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 Chicago White Sox.

Batters

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 Jiménez 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 José 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.

Pitchers

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 López, who can likely return to being a serviceable innings-eater despite a miserable 2020. López 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 Rodón.

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.

Batters – Standard
Player B Age PO PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Yasmani Grandal B 32 C 522 437 62 99 19 1 23 74 78 142 2 1
Luis Robert R 23 CF 580 535 79 141 24 6 27 89 32 167 24 8
Yoan Moncada B 26 3B 609 545 81 142 26 5 24 81 57 183 9 4
Tim Anderson R 28 SS 604 577 91 168 31 3 23 69 20 137 18 5
Eloy Jiménez R 24 LF 567 529 72 151 30 2 34 106 32 136 0 0
José Abreu R 34 1B 589 540 74 148 32 2 29 112 33 134 1 1
Nick Madrigal R 24 2B 500 462 49 134 20 2 4 37 24 26 17 10
Danny Mendick R 27 2B 532 469 60 111 19 2 13 51 54 115 12 7
James McCann R 31 C 424 386 47 94 15 1 15 53 27 121 2 2
Leury García B 30 CF 484 453 59 121 18 3 10 45 18 103 10 4
Yermín Mercedes R 28 C 384 349 44 85 15 1 14 50 27 86 2 1
Adam Engel R 29 CF 449 414 47 94 19 4 11 43 23 127 10 4
Nomar Mazara L 26 RF 516 471 58 117 23 1 18 74 36 138 2 1
Edwin Encarnación R 38 DH 429 377 56 77 13 0 25 71 41 116 0 0
Zack Collins L 26 C 427 358 48 68 15 1 14 50 62 157 1 0
Jarrod Dyson L 36 CF 310 277 42 60 6 2 4 22 27 56 24 3
Tim Beckham R 31 SS 427 394 49 94 18 2 17 60 28 125 3 4
Xavier Fernández R 25 C 335 312 36 74 14 0 10 36 18 61 2 2
Andrew Vaughn R 23 1B 540 481 60 113 28 0 13 54 41 114 0 3
Jake Burger R 25 3B 525 469 61 106 16 1 14 58 39 101 2 2
Jaycob Brugman L 29 RF 372 340 40 78 14 2 14 47 29 108 2 1
Luis González L 25 CF 485 441 50 96 18 3 10 45 34 123 8 6
Seby Zavala R 27 C 405 373 43 75 14 0 15 50 25 159 1 1
Nicky Delmonico L 28 LF 288 257 28 57 11 2 8 35 27 70 2 1
Laz Rivera R 26 SS 497 462 46 104 19 1 6 37 14 110 9 9
Gavin Sheets L 25 1B 535 484 56 109 17 1 12 61 43 125 2 1
Blake Rutherford L 24 RF 518 484 50 110 19 5 9 49 30 146 8 5
Johan Cruz R 25 SS 336 312 28 58 10 1 5 26 18 108 3 2
Zach Remillard R 27 SS 485 451 43 87 14 1 9 38 25 168 4 4
Micker Adolfo R 24 RF 376 333 38 60 15 1 10 37 33 160 1 7
Tyler Frost L 25 RF 462 424 44 76 14 3 13 44 27 185 5 5

