of course, a torn pectoral limited Jimenez to 55 (this time, out of 162) games in 2021, most of which featured him struggling to find his timing.
All it takes is one injury or fateful run-in with an outfield wall to make this prediction look foolish, but I predict a mostly healthy season from Jimenez, whose power will be needed in a White Sox lineup that, even when healthy, was far too singles-heavy last year.
3. Yasmani Grandal does not lead the team in on-base percentage
In 2021, Yasmani Grandal led all White Sox hitters with at least 250 plate appearances with a .420 on-base percentage. The next closest players were Luis Robert (.378) and Yoan Moncada (.375). I do not expect Grandal to repeat his 2021 performance, which is not at all a criticism of the player, but an admission of his true dominance last year. While I anticipate a strong year from Grandal, whose knees are healthy at the same time for the first time in over a year, I would not be surprised if Robert, Moncada, or even a breakout player (Andrew Vaughn?) produce a higher on-base percentage in 2022.
4. Andrew Vaughn makes the AL all-star team
In case I have not been clear over the years, I am extremely bullish on Andrew Vaughn’s future. To summarize my last two articles on Vaughn, I believe that he was uniquely unlucky at the plate in 2021 and has the potential to take a Luis Robert-esque year two jump at the plate. It would certainly take a lot for Vaughn — who figures to get time at the corner outfield spots, designated hitter, and perhaps first base — to make an all-star team given that he profiles as an average-at-best defender everywhere but first base. But these predictions are supposed to be bold, and I’m always comfortable betting on talented hitters.
5. Jose Abreu posts the worst rate statistics of his career… but registers 100+ RBIs
Jose Abreu‘s decline has been largely ignored due to his impressive counting statistics and his enormous off-the-field impact on the White Sox. However, an age thirty-five season is typically a time where sluggers show more wear, and Abreu, who recently and for the first time did not commit to playing beyond this season, has led the league in double plays grounded into for each of the last three seasons. I predict a decent but clearly worse than normal .255/.330/.470 line for Abreu.
6. Lucas Giolito takes another step forward
Admittedly, I thought Lucas Giolito would take the jump from all-star pitcher to Cy Young pitcher last year, but he was more or less the same (very good) pitcher he was in 2019 and 2020. However, I am a believer in the thesis that underlies his offseason weight gain: Giolito would benefit far more from consistent fastball velocity than he would from slightly increased maximum velocity. With more consistent velocity and a contract year coming in 2023, I expect Giolito to have a terrific season in 2022 to set the stage.
7. Dylan Cease does not take another step forward
Despite his popularity as a dark horse Cy Young pick and his very impressive 2021 season, I would be pleasantly surprised by another major jump from Dylan Cease. I still expect him to be good, but the leap that many are expecting would require Cease to show a massive improvement in fastball command. For 2022, I predict that Cease will still be the kind of pitcher capable of turning in an ace-like performance here and there. More often than not, however, I see him struggling to pitch deep into games due to his inconsistent command that often leads to high-stress innings. Even when he can simply generate strikeouts to work out of trouble, the energy and pitches needed to complete innings are not ideal.
8. Luis Robert finishes the year with a strikeout rate below 17%
As I wrote about recently, Luis Robert’s 2021 breakout included a stark contrast between his pre- and post-injury self, as his contact and strikeout rates improved tremendously after his return from injury. His strikeout rate was only 17.1% after returning (for reference, it was 32.2% in 2020, and the league average lately has hovered between 20-23%). I feel good about Robert maintaining a low strikeout rate over a full season in 2022, as he is no longer as susceptible to inside fastballs or breaking pitches low and away due to his stance and approach changes.
9. The bullpen finishes outside of baseball’s top 10 by most metrics
This one might be the most bold, and could probably be its own article. First of all, I should make it clear that I am operating under the assumption that Craig Kimbrel will be traded, so whether you think that helps or hurts the bullpen, it should be kept in mind.
While I expect more mastery from Liam Hendriks, Aaron Bummer, and Garrett Crochet, bullpens are extremely volatile and performance fluctuates greatly from year-to-year, in part due to the smaller sample. While I certainly hope the talented and expensive bullpen performs well, it is not hard to see things going south. Joe Kelly‘s nerve issues could recur. Kendall Graveman pitches through a benign tumor in his spine that leads to considerable pain. The team’s relievers past the aforementioned five are not particularly impressive. An injury or two, coupled with some general small sample madness/reliever volatility, could make the unit far less dangerous than presumed.
10. The White Sox win a playoff series
Despite their shortcomings, the somewhat injury-prone nature of many of the team’s most important contributors, and (as of my writing) the lack of meaningful offseason additions at the largest areas of need (right field, starting pitcher, second base), the White Sox are an enormously talented team. They were outclassed by the Astros in the ALDS last year, but compared to the rest of the AL now, the White Sox are one of the safer bets to win a playoff series. Whether they can get any farther than that will depend on many factors, including potential augmentations to the roster before or during the regular season, but a roster this talented figures to make the playoffs for the third consecutive year and, I predict, win a playoff series for the first time since 2005. Hopefully, they win far more than just one.
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