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Mismatched Sox: Stacking Up the Sox

by Ed Siebert

A note for those of you reading: Mismatched Sox is a weekly blog hastily thrown together by Sox in the Basement Co-Host Ed Siebert and is written to present you with White Sox and baseball thoughts in a manner that, frankly, thinks it is funny but not as funny as the criminally underrated UHF. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at Soxon35th.com nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a shady veterinarian and ask if this blog is right for you.

A Twinkie Weiner Sandwich. Because posting this is better than posting an actual Minnesota Twins picture. And this hits better than Gary Sanchez

On the precipice of the new season, on the edge of the cliffs of insanity that some fans seem hellbent on either diving off of or throwing Rick Hahn off of, it is time to look at where the team stands in relation to the rest of the league, position by position. Notably, if you are on the edge of the cliffs, it is not recommended from a legal standpoint that you commit a massive felony by throwing anyone over, no matter how much you think they should have given Carlos that qualifying offer; and theologically jumping may have greater eternal ramifications than Vince Velasquez making double-digit starts this year. Besides, when broken down to the very pieces of the puzzle, it may not be all that bad. That said, Lance Lynn better get that knee rehab going ASAP.

It is also fairly certain that there will not be any impact additions to the teams after the date of publication. There will be some grumpy notes about that below, rest assured. Or rest unassured. Or don’t rest, whether assured or not. Your choice, really.

For this exercise, the Sox are ranked against the possible AL playoff teams and the Dodgers and Braves. The Guardians, Angels, A’s, Orioles, and Rangers are left out of the AL picture because they are in some state of rebuild and/or have massive issues that will likely prevent them from being more than a possible spoiler down the stretch. The Guardians have a questionable offense and some questions in the rotation and bullpen. They have Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac and Emmanuel Clase, but beyond that there are questions. Offensively they are Jose Ramirez and a bunch of “let’s see what happens.” The A’s and Orioles have basically taken out a blimp ad that says they aren’t competing this year, and then lit the blimp on fire. The Rangers spent a metric ton of cash on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, but the rotation is bad. Bad bad. The Angels have demons; they are wasting Trout and Ohtani by not including much rotation help other than a rehabbed Thor and Patrick Sandoval, and their lineup isn’t nearly what it should be outside Trout, Shohei and maybe Anthony Rendon. So that leaves Toronto, Tampa, Boston, the Yankees, the Twins, the Royals, the Tigers, the Mariners, and the Astros. The NL is looking up at the Dodgers as usual, and the Braves won it last year so they are included to make them feel better about losing Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers. The Mets? Screw ’em. Actually, with the Mets they could contend but the Dodgers and the reigning champs seem like good barometers for the NL side.

Now, let’s rank the White Sox, position-by-position:

Rotation: Toronto over Seattle over Houston over White Sox over Tampa over Detroit over Boston over Minnesota over KC over NYY.

Toronto has a loaded rotation, with the strengths being the sheer depth 1 through 5 of Berrios, Ryu, Gausman, Manoah, and Kikuchi. Seattle has talent to spare, as they have some guys in waiting but Chris Flexen and Marco Gonzales might be shaky behind Robbie Ray. Houston is relying on a return from Justin Verlander, but should also have Lance McCullers back even though the rotation doesn’t need him at the start. The Sox get the benefit of Giolito, Cease, and Kopech being utterly electric at their best, even though the back end is suspect until Lynn returns, and Kopech will be heavily rested. Tampa, like life, finds a way. Detroit has some risers in Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize and a sneaky veteran in Eduardo Rodriguez. From there, it falls off into patchwork rotations that are limited at the top and questionable throughout, like Boston where Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale are not givens in any year and the Yankees where Gerritt Cole is surrounded by very little. Or the Twins, who have Sonny Gray, Chris Paddack, and Kenta Maeda who were great a couple years ago and are lead by Joe Ryan, who’s low-90’s fastball profile suggests he shouldn’t ever get an MLB hitter out. The Royals have promise and the shambling corpse of Zack Greinke, who relies on guile and savvy as a nice way of saying his arm isn’t really great anymore.

Versus the NL: Sox over Braves over Dodgers. Saayyy whaaaaa..? At full strength the Sox have a top 4, with Giolito, Cease, Lynn and Kopech. The Braves have Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson and a bevy of youth that project well but haven’t done it. The Dodgers have Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and the end of Clayton Kershaw followed by…guys.

