Most of us have completely checked out of the 2023 White Sox season, and for good reason. Attendance is expectedly down, and with football back, few seem to be watching games or commenting on social media. But a quick glance at the South Siders’ recent showings gives reason to lament more than just this current campaign.
Following the trades of key pieces at the deadline and the firings of Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams, there seemed to be a clear path forward for the Sox. One: build a competent, forward-thinking front office. Two: compile a strong team in the next couple of years out of current pieces, a budding farm system, and future free agents. Step one seems questionable at best with the promotion of Chris Getz to vice president of baseball operations. But step two isn’t off to a great start, either.
Thankfully, the farm system shows real promise. But it’s the major league team’s remaining “stars” that make me very dubious about the ability of this franchise to compete in two years’ time. Don’t get me wrong—it’s fine if the current squad is losing games, high draft picks are great! But it’s how they’re losing games that is disturbing. Namely, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Eloy Jimenez, Andrew Vaughn, and arguably a couple of others just aren’t cutting it.
While it feels like the reset button has been hit, Chicago will need those guys to improve in order to make a competitive 2025 team possible. Let’s go through the key names one by one and see how they’re doing, along with my confidence level in each one moving forward.
Michael Kopech (signed through 2025)
This season has quickly turned into a disaster for the hard-throwing righty. Entering 2023 with high expectations after respectable numbers and impressive flashes in 2022, Kopech has not risen to the occasion. While he has endured more innings than ever before in his career, his overall season ERA of 5.47 and xFIP of 5.69 are truly ugly. That encompasses a second-half 8.29 ERA and 7.07 xFIP. Year-over-year, strikeouts are 18% more frequent, but walks (6.38 BB/9) are 48% higher!
Shockingly, Kopech is still a lock to start in 2024. The rotation is all too empty without him, and in a likely uncompetitive year, the Sox may as well give him another shot. Hopefully, he can undergo a Giolito-esque transformation to be in good shape by 2025.
Confidence level: 2/10
Dylan Cease (signed through 2025)
Although Cease’s campaign hasn’t been nearly as ugly as Kopech’s, it’s similarly disappointing. After finishing second in the 2022 Cy Young voting, Cease now sports a 4.85 ERA in 2023. Notably, he’s been unlucky. A .329 opponent BABIP and .394 FIP show that he’s been closer to prior form than most would think, but he’s still miles apart.
The kicker is that Cease has gotten worse in the second half of the year, so there are no immediate indicators that he’s turning things around. Personally, I was expecting a lights-out second half from the mustache-clad hurler, so I continue to be disappointed. With a 10.69 K/9 this season (11.10 in 2022), the stuff is clearly there, he’s just got to locate better and find ways to limit hard contact. There is a significant chance that Cease is dealt this offseason though, so we’ll wait and see how Getz handles things.
Confidence level: 6/10
Eloy Jimenez (signed through 2027, club options in 2025/2026)
It is through gritted teeth and clenched fists that I must admit to the world—Eloy Jimenez is sputtering in 2023. A personal favorite of mine, I was massively confident that Jimenez would tear it up this year. Fresh off a second half in 2022 in which he was both healthy and one of the best hitters in all of baseball, all signs were pointing up. But this campaign has been merely average. Today, Jimenez sits at a 102 wRC+ with 17 homers in 454 PA. At the DH position, that’s nothing special.
There are no clear answers here, as his 2022 numbers appeared sustainable (.365 xwOBA) and he’s been relatively healthy. Like the aforementioned players, the second half has been worse than the first, so there’s no upward trend to bank on. Time will tell if he can regain the elite form he’s displayed for a few lengthy stretches in his career.
Confidence level: 4/10
Andrew Vaughn (signed through 2026)
There’s not much to say here that hasn’t been said on social media or our very own Sox on 35th podcast. Vaughn is painstakingly average (and similar to Jimenez) with a 103 wRC+ and 0.2 fWAR. Though his second half has featured a sharp rise in batting average, it’s still been a deeply concerning period. Vaughn’s walk rate since the All-Star Break has been a frightening 2.5%, and the increase in average is clearly attributed to luck due to a high BABIP and no change in ball quality. Lurking far off in the distance, Tim Elko appears…
Confidence level: 3/10
Yoan Moncada (signed through 2024, club option in 2025)
Moncada is far from the biggest disappointment on the roster right now—take that haters! Sitting at 0.9 fWAR and a 95 wRC+ on the year, Moncada has heated up in the second half. Still, those numbers paint an uninspiring picture for the 28-year-old on the whole. Aggressively optimistic fans may claim that he’s now just finally healthy at the plate, but we’ll see. He seems to be a mystery box, and it’s anyone’s guess whether the South Siders will get a good, healthy Moncada or a bad, injured Moncada in the future.
Confidence level: 4/10
Luis Robert Jr. (signed through 2025, club options in 2026/2027)
Although a recent ugly streak has tarnished some eye-popping numbers, Robert Jr. is still having a fantastic 2023 campaign. With 37 homers and 4.9 fWAR, the center fielder has finally stayed healthy and hit his stride. A disheartening 5% walk rate needs to get better, undoubtedly. But with 13 outs above average, Robert Jr. can still be ridiculously valuable each year if he continues to muster a 128 wRC+. He’s still a talented White Sox player though, so let’s not rule out the possibility that he regresses in a major way in 2024 for literally no apparent reason.
Confidence level: 7/10
Honorable mentions? Why not. Gregory Santos figures to be a bullpen cornerstone for years to come, but he hasn’t been around long enough to be labeled a key piece for me just yet. Still, having a dominant mainstay reliever like him would work wonders for the Sox. Garrett Crochet has looked great in a few rehab outings, but he’s a similar story as Santos—an unestablished, high-ceiling arm with the added twist of a possible rotation role.
But referring to the core group, here’s the situation. Yes, at least a few of these guys probably won’t be on the team in 2025, but their overall performance does matter. Even right now. Sadly, the verdict is that Sox fans have little to be optimistic about with their controllable major league talent.
Follow us @SoxOn35th for more throughout the season!
Featured Image: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports