Here we are, continuing to rail against PECOTA puttting the White Sox at 3rd in the AL Central behind The Twins and The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage. Previously we looked at The Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, showing that outside the rotation the Sox have better talent at every position, assuming Andrew Vaughn is better than Franmil Reyes. Still to come we’ll see how the Southsiders attack up against The Minnesota Twins, The New York Yankees, The Tampa Bay Rays, The Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s, being the top AL teams and therefore the Sox’ top competition. So without further ado, PECOTA grab another dozen eggs and let’s see why the White Sox are better than the Twins.
I am also certain that there will not be any impact additions to the teams after the date of publication. I’ll get grumpy about that below.
Ranking the Twins and Sox by position:
Rotation: White Sox over Twins. José Berrios, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker are a veteran group, with Happ and Shoemaker being reclamation projects after a bad 2020 and a slew of injuries, respectively. Up until the Shoemaker signing, the Twins were headed to a fight amongst a few guys for that fifth spot, and since Shoemaker is made of spun sugar they’re still looking at Randy Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer anyway. Also, actual German person Max Kepler might drive Happ crazy by pronouncing his first name phonetically as “Jyahh” like the dude’s name is Yes Happ. Happ is at the twilight of his career and was good for the Yankees in 2019 but struggled in 2020. Shoemaker is good when healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy in years. Still, he’s a better gamble than Carlos Rodón. Cease might be better than Happ, but maybe not. Where the Sox tip the scale however slightly is in the top three. Berrios and Giolito are both legit aces, with Giolito maybe having a next gear. Maeda was a boss last year in his first with the Twins, but so was Dallas Keuchel in his fiirst with the Sox. Difference is Keuchel is a former Cy Young winner and Maeda was the Dodger’s swing man, so take your pick. Lance Lynn is much better than Pineda. Those top 3 are more important than the back end, and given the unrest in both back ends, the narrow margin is still in favor of the White Sox.
Bullpen: White Sox over Twins. Taylor Rogers or Alex Colomé vs. Liam Hendriks at closer is no contest. Colomé was jettisoned for Hendriks and Rogers’ grip on the job is such that Colomé is now a Twin. The rest…well, other than Rogers no Twins reliever is projected by Fangraphs to have an ERA under 4.00, which is not good. By comparison, the only Sox relievers expected to be over 4.00 are basically rookies in Codi Heuer and Matt Foster, joined by Jimmy Cordero and Reynaldo Lopez who don’t have guaranteed spots. Foster and Heuer may not be high-leverage guys all the time, either, and the well-projected foursome of Hendriks, Bummer, Marshall and Crochet make this a Sox winner.
Outfield: White Sox over Twins. Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez are matched in talent on the Twins maybe by Byron Buxton, who makes Matt Shoemaker look like Bruce Willis in “Unbreakable”. Eddie Rosario is a Clevelander, leaving LF open to top prospect Alex Kiriloff, who is ready; topish prospect Trevor Larnach, who is not; and perennial fourth OF Jake Cave, who just kinda is. Kiriloff projects as “good Andrew Benintendi”, which is “not as good as Eloy Jimenez”. Adam Eaton has less power than Max Kepler, but Eaton has the better all-around game and track record. Max Kepler fell into some bad old habits in 2020, making his breakout questionable. Even if Kiriloff arrives, Cave and Larnach will get too much play in this OF unless they can bubble wrap Buxton. Luis and Eloy are on the way up still, and the sky’s the limit. Plus, Adam Engel should be better than Jake Cave, even though both sound like frontmen for a 90’s one-hit-wonder.
Shortstop: White Sox over Twins. Tim Anderson’s bat vs. Andrelton Simmons’ glove. Simmons was a really nice grab for the Twins, and makes them a much better team than Jorge Polanco at SS. But Simmons is a good bat/great glove versus Anderson as a great bat/good glove. TA isn’t as terrible as his early reputation in the field, making the fielding gap closer, and he’s the far better hitter at this point. To tilt this to the Twins you’d have to dig pretty deep into the metrics to see if Simmons can save more runs than Anderson produces.
Third Base: Pick ’em. Yoán Moncada vs. Josh Donaldson. I’d take Moncada for a number of reasons, mostly that Donaldson seems like a headcase, but Donaldson is undeniably a monster at the plate. If you compare their careers at the end, Moncada will likely have the better one, but for 2021 they both suck to pitch to.
Second Base: Twins over White Sox. Jorge Polanco had a breakout 2019 but has had ankle issues fixed two off-seasons in a row, which hampered him in 2020 and the fear for the Twins is that it’ll slow him down in 2021. Option B is Luis Arraez, who is Nick Madrigal-esque in being a high-contact, no-power, speed guy. Madrigal is considered to be the better of the two prospect-wise, and Arraez couldn’t hold the gig last year. Polanco has more power, Madrigal at this point might be the better runner. If Polanco is fully healthy, he would have a slight edge as more of an all-around bat.
First Base: White Sox over the Twins. MVPito! Abreu is a better hitter than Miguel Sanó, who has power but not the overall ability. Fangraphs projects Sanó to out-bomb Abreu 42 to 33, but Abreu is projected to have a higher average and an OPS that’s a mere 0.1 lower. The added ten taters, in other words, don’t mean all that much and you can’t argue with the reigning MVP.
Catcher: White Sox by a metric tonne over the Twins. The White Sox sport the best or just about the best catcher in baseball and the Twins have the duo of Ryan Jeffers and the enigma of Mitch Garver. Jeffers is not known as a particularly good receiver, but a decent bat. Garver was a breakout hitter in 2019 and a total disaster in 2020, and unremarkable to below average before 2019. If Garver goes back to his 2019 production he gets closer to Yasmani Grandal, but Garver’s 2019 seems like a fluke, and Jeffers is now the guy.
