2021 ZiPS Projections: Chicago White Soxon November 17, 2020 at 6:00 pm

2021 ZiPS Projections: Chicago White Sox

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for nine years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the New York White Sox.


The White Sox entered 2020 projected slightly behind the Indians and Twins, needing some breakouts to take the next step. And that’s largely what they did. A miserable stretch to end the season that likely cost him the AL Rookie of the Year award aside, Luis Robert met reasonable expectations with his bat and more than exceeded them defensively. B.J. Upton may not blow anyone away for his top comp, but the next one on the list is Bernie Williams, who didn’t divebomb in his late 20s. And while I’m still not wild about his desire to play the field, Eloy Jimenez hit like he needed to this season and he’s just a skosh of offense plus a change of position away from being star-level. He could very easily get there anyway; his 80th percentile projection is 3.8 WAR and a 151 OPS+.

Tim Anderson is a tricky player for a projection system to deal with. The fundamentals say that he should be one of the top BABIP hitters in baseball, but there’s a difference between that threshold and the .395 he put up across 2019 and ’20. That’s a real high-wire act and ZiPS isn’t ready to go 20 points further than Ty Cobb‘s all-time mark, the best in baseball since 1901. (Amusingly, if you set the threshold since 1901 at just 1000 PA, Jorge Alfaro is the all-time leader.) Anderson has crept up to a .347 BABIP projection, but he’ll have to keep defying the baseball gods to push any further in ZiPS.

Now that the White Sox are a legitimate contender, the calculus for overpaying James McCann to be a backup-plus — thus pushing Yasmani Grandal to some DH at-bats to keep him fresh — changes significantly. For a team in the middle of a rebuild, it’s an awkward luxury, but the White Sox are now in a position where they ought to absorb less risk. Zack Collins — or some veteran stopgap — would be perfectly fine as a backup, but I think the White Sox ought to retain more depth here. Grandal not having as many innings behind the plate as the average 32-year-old catcher isn’t quite the same thing as having 22-year-old knees.

The Twins are far from a perfect team and the Indians no longer have Mike Clevinger (even though he’s injured, the performance is still gone) and seem nearly certain to trade Francisco Lindor this offseason, so the White Sox enter 2021 in a strong position. It’s time to make a real addition in right; the speculative “let’s see what happens by giving Nomar Mazara a change of uniform” idea seems a lot less fitting this time around. If I were the White Sox, I’d pursue one of Houston’s free agent outfielders — and I don’t mean Josh Reddick — with the same gusto with which ownership pursued a managerial hire that makes one wonder if it’s 1985.

Lastly, while this might be a disappointing projection for MVP Jose Abreu after having arguably the best season of his career nearly out of nowhere, but he’s still a 34-year-old first baseman who appeared in steep decline before the abbreviated 2020 campaign.


Lucas Giolito did it again! All the ZiPS aren’t in, but he’s almost certainly going to project as one of the top 10 pitchers in baseball and one of the leading early picks for the AL Cy Young award. ZiPS was already quite satisfied with his changes in 2019 and nothing he did in 2020 changed that outlook. The team’s getting close to the point where they really need to start talking about a long-term deal.

Dallas Keuchel ain’t keeping his crazy-low HR/9 of 2020, but ZiPS still thinks he’ll keep it low enough thanks to the system’s inclusion of Statcast data, which it has used for a few years. Keuchel was one of my favorite signings last offseason despite the warning signs present in his more traditional stats (declining velocity in the danger zone, moving to a homer-friendly park) and he remains so.

ZiPS is quite optimistic about Dylan Cease getting his strikeouts back. From his contact, velocity, and movement data, Cease had the second-largest difference in actual vs. expected strikeouts in baseball, striking out 14 fewer batters than ZiPS thought his pitching deserved, behind only Ryan Yarbrough.

The successful return of Dane Dunning and a (hopefully) similar experience for Michael Kopech makes the depth chart for the ZiPS rotation projection deeper than in recent years. The team’s no longer counting too much on Reynaldo Lopez, who can likely return to being a serviceable innings-eater despite a miserable 2020. Lopez is technically a non-tender candidate, but he shouldn’t be a huge cost in what is just his first year of arbitration. Less likely to return is Carlos Rodon.

Still, this general optimism shouldn’t keep the team from bringing in a veteran or two to fatten up the starting five.

One pedantic note for 2021: For the WAR graphic, I’m using FanGraphs’ depth charts playing time, not the playing time ZiPS spits out, so there will be occasional differences in WAR totals.

Ballpark graphic courtesy Eephus League. Depth charts constructed by way of those listed here.

Players are listed with their most recent teams wherever possible. This includes players who are unsigned, players who will miss 2021 due to injury, and players who were released in 2020. So yes, if you see Joe Schmoe, who quit baseball back in August to form a Finnish industrial death metal fourth-wave ska J-pop band, he’s still listed here intentionally.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR, which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in the full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR. ZiPS is assuming that the designated hitter will continue in force in 2021; if it does not, there will be widespread minor adjustments across the board come April.

ZiPS is agnostic about future playing time by design. For more information about ZiPS, please refer to this article, or get angry at Dan on Twitter or something.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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