As the calendar has flipped to September, we are one step closer to the fun part of the White Sox season:
Playoffs indeed. With 28 games to play and a 9.5 game lead in the division, the White Sox’ number to clinch the division sits at just 21. It’s been this way for a while, but the closer we get to the end of the season, the better we all should feel talking about the White Sox in the playoffs.
The natural question that arises for every team is here for the White Sox: who will make up the 26-man roster in the playoffs? Are there guys we have seen all year that we won’t see come October? Or, are there role players who haven’t played a lot this season, but will be a big part of the team in October? That’s what this article is for: starting to project what the playoff roster could look like.
A quick note about my breakdown: I included all players currently on the 40-man roster, as all of those players are technically eligible for the postseason roster. The only player I did not include was Jimmy Cordero, who is out for the year with Tommy John Surgery.
With that, let’s begin.
Locks (4): Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease
Outside Looking In (1): Dallas Keuchel
This is probably the easiest section to build out. In what has been an area of strength all season, the White Sox currently have four starting pitchers among the top 10 in AL fWAR:
- Carlos Rodon (3rd: 4.3)
- Dylan Cease (4th: 3.5)
- Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito (T-7th: 3.3)
While it is not yet clear what the postseason rotation order will be, it seems pretty clear that these four guys will be running the show in the ALDS and, hopefully, beyond.
As for Dallas Keuchel, last offseason’s big splash that posted a 1.99 ERA in 2020, has been a pretty large disappointment in 2021. The left-hander has posted just 0.3 fWAR on the season with a 5.00 ERA and 5.99 FIP. His second-half stats have really fallen off, as hitters have a .377 wOBA against him since the All-Star Break to go with a 6.86 ERA. Keuchel even had this to say after his most recent outing, in which he gave up six runs (five earned runs) in just 1.0+ IP against the Cubs:
“I’ve been the weakest starter in the rotation for much of the year. Of course I think about it. Letting myself get rolled up into that idea is the least of my worries right now.
“I’m trying to ride this thing in September and make adjustments and hopefully we’re sitting here talking about a lot of wins instead of a lot of pitiful performances and the team backing me up and we’re winning games here.”– Dallas Keuchel on the possibility of not making the Postseason roster
There is still hope for Keuchel – as we will see in the next section, it appears as if the White Sox will have one roster spot to play with on the pitching side. It will be interesting to see how they treat Keuchel – could the veteran with playoff experience overcome his shortcomings? September will be the key. However, I think most fans would be surprised if you told them in March that by October, Dallas Keuchel would potentially find himself out of the playoff rotation.
What to Watch For: Combined with the relievers below, the White Sox currently appear to have 12 spots filled on the pitching side. Since playoff rosters are 26 men deep and assuming the White Sox take 13 pitchers and 13 hitters, does Keuchel get the final spot? Can he pitch his way into the playoffs with a solid September? Or do the likes of Jose Ruiz, Matt Foster, or Jace Fry get a chance?
Locks (6): Ryan Tepera, Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, Aaron Bummer, Craig Kimbrel, Liam Hendriks
Likely Candidates (2): Reynaldo Lopez, Evan Marshall
Outside Looking In (7): Jose Ruiz, Matt Foster, Jace Fry, Mike Wright, Ryan Burr, Jimmy Lambert, Jonathan Stiever
The first six names are pretty obvious, as they are the core of the bullpen. I likely could have – and should have – included Reynaldo Lopez among the locks, as he has really revitalized himself this season. Even if we assume Lopez is a lock for the postseason bullpen, that leaves 11 names on the pitching staff.
Once again, we are operating under the assumption that the White Sox take 13 pitchers and 13 hitters into the ALDS. After Lopez, however, there aren’t many inspiring options. Evan Marshall is currently on a rehab assignment and hasn’t given up a run in three innings at Charlotte. Other than that, Matt Foster has struggled all season and currently isn’t on the 26-man roster, Jose Ruiz is a mop-up man, and Jace Fry and Ryan Burr haven’t been able to establish themselves this season. Could this pave the way for Dallas Keuchel as the 13th pitcher – but as a bullpen arm?
What to Watch For: Dallas Keuchel is likely battling Ruiz for the final spot for the pitching staff in October. Who will eventually win out for the 13th spot? In addition, after looking at the state of the back end of the bullpen, do the White Sox even choose to carry 13 pitchers?
Locks (11): Yasmani Grandal, Seby Zavala, Jose Abreu, Cesar Hernandez, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Leury Garcia, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Andrew Vaughn, Adam Engel
Likely Candidates (2): Billy Hamilton, Brian Goodwin
Outside Looking In (8): Zack Collins, Jake Burger, Danny Mendick, Romy Gonzalez, Yermin Mercedes, Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo, Gavin Sheets
Once again assuming the White Sox split the roster at 13/13 between pitchers and hitters, there isn’t much room for fringe players to sneak onto the roster here. The White Sox will obviously need to carry two catchers, and if healthy, the team will almost be guaranteed to carry Adam Engel on the roster. That leaves Billy Hamilton, Brian Goodwin, and Gavin Sheets fighting for two spots.
Billy Hamilton’s spot is almost guaranteed – a player like him is almost a necessity on the postseason roster as a late-inning pinch-runner and defensive replacement. That leaves the left-handed bat battle to Brian Goodwin and Gavin Sheets.
If we compared both against RHP this year, it looks like this:
- Brian Goodwin: .272/.371/.510 (.881 OPS), 144 wRC+, .378 wOBA
- Gavin Sheets: .278/.356/.646 (1.001 OPS), 163 wRC+, .413 wOBA
Both post impressive numbers; however, while Sheets does have the platoon advantage, will the White Sox feel confident in his abilities to pinch-hit and play the outfield enough to include him over Brian Goodwin? It’s an interesting question that will likely need to be answered throughout September. However, for now, due to tenure, advantage Brian Goodwin.
However, Gavin Sheets was likely brought up with the idea that there is a scenario in which he finds himself on the Postseason roster come October. I would assume that Gavin Sheets will get a lot of starts this month, with the idea that he can earn himself a spot on the roster. However, the backup infielders likely have no spot here, and Zack Collins, unfortunately, falls from backup to start the season to not even on the Postseason roster.
Do the White Sox eventually change pace and go for 12 pitchers and 14 hitters? If so, that would likely open up a spot for Gavin Sheets on this roster. Much to come in September.
What to Watch For: September is going to inform a lot of decisions among the fringe players; could a hot month from Gavin Sheets give the White Sox the desire to part ways with Brian Goodwin and commit to Gavin Sheets off the bench in October? Could the White Sox instead decide to carry 14 hitters and only 12 pitchers, making this decision relatively easy?
Additionally, what will Adam Engel’s health be like? We assumed he will be healthy, and he will be going on a rehab assignment soon. However, if he’s unavailable, who takes his spot? Does this open up a spot for Gavin Sheets then?
September is going to inform quite a few decisions on players for the Postseason haul for the White Sox in 2021. Performances from Dallas Keuchel, Jose Ruiz, Gavin Sheets, and Brian Goodwin could inform decision such as:
- Do the White Sox carry 12 or 13 pitchers? An extra reliever, or a long-time starter with Postseason experience?
- Who will be the first bat off the bench to face a tough RP?
- What will the lineup look like against RHP?
Among other questions that will likely become more clear as we get closer to October.
For now, sit back, relax, and strap it down. Emphasis on relax, because once October hits, I have a feeling not too many people will feel too relaxed.
Thoughts on how you would structure the Postseason roster? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @jlazowski14!
Featured Photo: Major League Baseball (@mlb) / Twitter