DH: Twins over White Sox. Nelson Cruz is ridiculous. He’s about to turn 41. Three years ago when that was me, my knee gave up just pushing a stroller around the Milwaukee Zoo. Cruz just keeps launching. Until further notice, Cruz is probably the best DH in the league (stuff it Giancarlo Stanton). Andrew Vaughn does not project to have the power and average combo that Cruz has had and Sox fans should hope Vaughn has Nellie Cruz’ career.
Position by position, the White Sox have the better rotation, bullpen, outfield, first baseman, shortstop and catcher, are tied at third base, and are just behind or tied at second base, with only DH as a clear victory for the Twins. It is pretty tight all around though, meaning that the Twins are going to be an issue for the Sox all season.
Without delving into any other advanced analytics, what PECOTA says about the Twins being the better team is plausible, but still seems wrong. If everything goes right on the Twins and things go poorly for the Sox, sure. If both teams are at full strength? The Sox have plenty of edge on the Twins. PECOTA, I’ll let you skip sucking an egg because this is close, but you can’t enjoy that Twinkie Wiener Sandwich either. Maybe just take a nose full of Cheez Whiz on this one.
10 Guys that if signed by the Sox for what they got elsewhere would be better use of $3 Million than on some guys. Ok, one certain guy. One that I’m no way mad about the White Sox signing when they have a budget issue and he solved no issues for them. Not mad. Nosireebob.
So, in a year where the Sox could stand some new tools in their quest to build a championship team, a familiar tool in Carlos Rodón was re-signed for $3 million for the 2021 season. I’ve gone over it before, but the returning lefty starter seems even more superfluous now. Michael Kopech’s impressive workouts have become a throwing session that impressed Tony LaRussa on day one, and add that to louder rumblings of what we already knew: that the Sox expect Kopech to be a key starter this year and sooner rather than later. So why sign a guy to start only 5-10 games who struggles from the bullpen? Even starting Kopech at AAA, April (and even May) could be covered and patched by any number of guys that either have better track records or might have better flexibility than someone who was seemingly out of the plans when he was non-tendered. While that list of guys certainly could include what the Sox have on hand, the budget-strapped Rick Hahn chose Rodón over other help. Let’s not forget that the open and obvious anointing of Andrew Vaughn as the DH could still go south, especially with no one of note competing with him. As teams report and spring rosters are finalized, it turns out $3 million could have been spent on one or both of a DH and a swing man/5th starter. White Sox fans, you’ll be right to be angry if these players succeed where they landed, and/or if Rodón doesn’t beat out Reynaldo Lopez or one of the kids and the DH solution is Leury Garcia. Warning, the following list may cause irritation, sleeplessness, eye twitches, screamers lung, restless lung, the yips, “backne”, suggestive fingers, a pox upon ye, mild depression, nostril fatigue and excessive stool. All these are one-year deals picked for likelihood to help the Sox, and sorted by cost high to low.
- Rich Hill, $2.5 million. Old, yeah, but really good since 2017 for playoff teams including the Dodgers, Twins, and now the Rays.
- Brett Anderson, $2.5 million. Finally in good health after some lost years, he was a key starter on a good A’s 2019 club before toiling in a lost Brewers season last year. A solid 4 being asked to be a 5 by the Sox, he could be the Brewers’ 3.
- Mitch Moreland, $2.25 million. The guy can still hit and would be a good DH candidate for a contender. A contender like the A’s. The A’s who just signed him. Why not let Vaughn try to hit his way past Moreland’s lefty power bat? The lefty power bat that the Sox were at one point clamoring for? That lefty bat is Adam Eaton I guess?
- Matt Shoemaker, $2 million. Often hurt, but has had better seasons than Carlos Rodón when healthy. Don’t forget that Rodón has been hurt quite a bit too. Both physically and statistically. We will get to see Shoemaker when healthy, as a Twin. Anyone taking odds on these two starting against each other and how that goes?
- Collin McHugh, $1.8 million. An actual accomplished swing man that could have held the 5th starter spot to let Kopech get some AAA reps before hitting the pen when Kopech returns. And McHugh would do so without his wife Tweeting comments.
- Asdrúbal Cabrera, $1.75 million. The guy can hit and play several positions, and if Vaughn were to stumble this spring, there’d be worse DH candidates than Cabrera.
- Jay Bruce, minor league deal. Power hitting lefty bat that could DH until Vaughn is truly ready, or just get released if Vaughn is truly ready.
- Derek Dietrich, minor league deal. The guy can play several positions, and hit double-digit HR every year since 2017, projecting out his 5 last year in a part time role. Another lefty bat on the cheap to compete for DH at no risk.
- Mike Montgomery, minor league deal. An actual accomplished swing man that could have held the 5th starter spot to let Kopech get some AAA reps before hitting the pen when Kopech returns. And Monty would do so without his wife Tweeting comments. And he’s a lefty.
- Renato Nunez, minor league deal. Whacked 43 homers over the past two years. And I don’t mean he whacked 43 versions of the animated fat guy. He hit 43 Homeruns wherein he struck the ball with adequate loft and velocity to clear the outfield fence with a fair ball, allowing him to touch all four bases unimpeded. He’s a legit DH that cost basically nothing. For the Tigers.
Just…ugh. My lungs feel weird, I’m not sure what my fingers are doing and my nose is oddly tired. If you need me I’ll be in the can.