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.
James McCann (C): 111 PA, .289/.360/.536, 7 HR, 144 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR
After posting another excellent season in 2020, and complimenting newly acquired everyday backstop Yasmani Grandal to near perfection, James McCann will be the toughest goodbye for the White Sox this winter.
McCann came to Chicago two years ago with absolutely zero value on the open market and has parlayed his 2019 All-Star Game appearance and a pair of strong offensive seasons into a potentially substantial payday this offseason, and while the White Sox would love to keep him around, I doubt that ends up being the case.
Aside from his decline down the stretch — much like the one we saw last season after the All-Star break — McCann was excellent in all facets of the game. His pitch framing numbers increased significantly, he hit well, he called great games for Lucas Giolito and whomever else he caught, and he eventually overtook Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup during the Wild Card Series.
Yasmani Grandal (C): 194 PA, .230/.351/.422, 117 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR
Despite scuffling out of the gates, Yasmani Grandal turned in a solid season in his first year in Chicago. The veteran catcher did what he was advertised to do; he took walks, he hit home runs, he drove in runs, and he worked well with the pitching staff.
His .773 OPS wasn’t anything special but he’ll have an entire winter to do what he loves best, watch video. A tool he noted as a reason for his early season struggles that was taken away amid the news of the sign-stealing scandals in Houston, Boston, and presumably other unnamed or confirmed organizations.
I’d expect Grandal to have his video back in 2021 in some capacity, and he’ll have a year in the American League under his belt additionally.
Jose Abreu (1B): 262 PA, 19 HR, .317/.370/.617, 167 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
One grade we can’t dispute in this list is the big fat A+ that I’m giving Jose Abreu for his marvelous 2020 campaign, one that may very well net him an American League MVP Award this year.
I mean really, there’s not much else to say about it. Jose Abreu was an absolute monster for the White Sox in 2020, and he’s here for — at least — the next two seasons.
Nick Madrigal (2B): 109 PA, 0 HR, .340/.376/.369, 113 wRC+. 0.1 fWAR
A lot of people will swear to you that Nick Madrigal is dumb, doesn’t know how to run the bases, can’t field, has no pop, blah, blah, blah.
I won’t be one of those people.
The kid came up and did nothing but hit for the White Sox in 2020, to the tune of a .340 batting average. His through-the-roof hit tool that landed him here was exactly as advertised, and unlike much of the team, he hit for an insane rate with two strikes.
As far as the sometimes egregious blunders on the basepaths, and shaky defense at times are concerned, he’s been a major-leaguer for all of a couple months. Give the kid a break. I’m going to.
Tim Anderson (SS): 221 PA, 10 HR, .322/.357/.529, 143 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR
I think at this point it would be easier to try to find something bad to say about Tim Anderson, than it is to find something good. T.A. is the straw that stirs the drink for the White Sox, and he came a slump away from winning his second consecutive batting title in 2020.
He shut the naysayers up — myself included — and woke the rest of the league up when it comes to his game, and the White Sox as a contender. He’s a stud on the field, and off the field for the White Sox and the city of Chicago, and I’m sure as hell glad he’s wearing this uniform for the immediate future.
The swaggy shortstop gets my second and final perfect grade in this year’s report card.
Yoan Moncada (3B): 231 PA, 6 HR, .225/.320/.385, 97 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR
Yoan Moncada has to be — for me — the biggest disappointment on the team in 2020. Yes, he battled a bout with COVID-19 leading up to the season, and I absolutely feel bad for him and take that into account when evaluating his season.
But, that doesn’t make it any less disappointing. He opened 2020 looking like the superstar he was in 2019, and then fell into a nearly season-long slump that shaped his 2020 campaign into quite the clunker, more reminiscent of his pre-2019 emergence.
Hopefully a full offseason of rest and recovery will erase this season from our memories.
Danny Mendick (INF): 114 PA, 3 HR, .243/.281/.383, 80 wRC+, 0.3
Some will not like this grade, but Danny Mendick was just about what we expected from him in 2020… very replaceable.
He had some great at-bats for a small stretch while he was filling in for the injured Nick Madrigal, and his personality and the #dancingfordubs post-game shtick was fun for a fan-base enjoying its team’s first winning season in a long time, but Mendick wasn’t good for very long at all, and eventually was so bad that he was replaced on the roster by Yolmer Sanchez.
Leury Garcia (INF/OF): 63 PA, 3 HR, .271/.317/.441, 109 wRC+, 0.4
Leury Garcia was in the process of turning in his best season of his career in 2020 before missing significant time with a thumb injury, and had he not missed that time he might have replaced Nomar Mazara in the lineup when the infield returned to full health.
That’s how well he was playing, and how bad Mazara played all season. But as fate would have it, that just wasn’t in the cards for Garcia this time around. His return for the postseason was probably rushed for that reason, and he looked completely out of sorts during the Wild Card series, but nonetheless his pre-injury performance was solid enough to earn him a nice grade.
Eloy Jimenez (LF): 226 PA, 14 HR, .296/.332/.559, 141 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR
Aside from Abreu and Anderson — who’ve already received perfect grades in this story, no one produced more offensively than second-year outfielder, Eloy Jimenez.
Jimenez’s .891 OPS and 14 HR were second to only Jose Abreu, and if Jimenez hadn’t banged up his foot in the final week of the season the White Sox might have had enough offensive firepower in the playoffs to still be playing this week.
Jimenez not only replicated his late-season 2019 success, he improved at the plate and will be a force to be reckoned with in the middle of this order for years to come.
Luis Robert (CF): 227 PA, 11 HR, .223/.302/.436, 101 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR
It was a tale of two months for the rookie outfielder who was white-hot in the first half of the season before falling into a dreadful tailspin during September.
Even despite his September swoon, Robert flashed all of the tools that we have drooled over for years as he rapidly made his way through the White Sox farm system, and with more time and experience there’s no doubt that we’ll see even more of that on a larger scale moving forward.
Nomar Mazara (RF): 149 PA, 1 HR, .228/.295/.294, 68 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
The Nomar Mazara for Steele Walker trade last winter was a low risk, high reward move that the front office hoped would solve the right field vacancy, and add a left-handed power bat to a lineup littered with right-handed power bats.
Unfortunately it didn’t pan out at all as Mazara was the single worst position player on the entire team in 2020, and it’s unlikely we see him back in 2021 for that reason.
Mazara gets the first of two failing grades on the position player side of things today.
Adam Engel (OF): 93 PA, 3 HR, .295/.333/.477, 122 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR
Finally not burdened with being an everyday option in the outfield, Adam Engel was able to thrive in his new platoon role with the White Sox. Engel hit the piss out of left-handers, played great defense, and provided the White Sox with a legitimate fourth-outfielder option off of the bench.
Engel’s success in a role that actually fits him even earned him starts in the postseason, and he hit a home run against A’s southpaw Jesus Luzardo in Game 1 of the Wild Card series.
Edwin Encarnacion (DH): 181 PA, 10 HR, .157/.250/.377, 71 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR
Like Mazara, Encarnacion came to Chicago last winter in an attempt to fill a void on the roster, and like Mazara he failed miserably.
Encarnacion compiled a negative fWAR (-0.3) and despite running into 10 long balls, looked overmatched all season long. He hands looked slow, and he was unable to make any sort of hard contact against modern day normal velocity on the mound.
Like many DH’s before him, Encarnacion’s career came to Chicago to die.