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FanGraphs’ projections have White Sox as AL Central Champs

by Sox On 35th Contributors

Coming off a first-place finish in the American League Central, early 2022 projections are once again looking favorable for the White Sox.

FanGraphs released their upcoming MLB season predictions, where the South Siders find themselves atop the division for a second-straight year. Keep in mind, these projections are also based on an offseason that hasn’t featured many major additions due to the lockout. With more moves likely coming once a resolution is reached, things could continue to trend upward.

The American League Central standings as projected by FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections system are as follows:

  1. Chicago White Sox (88-74)
  2. Cleveland Guardians (78-84)
  3. Detroit Tigers (76-86)
  4. Kansas City Royals (75-87)
  5. Minnesota Twins (74-88)

Along with the predicted 10-game lead for the Sox, FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski had the following to say about the final divisional standings:

The Central projects similarly to last year, with two clear tiers: the White Sox and everyone else. Right now, there’s no particular reason to expect Chicago to do anything but coast to the divisional title, with the usual caveats for injuries and the like.

If the White Sox falter for some reason, ZiPS sees the division becoming a much more interesting dogfight. The dead cat bounce isn’t enough to get ZiPS to project a return to form for the Twins thanks to some extremely unimpressive pitching projections, which can be described as middling across the board with an extremely low ceiling. ZiPS likes the Tigers in the long-term — and I’m taking the over on this projection right now — but there’s still some sorting out to do. Aggressively promoting Riley Greene would add a couple wins to the projections. So would finding an actual DH rather than pretending Miguel Cabrera is still a major league-quality hitter, but I don’t really expect Detroit to go that far.

As for the remainder of the American League, the East contains three teams with equal or better projected records in the Yankees (90-72), Blue Jays (89-73), and Rays (88-74). In the West, only the Astros (91-71) look to pose a threat yet again, meaning the White Sox would have the fourth-best projected record in a tie with Tampa Bay.

Like many of these teams, the Rick Hahn and Co. still have several holes that will need to be addressed – we’re looking at you right field and second base. With next to zero progress being made between the MLB Players Association and owners, it’s hard to tell when we might see a resumption of activity. Until we have those answers, we are left with projections based on everyone’s current roster.

Below are the previously released ZiPS projections for all White Sox pitchers and hitters. Click on each image to get a closer look at the numbers, or click here to visit the FanGraphs article containing the original charts.

Starting with the position players, the usual key contributors are predicted to have strong seasons once again. Yasmani Grandal, Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, and Eloy Jimenez are all projected to hit 20 home runs or more in seasons similar to last. Jimenez, who FanGraphs’ Szymbrowski says may have been underestimated due to his injury, will be one of the players to watch as he looks to stay healthy for a full 162.

Robert is another name where numbers are probably lower than where they should be, again attributable to missing over half of last year with his hip flexor tear. After finishing 2021 with a .338/.378/.567 slash over 296 PA and 3.2 WAR, Robert is projected to hit .279/.330/.492 over 500 PA with the same 3.2 WAR. However, FanGraphs’ depth charts are showing him as having a 4.2 WAR, meaning there’s some room to improve and shatter the relatively conservative numbers.

A closer look at the depth chart below, and the main areas of concern continue to be right field and second base. Everywhere else on the roster looks passable or above, giving the White Sox a step ahead of where they were last year.

The projections look at Lucas Giolito as the de-facto ace of the staff, with a projected 13-8 record with a 3.36 ERA. He is followed by Dylan Cease (3.88 ERA), Lance Lynn (3.98 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (4.46 ERA), and Michael Kopech (3.76 ERA) rounding out the rotation. All starters are projected to have an ERA+ hovering at or above 100 (which is considered league average), with Keuchel the only one falling just below with a projected 99 ERA+. Though, to be fair, these sorts of projections would be a welcome sight for the White Sox after a brutal 2021 season from Keuchel. Based on projections, the team should look to continue to add this offseason, at least to the back end of their rotation.

The bullpen featured two consistently big pieces in Liam Hendriks (2.83 ERA) and Aaron Bummer (3.10 ERA), as well as Craig Kimbrel (3.75 ERA) – for now, at least. Beyond that, the bullpen is rather uninspiring, as it is rounded out by Jose Ruiz, Garrett Crochet, Ryan Burr, Reynaldo Lopez, and Matt Foster. Crochet is projected to have the best season of that bunch with a 3.29 ERA and 134 ERA+. In other words, there are pieces in the bullpen, but the White Sox will need to continue to add. Newcomer Kendall Graveman is not yet in these projections, however – which will definitely help the outlook of the bullpen.

Be sure to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for additional updates as we (hopefully) get closer to the season!


Featured Photo: White Sox/Twitter

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Aaron Sapoznik

I’ll take the over on the White Sox winning 88 games. It”s a certainty that Rick Hahn will add a starting 2B who is a better option than Leury Garcia following the end of the lockout. The White Sox also figure to have better overall health than what they experienced in 2021. Additionally, most of the core players have yet to reach their prime years which normally results in statistical improvement. If the White Sox also add a quality lefty bat to fill their 2B hole, acquire one in RF and also add another solid SP it will be the… Read more »

Aaron Sapoznik

I’ll take the over on the White Sox winning 88 games. It’s a certainty that Rick Hahn will add a starting 2B who is a better option than Leury Garcia following the end of the lockout. The White Sox also figure to have better overall health than what they experienced in 2021. Additionally, most of the core players have yet to reach their prime years which normally results in statistical improvement. If the White Sox also add a quality lefty bat to fill their 2B hole, acquire one for RF and also add another solid SP it will be the… Read more »

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