Verdict: Sox fans are right to want more help; maybe Johnny Cueto is the answer, or maybe by June Lance Lynn will be joined by another hired gun. In the meantime, the best hope is that Kevin Gausman is back to bad away from the Bay, that Houston has a problem with injuries and age, that Seattle’s veterans are in fact shaky, and that Tampa doesn’t find a way to make Corey Kluber into his former self.

Bullpen: White Sox over NYY over Houston over Tampa over Minnesota over Toronto over Seattle over Detroit over Boston over KC. The well-projected foursome of Hendriks, Bummer, Graveman, and Kelly make this a Sox winner. Kelly won’t start the year, but that’s ok, in part because Kyle Crick might be a sleeper this year the way Carlos Rodon was last year. Tanner Banks, Jose Ruiz…really whoever is there with those guys will need to eat middle innings more than be relied on for high-leverage moments. But Banks is another guy that could surprise. Meanwhile, the Yankees are deep, but Aroldis is aging rapidly at the end. Houston is pretty solid in the bullpen as they have been in recent years, and Tampa is always finding random arms that somehow work. Toronto’s pen wasn’t great last year and hasn’t been upgraded in any massive way, and even the Twins who aren’t exactly a huge threat overall just traded closer Taylor Rogers and have some talent backing him up. Seattle, Detroit, Boston and KC have closer questions.

Versus the NL: Sox over Dodgers over Braves. The Braves bullpen is good. The Dodgers bullpen is good, but they swapped Joe Kelly for Craig Kimbrel soooo…yeah. The Sox ‘pen just has the firepower at the back end.

Verdict: Losing Garrett Crochet hurt, but the Sox had a lot of talent there to begin with. Liam Hendriks alone makes up for a lot.

Right Field: Houston over Seattle over White Sox over KC over NYY over Tampa over Toronto over Minnesota over Detroit over Boston. Kyle Tucker of the Astros is a really good player. Like star player. Like he’s the only real star on this list and then the rest are just really good to meh. Mitch Haniger is a very solid player, very much like AJ Pollack, and very much like Whit Merrifield, well-rounded veterans that will just flat out help their teams. Joey Gallo is a sneaky good defender and has power, but might not hit other than home runs. Randy Arozarena isn’t as great as his rookie year antics made it seem he could be, even though he is a guy that could rise up the list. Teoscar Hernandez is a 30-year-old that is still being talked about as having untapped potential, which isn’t a great sign, but that potential is better than the Max Kepler/Robbie Grossman/JBJ grouping at the bottom.

Versus the NL: Dodgers over Braves over Sox. Mookie Betts and Eddie Rosario versus AJ Pollack…Betts is the best bet while Rosario’s power is more rosy than Pollack’s all-around game.

Verdict: AJ Pollack makes the Sox acceptable in a position that really doesn’t have many bright shiny stars. They’re good, and if Vaughn or Sheets ever finds another gear they…no…let’s not. The Sox are fine, moving on.

Center Field: White Sox over Minnesota over Seattle over Toronto over Boston over Tampa over NYY over Detroit over KC over Houston. Luis Robert is matched in talent on the Twins maybe by Byron Buxton, who in real life plays the Samuel L. Jackson role in “Unbreakable”. Seattle will roll out top prospect Julio Rodriguez, and George Springer if he’s healthy will be his usual star in Toronto. From there it gets meh. Kiké Hernández is good but not great, as is a healthy Aaron Hicks in NY. Kevin Kiermaier is not as good as Tampa makes him seem, but he’s fine. Riley Greene getting hurt in Detroit knocks them down, while Michael, A Taylor and Chas, A McCormick are literally just examples of men with those last names.

Versus the NL: Sox over Braves over Dodgers. Ronald Acuna Jr., healthy, is a monster. So is Luis Robert. They could be the MVPs of their respective leagues. Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger is just an absolute headcase at this point and is more liable to vanish into a cosmic singularity on a 2-1 count than he is to go deep on that same count. Condolences to him and his family.

Verdict: Appreciate Luis Robert while he’s here. Because he’s the guy you tell future generations you saw play…ya know…before Cody Bellinger tore the space-time continuum on a 3-2 count against Art Warren of the Reds and we ended up in a parallel universe where baseball can’t exist.

