Now that we’ve had a week to digest the Wild Card series loss to the Oakland Athletics, and the 2020 Chicago White Sox season as a whole, it’s time to start thinking about 2021.
After the White Sox dropped Game 3 of their Wild Card series with the A’s last Thursday, team catalyst Tim Anderson said the 2020 season was just the start of something special on the South Side of Chicago and he couldn’t have been more correct.
“We battled,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t be more happy and proud the way we fought. I know that we gave our all. It’s a tough one to swallow, but we’ve got to keep going. It’s just the start of something that can be great.
“We’ve just got to continue to keep going and continue to get better and come with the same mindset,” Anderson said. “I think we’re going to be a lot hungrier next year.”
To Anderson’s sentiment, the 2020 season was just the beginning. While it didn’t end the way the guys in the clubhouse might have drawn it up, it was a definitive coming out party for the White Sox, and a warning to the rest of the league that they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future.
But before we can look to how the White Sox can take the next step in 2021 we must assess the 2020 version of the team, an exercise that the front office and coaching staff is surely undertaking on a daily basis as we speak.
Note: Only position players with at least 60 plate appearances, and pitchers with at least 10 appearances or two or more starts, and finished the season in the organization will be evaluated. i.e., Steve Cishek and Ross Detwiler, who were granted their release after being DFA’d, will not be included.
Lucas Giolito (RHP): 72.1 IP, 97/28 K/BB, 3.48 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 2.0 fWAR
Coming off a breakout 2019 season the newly appointed staff ace Lucas Giolito did not disappoint in 2020. Despite being knocked around pretty hard in the season opening loss to the Minnesota Twins, Giolito finished the season with a 3.48 ERA, 3.19 FIP and a 33.7% strikeout rate.
He helped lead the team into the postseason for the first time, and even threw the 19th no-hitter in franchise history in August against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Giolito was every bit an ace you could ask for when he took the ball in Game 1 of the Wild Card series with Oakland, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning and earning the White Sox their first postseason victory since 2008.
This was an easy one.
Dallas Keuchel (LHP): 63.1 IP, 42/17 K/BB, 1.99 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 1.8 fWAR
A solid number two, a stopper, a veteran leader on and off the field, Dallas Keuchel brought it all to the table for the White Sox in 2020.
He kept opponents on the ground with a 52.8% ground ball rate, and kept them off the board with a stellar 1.99 ERA in his 11 regular season starts. The only thing that kept Keuchel from getting a perfect grade was his disastrous playoff start in a game where the White Sox could have clinched their first postseason series win since 2005.
Dylan Cease (RHP): 58.1 IP, 44/34 K/BB, 4.01 ERA, 6.36 FIP, -0.4 fWAR
Here’s where things get murky in the starting pitching department, and quite frankly Cease’s less than inspiring 2020 was a major reason that the White Sox are watching the playoffs from home right now.
Cease was supposed to take a step forward in 2020, but his inability to command the strike zone and keep the ball in the ballpark left the White Sox with no faith in him as the Game 3 starter in their Wild Card series with Oakland, and he was often reliant upon the high-powered offense for wins during the regular season.
The ceiling is still very high for Dylan Cease who has flashed glimpses of that ceiling in his first two seasons, but the resume that he turned in this season just wasn’t very good at all.
Dane Dunning (RHP): 34.0 IP, 35/13 K/BB, 3.97 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 0.7 fWAR
Dane Dunning looked like the solution to the White Sox’s playoff rotation dilemma for about five starts, displaying the pinpoint control that has been his claim to fame throughout his time in the Sox farm system.
Then fatigue in his first season back from Tommy John surgery became apparent with a loss of that pinpoint command, and he started to get hit around down the stretch, and ultimately only lasted four hitters in his Game 3 start against Oakland.
All said though, Dunning’s debut season has to be considered a success, in that the White Sox have answered for another rotation spot in 2021 with him in the fold.
Reynaldo Lopez (RHP): 26.1 IP, 24/15 K/BB, 6.49 ERA, 7.63 FIP, -0.5 fWAR
Reynaldo Lopez’s 2020 season was a microcosm of his career thus far, a couple decent starts sandwiched in between a bunch of really bad starts.
Lopez was used down the stretch to allow the club to set up their desired playoff rotation, but was unsurprisingly left off of the postseason roster. If Reynaldo Lopez makes another meaningful start in a White Sox uniform, it’ll be because something has went very wrong.
Stick a fork in his time in Chicago.
Gio Gonzalez (LHP): 31.2 IP, 34/19 K/BB, 4.83 ERA, 5.50 FIP, -0.1 fWAR
As it turns out in the case of the long-awaited debut of Gio Gonzalez in a White Sox uniform, the third time wasn’t the charm.
Gonzalez struggled to find a meaningful role in both the rotation and bullpen in 2020, and spent much of the season in a mop-up capacity before being left off the playoff roster. Gonzalez won’t receive a failing grade like Lopez, because quite frankly this was the role that was most likely to happen for him this season, and it’s been noted several times that his knowledge has meant a lot to the glut of young arms on the roster.
