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Chicago White Sox
2022 Record: 81-81
Second place, AL Central
Team ERA: 3.92 (16th)
Team OPS: .698 (18th)
What Went Right
White Sox fans might vehemently disagree, but there were some things that went right for Chicago in 2022. Dylan Cease was outstanding over his 32 starts, posting a 2.20 ERA, 227 strikeouts over 184 innings, and firmly implanting him as a Cy Young Candidate; one who could see some first-place votes. Johnny Cueto came into the year with zero expectations so saying he defied them isn't saying a ton on the surface, but he was able to register a 3.35 ERA in his age-36 season to show his demise may have been exaggerated. The relief corp wasn't perfect, but Liam Hendriks was able to procure 37 saves with a strong 85/16 K/BB ratio over his 58 games, and Reynaldo Lopez posted a 63/11 K/BB mark with a FIP of 1.93 that suggests there was some bad luck in his (still strong) 2.76 ERA in just over 65 innings. They didn't get a chance to play together much -- more on that in a second, of course -- but Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, Luis Robert and Andrew Vaughn all were able to post an OPS+ above 100; with Jimenez leading the club wih an OPS of .858.
What Went Wrong
You can't blame the entire season on injuries, but if anyone can make that claim, it's the White Sox. Of those hitters we mentioned above, only Abreu was able to play in more than 135 games, and it's worth mentioning that the first baseman got off to an atrocious start to the season. Robert was limited to 98 games, and while he did finish with an OPS+ of 109 in 401 plate appearances, it's more than a fair hypothesis that fantasy managers that selected the outfielder with a top 20 pick -- often higher -- were expecting more than a .284//319/.426 slash in those contests. Yoan Moncada also missed time, and didn't come close to making up for it with rates as seen in an awful .626 OPS over his 433 PAs. Yasmani Grandal was een worse with a .201 average and .269 slugging percentage, and it's safe to wonder if he's done as an above-average fantasy option. And while Cease and Cueto were impressive in the rotation, the rest of the Chicago starters were a middling group at best. Middling would be too strong of praise for Lucas Giolito -- note, this brings the writer of this article no pleasure -- as he disappointed to a 4.90 ERA, and he posted an a mark above 5.00 in three of his months including a 7.67 ERA. It's also worth pointing out that Tony La Russa ended up missing the final portion of the season because of health trouble, and won't be back in 2023. A new manager will take over a talented -- but flawed -- roster this spring.
**Michael Kopech's numbers were fine in his first full season a starter with a 3.54 ERA over 25 starts in 119 2/3 frames, but there were a good number of things to be concerned about as well. His velocity dipped towards the end of the season -- it's also worth noting that Kopech battled a knee issue that he underwent surgery on near the beginning of October -- and he was in the bottom eighth percentile in walk percentage while ranking well below-average in hard hit metrics as well as chase rate. There's no denying Kopech's talent and a breakout season is obviously possible in 2023. There just wasn't much that happened in 2023 -- particularly in the second half -- that backs up that statement.
**Vaughn struggled for the majority of his rookie campaign, but the former third-oveall pick ended up leading the White Sox in homers in 2022 and showed plenty of flashes that suggest the future is very bright. He finished in the 90th percentile in average exit velocity, 82nd in average exit velocity and he was well above-average in avoiding strikeouts to go along with it. It's also worth mentioning that he posted an awful .643 OPS at home compared to his .854 mark away from Chicago, and it's unlikely he'll struggle like that in his friendly confines going forward. Vaughn has his issues on the defensive side of the ball, but he's a good bet to be a breakout star in 2023.
**Lance Lynn has been as reliable as it gets for the past few seasons, but 2022 wasn't a prime example of that. He was limited to just 121 2/3 innings because of a knee injury, and a 3.99 ERA over his 21 starts shows the 35-year-old wasn't exactly dominant when he was on the bump. He was much better in the second half however, and was among the best strike-throwers in baseball for the majority of the campaign. There's more risk with Lynn than associated with him before 2022, but there's still a good amount of reward. He could be a steal if still available later in drafts come 2023.
**Giolito was an excellent option over the past three seasons -- he finished in the top dozen In Cy Young voting in all three campaigns -- but as you saw from the numbers above, the 2022 season was closer to disaster than success. While he did rank in the 71st percentile in generating whiffs, the 28-year-old was below-average or worse in pretty much every other category you can find on Baseball Savant. Good players have bad seasons, but this was not just a case of bad luck; Giolito genuinely struggled for the overwhelming majority of the year.
**The White Sox do not have one of the better farm systems in baseball, and are not loaded with quality options that could help in 2023. One name to potentially keep an eye on, however, is Oscar Colas. After signing out of Cuba last winter, Colas hit .314 with 23 homers in his first professional season, and despite starting the year in High-A, he was able to finish the season in Triple-A and post an impressive .387/.424/.645 slash, albeit in just 33 plate appearances. Colas has the potential to hit for both average and power, and the only reason he's not an elite fantasy prospect is that he's very unlikely to help in the steals category. A 2024 debut is just as likely as 2023, but managers should be ready to pounce if Colas gets a chance next summer.
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Team Needs: A manager that doesn't intentionally walk hitters with two strikes, and significantly better health luck. In all seriousness, the White Sox are going to have to address the rotation, second base and need to add some depth; particularly in the outfield. If they do, they're just as good -- if not better -- than any roster in the AL Central. But there's more to be done here than just hoping the team can stay healthy.