Left Field: NYY over White Sox over Houston over Seattle over Detroit over Minnesota over Toronto over Boston over Tampa over KC. Eloy Jimenez and Aaron Judge are cut from the same cloth, but Eloy needs to put together more of a complete outfit…well…season anyway. The dude can dress. Michael Brantley is still a good player, if not aged a bit, while Seattle has Jessie Winker who may have benefited from the Great American Ballpark too much. Detroit’s Akil Baddoo has all sorts of potential but could bust too, as is the case with the Twins’ Alex Kirilloff who has battled injuries more than pitchers. Lourdes Gurriel and Alex Verdugo are untapped potential at this point. Meanwhile, Andrew Benintendi and Manny Margot just aren’t all that good.

Versus the NL: Sox over Braves over Dodgers. Eloy is heads and shoulders over the formerly good Marcell Ozuna, who has some things to prove, and the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, who is Leury Garcia with the ability to track a flyball.

Verdict: Eloy, as much as anyone, is a guy that can and should carry the White Sox to a championship. He’s a misadventure in the field at times, but his bat was just scratching the surface in 2019 and 2020. There aren’t many better than him. Just keep him in some bubble wrap and let Robert and Pollack catch everything.

Shortstop: Toronto over White Sox over Boston over Tampa over Minnesota over Seattle over Detroit over Houston over NYY over KC. Tim Anderson’s probably not better than Xander Boegarts under certain metrics, and Wander Franco might prove to be better than both of them, but TA is more than just his bat and glove to the Sox. So there’s the one sentimental bump in the list…maybe. Frankly, Anderson and the rest are looking up offensively at Bo Bichette, who is potentially on a different level. Carlos Correa is somewhat expected to backslide a bit in leaving Houston, but is still much better than the remainder of the list, and that includes the rookie Jeremy Pena that has the job in Houston. JP Crawford is decent in Seattle, Alberto Mondesi is indecent in KC, Isaiah Kiner-Falafa is ok, and Javy Baez is still fun to watch in the field but is a massive tease at the plate. If Bobby Witt Jr. takes the Royals gig eventually, he shuffles the deck a bit here but not enough to unseat Bichette or TA.

Versus the NL: Dodgers and Sox over Braves. Trea Turner and TA are the same guy in a lot of ways, with Turner maybe better on the basepaths than TA, but TA maybe a hair better at the plate. Turner did have the slickest slide in MLB history, but TA walked his team off in a cornfield. Take your pick. Meanwhile, they are both better than Dansby Swanson, who, based on name alone, should have remained a tertiary character in an early 1900’s novel.

Verdict: Tim Anderson is a stud in a field of studs. Drop all these shortstops in a field and throw a stud finder in there, it’ll explode from being torn in too many directions. The Sox are very well-manned at short, but there are a few guys out there that can meet his talent or beat it.

Third Base: Houston over NYY over Boston over White Sox over Toronto over KC over Minnesota over Tampa over Seattle over Detroit. Yoan Moncada of 2019 might merit consideration over Alex Bregman, Josh Donaldson and Rafael Devers. But Yoan of 2020-2021 is a guy that isn’t what he should be from a power standpoint and maybe an average standpoint. Matt Chapman’s glove is all-universe but his bat fell off after hip problems started. Witt Jr. is the top prospect in the game, which at least should count for something over the likes of Gio Urshela, Yandy Diaz, Eugenio Suarez or Jaimer Candelario. If 3B in KC is Mondesi, to the bottom of the pile they be.

Versus the NL: Dodgers over Sox over Braves. Justin Turner might be losing steps but he’s still reliable when he’s on the field. Moncada should be better than him, ultimately, but he needs to crack 20 homers again. Meanwhile, Austin Riley is strong, but could be due for some regression as last year he seemed out over his skis.

Verdict: Yoan Moncada should be higher on these lists, and could be by the end of the year. He’s still the best pop star of the entire list by a mile.

Second Base: Houston over Tampa over Boston over White Sox over Seattle over Minnesota over Detroit over NYY over KC over Toronto. Jose Altuve remains among the best in the business, whether or not he has a nice set of cans at hand. Brandon Lowe had a bad start to 2021 but recovered, while Trevor Story is swapping positions and may find life at sea level to be a downer. Josh Harrison and Jorge Polanco serve the same role, with Polanco falling back to Earth after injuries and the jettisoning of the happy fun ball. Jonathon Schoop is serviceable, but there’s a falloff to Gleyber Torres, Nicky Lopez and whatever remains of Cavan Biggio’s once-promising talent.