Carlos Rodon (LHP): 7.2 IP, 6/3 K/BB, 8.22 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 0.1 fWAR
Rodon spent much of the season injured and only even appears in this report card because he made a pair of starts before going down once again.
Much as it’s always been with Rodon, the left-hander succumbed to injury and spent a chunk of the season in the IL. Problem is, he didn’t look good before or after the injury in either role bestowed upon him. While his injury severely limits the scope of a grade for him in 2020, I’m personally tired of making that excuse for him at this point.
Alex Colome (RHP): 22.1 IP, 16/8 K/BB, 12/13 SV/OPP, 0.81 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 0.6 fWAR
Alex Colome seemingly never makes things look easy, but he always gets the job done for the White Sox in the ninth inning. Colome was 12-of-13 in save opportunities converted this season while only allowing a pair of earned runs against 90 batters faced.
Colome will be a topic of discussion in the coming weeks as he is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season, but as far as 2020 is concerned he was lights out in the back end of the Chicago bullpen.
Aaron Bummer (LHP): 9.1 IP, 36.8 K%, 0.96 ERA, 1.80 FIP, 0.3 fWAR
Despite missing time due to injury in 2020, Aaron Bummer lived up to his pre-season contract extension and was a dominant swing man for the White Sox in high-leverage spots when healthy.
Even in a small sample size Bummer looked like the go-to high-leverage reliever the White Sox expect him to be for the foreseeable future.
Jimmy Cordero (RHP): 26.2 IP, 17.7 K%, 6.08 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 0.2 fWAR
Despite looking solid in the postseason, Jimmy Cordero turned in a clunker in 2020. Cordero allowed opposing hitters a .295 opposing batting average, and surrendered 18 earned runs in 26.2 innings of work.
Cordero’s only saving grace in this grading scale is that Rick Renteria likely over-exposed him, calling on him in half of the teams 60 regular season games. The hope coming into the season was that Cordero could be a right-handed compliment to Aaron Bummer in the middle-late innings moving forward, and he still could be, but his 2020 performance will have him battling it out with guys like Evan Marshall, Matt Foster, and Codi Heuer for the right to that role in 2021.
Garrett Crochet (LHP): 6.0 IP, 36.4 K%, 0.00 ERA, 1.02 FIP, 0.2 fWAR
In five regular season appearances and one postseason appearance, Garrett Crochet was absolutely filthy. The club’s first-rounder in this past June’s MLB Draft joined the roster down the stretch and baffled opposing hitters by touching and topping 100 MPH routinely.
When he wasn’t striking out opposing hitters at a 36.4% clip (8 K, 22 BF) they were making poor contact on the ground (61.5% GB%). Even the pressure of the postseason didn’t bother Crochet who struck out a pair before leaving Game 3 with a forearm issue.
Regardless of what the future holds for Crochet in the grand scheme of things, his 2020 performance was near perfect.
Matt Foster (RHP): 28.2 IP, 28.4 K%, 2.20 ERA, 2.88 FIP, 0.6 fWAR
Like Crochet, and Codi Heuer (to come) Matt Foster was thrust into a major-league role this season and absolutely showed that he belonged there.
Foster did it all this season for the White Sox, starting a pair of games in an ‘opener’ fashion, pitching in any relief situation he was asked to, and doing it all to the tune of a 2.20 ERA in nearly 30 innings of work.
You really couldn’t ask for much more out of Foster, other than maybe a few strikes during his forgettable postseason debut.
Jace Fry (LHP): 19.2 IP, 28.9 K%, 3.66 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 0.0 fWAR
Jace Fry’s 2020 campaign was very up-and-down, marked by injury and inconsistency. At times Fry looked like the 2018 version of himself, and other times he looked like his rough 2019 version of himself.
Fry pitched to mixed results this year, flashing his ceiling and his floor in a very mediocre overall performance in 2020.
Evan Marshall (RHP): 22.2 IP, 32.3 K%, 2.38 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 0.9 fWAR
Evan Marshall turned in probably the strongest bullpen performance aside from Alex Colome in 2020 racking up 0.9 fWAR in 22.2 innings of work.
Marshall posted a 11.91 K/9 mark while walking just 7.5 percent of opposing hitters and surrendering just six earned runs in 23 appearances. Marshall notched a hold in eight of those 23 appearances and an impressive 54.5% GB% while allowing just one home run.
Codi Heuer (RHP): 23.2 IP, 27.3 K%, 1.52 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 0.5 fWAR
Last but not least, Codi Heuer. Heuer was absolutely fantastic in his rookie campaign and showed the potential to be the White Sox’s primary ninth inning option if they opt to allow Alex Colome to walk at the season’s end.
Heuer limited opponents chances by holding opposing hitters to a .145 opposing batting average and kept the ball in the ballpark, only allowing one home run to opposing hitters in 92 total batters faced.
Quite simply, Heuer might have been the best bullpen arm not named Alex Colome or Evan Marshall in 2020.