Batters – Advanced
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR No. 1 Comp
Yasmani Grandal .227 .345 .432 111 .206 .279 5.2 7 3.6 Mickey Tettleton
Luis Robert .264 .312 .482 113 .219 .334 5.7 5 3.3 B.J. Upton
Yoan Moncada .261 .333 .459 114 .198 .349 5.6 2 3.1 Kevin Seitzer
Tim Anderson .291 .318 .475 113 .184 .348 5.9 -7 2.6 Lou Boudreau
Eloy Jiménez .285 .328 .543 132 .257 .326 6.7 -7 2.5 Sixto Lezcano
José Abreu .274 .324 .502 121 .228 .316 6.0 -2 2.0 Bob Watson
Nick Madrigal .290 .335 .368 93 .078 .301 4.6 6 1.7 Cass Michaels
Danny Mendick .237 .318 .369 88 .132 .287 4.1 6 1.6 Callix Crabbe
James McCann .244 .304 .404 92 .161 .316 4.3 1 1.3 Ellie Rodriguez
Leury García .267 .301 .386 86 .119 .326 4.3 1 0.9 Jerry Mumphrey
Yermín Mercedes .244 .299 .413 92 .169 .285 4.4 -6 0.6 Erik Pappas
Adam Engel .227 .283 .372 77 .145 .301 3.7 3 0.5 James Mouton
Nomar Mazara .248 .308 .416 96 .168 .314 4.6 -1 0.5 Jeremy Giambi
Edwin Encarnación .204 .294 .438 96 .233 .220 4.4 0 0.4 Don Baylor
Zack Collins .190 .310 .355 82 .165 .289 3.7 -5 0.4 Doug Newstrom
Jarrod Dyson .217 .292 .296 62 .079 .258 3.7 4 0.4 Mike Kingery
Tim Beckham .239 .293 .424 93 .185 .306 4.3 -8 0.3 Jeff Blauser
Xavier Fernández .237 .281 .378 78 .141 .266 3.7 -2 0.2 Orlando Mercado
Andrew Vaughn .235 .311 .374 87 .139 .282 4.0 1 0.0 Mike Carp
Jake Burger .226 .301 .354 79 .128 .260 3.7 -3 0.0 Rich Paz
Jaycob Brugman .229 .293 .406 88 .176 .294 4.2 -3 -0.2 Warren Newson
Luis González .218 .277 .340 68 .122 .279 3.2 3 -0.2 Jim Gosger
Seby Zavala .201 .257 .359 66 .158 .302 3.1 -2 -0.3 John Gibbons
Nicky Delmonico .222 .302 .374 84 .152 .274 3.9 -4 -0.4 Michael Tullier
Laz Rivera .225 .266 .310 57 .084 .283 2.7 3 -0.7 Brian Grebeck
Gavin Sheets .225 .292 .339 72 .114 .280 3.4 2 -0.8 Brett Roneberg
Blake Rutherford .227 .272 .343 67 .116 .307 3.2 3 -1.1 Andy Tomberlin
Johan Cruz .186 .231 .272 37 .087 .266 2.1 2 -1.2 Lauro Felix
Zach Remillard .193 .241 .288 44 .095 .285 2.2 3 -1.4 Darrin Duffy
Micker Adolfo .180 .266 .321 60 .141 .307 2.4 -5 -1.8 Scott Morgan
Tyler Frost .179 .237 .318 50 .139 .279 2.4 -3 -2.4 Andy Abad