Versus the NL: Braves over Dodgers over Sox. Ozzie Albies is a stud, Max Muncy is as well if his health is there. Harrison is fine, he’s a professional player in every sense but not a star. He’s better than Gavin Lux, if that’s where the Dodgers go more often this season.

Verdict: Josh Harrison has no intention of killing the White Sox season, and likely won’t, but isn’t special or potentially special. Could be better, was almost a lot worse.

First Base: Toronto over White Sox over NYY over Houston over Detroit over Seattle over Boston over Tampa over Minnesota over KC. Well, there’s not much chance of being better than Vlad Jr. Holy smokes is that guy the man. But Jose Abreu remains a steady run producer and role model. Anthony Rizzo and Yuli Gurriel are pretty close to that, though Gurriel hasn’t really been mentioned as being on Pito’s level and Rizzo’s back has aged him more rapidly than expected. Spencer Torkelson should be a ROY candidate, while guys like Ty France, Bobby Dalbec, Miguel Sano, and Ji Man Choi have lower ceilings. Carlos Santana has faded more dramatically than the field and might be better only due to a dead cat bounce. Meowch.

Versus the NL: Dodgers over Braves over Sox. By slim margins, maybe, but Freddie Freeman is at the top of his game, Matt Olson is on the rise, and Jose is on the decline. Pito isn’t likely to see a massive improvement, but Olson could take another step for sure and Freeman might have another gear.

Verdict: Jose Abreu is the man, but there are others who are more the man these days. The Sox remain in good hands for another year.

Catcher: White Sox over KC over the rest. The White Sox sport the best or just about the best catcher in baseball and the Royals have the best or just about the best catcher in baseball too. Yas Grandal and Sal Perez are hard to top, and Perez is coming off a career year. The Twins have Ryan Jeffers and Yankee castoff Gary Sanchez, who was known for his bat but is now a DH who can’t hit. The Yankees, Houston, Seattle and Boston are mainly defense over offense behind the plate. Detroit and Toronto are younger and maybe…maybe can improve with that edge going to Toronto. The Mariners could also ditch Tom Murphy for better hitting Luis Torrens or all around prospect Cal Raleigh and move up.

Versus the NL: Sox and Dodgers over Braves. Will Smith is slap your mouth good, even though it isn’t that Will Smith. Travis D’Arnaud is a guy that should have been better at this point but can’t stay healthy.

Verdict: The Sox are at the top, or near it, or sharing it. Either way they can’t do much better.

Designated Hitter: NYY over Houston over Toronto over Boston over Detroit over White Sox over Seattle over Tampa over Minnesota over KC. Giancarlo Stanton…Yordan Alvarez…these are among the best hitters in the game. Alejandro Kirk has the contact skills to be a menace for the Jays, while JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are wrapping up great careers. From there, the Vaughn/Sheets two headed monster is among the remaining group of committees that will DH.

Versus the NL: Sox over Dodgers over Braves. Vaughn and Sheets versus the benches of the Braves and Dodgers. The DH position isn’t yet a strong suit in the NL.

Verdict: Until Vaughn or Sheets really gets established, there will be better options on other teams, but there aren’t a bevy of traditional DHs still floating around. At least Andrew and Gavin have prospect pedigrees that suggest, respectively, a star hitter and a lefty power bank.

Position by position, the White Sox have the best or among the best bullpen, center field, left field, shortstop, and catcher, with middlin’ rankings for the rotation, right field, DH and the infield. There should have been better news in the rotation, given that Toronto built theirs through free agency and the depth for Seattle and Houston come from a farm system that the Sox haven’t replicated. First base, right field and second base are held down by solid veterans for the Sox, while DH is where the youth may be an X-Factor.

All in all, the Sox stand up very well to the main competition, but the rotation’s precarious nature is a concern. At least most teams aren’t that deep either, and most teams don’t have the thunder the Sox have. The Sox need the Jays’ bullpen to falter, the Astros to have some fall off, and things to go right to advance in the playoffs.

Without delving into any other advanced analytics, what PECOTA and other predictors say about the Sox having a 70%-80% is probably lowballing a bit, but still makes it likely that the Sox have a third straight postseason in them. What they do there is the proverbial Twinkie Wiener Sandwich, either amazing or terrible with no in between.

Follow us @SoxOn35th and @SoxInTheBasemnt for more updates as the season begins!

Featured Image: White Sox / Twitter

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