There are only 188 days in a Major League Baseball season – the White Sox spent 152 of them in first place last season. From May 7 through Oct. 3, Chicago led the AL Central and had a double-digit lead for all but two days from Aug. 7 on. The division is a bit better in 2022, as the Tigers and Twins have made some free-agent moves and smart internal decisions. Otherwise, it looks like another cakewalk to a division crown for the Pale Hose.
When thinking about futures bets, you have to consider the path to the playoffs. The White Sox are a pretty good futures investment, simply because they’re a heavy favorite to win the division and could potentially earn a bye and avoid the AL Wild-Card Series, where a couple of really good teams will be eliminated. Is Chicago as good as Houston or the AL East contenders? Maybe, maybe not. But the White Sox have the path of least resistance to get to the postseason and possibly get a bye. It is priced into their odds, but with a win total line 11 wins higher than any other AL Central team, you can see why.
The White Sox were a top-five offense by wOBA last season, trailing only the Blue Jays, Astros, Red Sox and Giants. Improvements in the K% and BB% department played a big role, as the White Sox went from a K% of 25.6% in 2019 to 25.2% in the shortened season, and a 22.8% mark in 2021. Just about all of the major contributors struck out less and walked more, a byproduct of a down year for pitching in the division.
Yoan Moncada shaved almost 6% off of his K%, but didn’t sacrifice his plate discipline in any way with a career-high 13.6% BB%. He did hit for less power, but played solid defense and paced the team with 4.5 fWAR. The White Sox had four players that amassed 3+ fWAR, with Tim Anderson at 4.3, Yasmani Grandal at 3.7 and Luis Robert at 3.2. Even Jose Abreu, hurt by the positional adjustment at first base, had 2.9.
Anderson and Robert don’t walk much, but they are aggressive hitters that put bat to ball and both had big gains in their contact quality metrics. Robert was limited to 296 plate appearances over 68 games, but had 36 extra-base hits and a huge spike in line-drive percentage. The 24-year-old is actually a decent look for MVP at around 30-1. He batted .350/.389/.622 with a .424 wOBA when he came back from his torn hip flexor. With a more open stance, Robert pummeled fastballs and pulled the ball at a much higher rate, which is a prerequisite for hitting for power.
Grandal walks a ton and popped 23 homers in just 375 plate appearances, so his offensive ceiling looks very high for the upcoming season. He’s been a solid hitter throughout his career, but he’s also consistently been one of the game’s best receivers behind the plate. The White Sox were missing a good pitch framer and a guy with patience in the batter’s box, and found both in Grandal, who missed almost eight weeks in July and August. With Grandal starting, the White Sox were 54-36; without him, they were 39-33.