Pitchers – Standard
Player T Age W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO FIP
Lucas Giolito R 26 16 7 3.00 30 30 180.0 129 60 21 56 248 2.94
Dallas Keuchel L 33 12 8 3.99 26 26 153.3 146 68 20 47 126 4.23
Dylan Cease R 25 10 9 4.48 31 30 144.7 137 72 20 72 146 4.60
Gio González L 35 8 6 4.35 26 22 132.3 123 64 19 61 127 4.58
Bernardo Flores Jr. L 25 9 8 4.60 26 26 146.7 164 75 21 37 92 4.71
Reynaldo López R 27 10 9 4.68 28 28 148.0 145 77 24 57 132 4.80
Dane Dunning R 26 4 4 4.64 18 18 87.3 86 45 13 36 75 4.81
Carlos Rodón L 28 5 4 4.68 16 14 73.0 71 38 12 34 75 4.78
Aaron Bummer L 27 1 1 3.50 58 0 61.7 53 24 5 26 60 3.70
Alex Colomé R 32 5 3 3.65 60 0 56.7 50 23 6 20 52 3.89
Tanner Banks L 29 7 7 5.04 25 20 114.3 130 64 18 33 70 5.05
Lincoln Henzman R 25 7 7 5.07 27 25 119.0 142 67 18 31 58 5.10
Evan Marshall R 31 4 3 3.58 52 0 50.3 47 20 5 18 47 3.74
Michael Kopech R 25 5 4 4.86 15 15 74.0 72 40 10 42 69 4.98
Codi Heuer R 24 6 4 4.01 52 0 67.3 65 30 8 22 59 4.09
Jace Fry L 27 3 2 3.97 62 0 56.7 45 25 5 35 71 3.78
Tyler Johnson R 25 3 2 4.18 48 0 60.3 57 28 9 25 62 4.51
Jimmy Lambert R 26 5 5 5.16 15 14 75.0 78 43 13 33 65 5.18
Garrett Crochet R 22 2 1 3.86 35 0 35.0 32 15 4 11 34 3.92
Steve Cishek R 35 3 2 4.18 59 0 51.7 44 24 7 25 54 4.65
Jimmy Cordero R 29 4 3 4.31 60 0 64.7 62 31 6 35 56 4.51
Jacob Lindgren L 28 2 1 3.80 16 1 21.3 20 9 2 9 18 4.12
Vince Arobio R 26 6 5 4.53 38 1 59.7 56 30 8 30 61 4.54
Clayton Richard L 37 6 7 5.51 18 17 99.7 111 61 18 38 66 5.50
John Parke L 26 6 7 5.56 24 24 121.3 146 75 20 44 61 5.60
Bennett Sousa L 26 5 5 4.75 48 0 66.3 74 35 10 19 41 4.90
Ryan Burr R 27 3 3 4.80 37 0 45.0 41 24 6 31 47 5.02
Ross Detwiler L 35 3 4 5.60 23 11 70.7 80 44 14 27 49 5.68
Matt Foster R 26 5 5 4.91 52 1 62.3 65 34 10 28 45 5.31
Jose Ruiz R 26 2 2 4.87 45 0 48.0 47 26 7 28 47 5.06
Zack Burdi R 26 2 3 5.33 23 0 25.3 24 15 5 16 29 5.47
Felix Paulino R 26 4 5 5.78 22 10 71.7 81 46 13 37 51 5.87
Hunter Schryver L 26 3 3 5.16 41 0 59.3 62 34 11 28 53 5.42
Alec Hansen R 26 3 3 5.27 47 0 54.7 47 32 7 52 63 5.56
Blake Battenfield R 26 5 7 5.97 25 21 107.0 128 71 25 40 75 6.13
Jonathan Stiever R 24 6 8 6.03 20 20 97.0 108 65 26 24 84 5.86
Spencer Adams R 25 5 8 6.47 22 21 105.7 131 76 24 48 57 6.59

Pitchers – Advanced
Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR No. 1 Comp
Lucas Giolito 12.4 2.8 1.1 7.8% 34.5% .277 149 67 5.1 Jose Rijo
Dallas Keuchel 7.4 2.8 1.2 7.3% 19.5% .281 112 89 2.7 Tommy John
Dylan Cease 9.1 4.5 1.2 11.3% 22.8% .296 100 100 1.8 Steve Arlin
Gio González 8.6 4.1 1.3 10.6% 22.1% .285 103 98 1.8 Bob Veale
Bernardo Flores Jr. 5.6 2.3 1.3 5.8% 14.4% .299 97 103 1.7 Jack Russell
Reynaldo López 8.0 3.5 1.5 8.9% 20.6% .287 95 105 1.6 Steve Hargan
Dane Dunning 7.7 3.7 1.3 9.4% 19.6% .287 96 104 1.0 John Denny
Carlos Rodón 9.2 4.2 1.5 10.6% 23.3% .298 95 105 0.9 Bill Wight
Aaron Bummer 8.8 3.8 0.7 9.9% 22.8% .284 127 78 0.9 Darold Knowles
Alex Colomé 8.3 3.2 1.0 8.4% 21.8% .278 122 82 0.8 Greg Minton
Tanner Banks 5.5 2.6 1.4 6.5% 13.9% .298 89 113 0.8 Wade Blasingame
Lincoln Henzman 4.4 2.3 1.4 5.9% 11.0% .300 88 114 0.8 Rick Wise
Evan Marshall 8.4 3.2 0.9 8.5% 22.1% .296 125 80 0.8 Jay Ritchie
Michael Kopech 8.4 5.1 1.2 12.5% 20.5% .295 92 109 0.7 Blue Moon Odom
Codi Heuer 7.9 2.9 1.1 7.7% 20.6% .292 111 90 0.6 Donnie Moore
Jace Fry 11.3 5.6 0.8 14.1% 28.5% .294 112 89 0.4 Marcelino Lopez
Tyler Johnson 9.2 3.7 1.3 9.5% 23.6% .294 107 94 0.4 Steve Gomez
Jimmy Lambert 7.8 4.0 1.6 9.9% 19.4% .295 86 116 0.4 Jake Joseph
Garrett Crochet 8.7 2.8 1.0 7.4% 22.8% .289 116 86 0.3 Cla Meredith
Steve Cishek 9.4 4.4 1.2 11.0% 23.8% .274 107 94 0.3 Ted Abernathy
Jimmy Cordero 7.8 4.9 0.8 12.0% 19.2% .296 103 97 0.3 Hal Reniff
Jacob Lindgren 7.6 3.8 0.8 9.8% 19.6% .290 118 85 0.3 Hank Aguirre
Vince Arobio 9.2 4.5 1.2 11.4% 23.1% .296 99 101 0.2 Mike Gardner
Clayton Richard 6.0 3.4 1.6 8.5% 14.8% .292 81 123 0.2 Mel Harder
John Parke 4.5 3.3 1.5 8.0% 11.1% .301 80 125 0.2 Jeff Johnson
Bennett Sousa 5.6 2.6 1.4 6.6% 14.1% .295 94 106 0.0 Will McEnaney
Ryan Burr 9.4 6.2 1.2 15.0% 22.8% .292 93 108 0.0 Newt Kimball
Ross Detwiler 6.2 3.4 1.8 8.5% 15.5% .296 80 126 0.0 Brian Moehler
Matt Foster 6.5 4.0 1.4 10.1% 16.2% .286 91 110 0.0 Horacio Pina
Jose Ruiz 8.8 5.3 1.3 12.8% 21.5% .299 92 109 -0.1 Casey Daigle
Zack Burdi 10.3 5.7 1.8 13.9% 25.2% .297 84 119 -0.2 Rick Greene
Felix Paulino 6.4 4.6 1.6 11.1% 15.4% .301 77 129 -0.2 Ricky Steik
Hunter Schryver 8.0 4.2 1.7 10.4% 19.8% .297 87 116 -0.3 Danny Zell
Alec Hansen 10.4 8.6 1.2 19.8% 24.0% .290 85 118 -0.3 Sam Nahem
Blake Battenfield 6.3 3.4 2.1 8.2% 15.4% .302 75 134 -0.3 Nate Cornejo
Jonathan Stiever 7.8 2.2 2.4 5.7% 19.9% .291 74 135 -0.3 Ryan Cox
Spencer Adams 4.9 4.1 2.0 9.7% 11.6% .299 69 145 -0.9 Rick Sutcliffe

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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Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas

I’d like to see a Zips time warp on Jose Rijo.

38 career war by age 30.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

Is my math right that he debuted at 19?

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas

That is correct. Age 30 season was shortened but accrued 1.5 WAR in 69 innings. The prior 4 years his WAR was 6.1, 5.1, 7.1, 4.1.

Age 30 is shortened, he’s out of the league for 5 years, then comes back with 2 years largely as a RP.

If he says healthy those 5.5 years, he has a shot at 50 career WAR. Maybe even 60.

PC1970
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PC1970

Yes. Steinbrenner wanted to have his own young stud to compete with Dwight Gooden on the crosstown Mets..so, Rijo got the call even though he was a far from ready.

Oh, the good old 1980’s Bronx Zoo!