Projecting the Opening Day lineup for the White Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The White Sox have fiddled and retooled their roster since the beginning of the offseason.
They've lost names like Jose Abreu, and added others like Andrew Benintendi. The hope is to regain momentum and gear up for a deep playoff run, improving on their last two appearances in the playoffs which both ended with a first-round exit.
With new names and old recirculating the roster, who will start come Opening Day against the Houston Astros?
Here's a projection of the Opening Day lineup by position, ordered by the team's projected batting order.
Shortstop – Tim Anderson
Anderson, last season, played in the lowest number of games (79 games) he's seen in a season since his rookie year – without counting the 49 games he played during the shortened 2020 season.
Surgery on a sagittal band tear in his left middle finger forced him out from early August to the rest of the season.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal admitted on the White Sox Talk podcast that losing Anderson was the coup de grâce to the White Sox' season.
“The biggest punch we had was when TA went down because he’s our guy," Grandal said of Anderson. "I know that was a big punch in the gut because (as) TA goes, we go. I think it’s been that way for years. As soon as he got hurt it was like, man, that’s the knockout punch."
Anderson will return to his normal post as the leadoff batter in 2023.
Left Field – Andrew Benintendi
Benintendi inked the franchise's most lucrative deal this offseason to the tune of a five-year, $75 million deal.
Throughout his seven-year career, he's sported an impressive defensive runs saved (DRS) value at a positive 32 runs. He's a brick wall in left field and puts a band-aid over the White Sox' long-standing issue of defensive weakness in the corner outfield spots.
At the plate, he's a respectable hitter, owning a career slash line of .279/.351/.431 and averaging close to 17 home runs per season between 2017-21. Last season, he struggled, hitting just five home runs.
Yet, if you took his numbers from the 93 games he played in Kansas City, he would argue as one of the team's best hitters, earning the coveted No. 2 spot in the batting order.
Center Field – Luis Robert
Like the majority of last season's starters, Robert struggled to stay healthy. By the season's end, he endured a visible wrist injury that left him batting with one hand. Even then so, he slashed a respectable .284/.319/.426 in 2022.
Batting Robert one spot below Benintendi makes sense for his well-above-average slugging percentage, which sits at .474 for his career. Side note – his on-base plus slugging percentage sits above .800 for his young, auspicious career.
Designated Hitter – Eloy Jiménez
Jiménez has played over 100 games in a season once in his career. The last time he played over 100 games in a season was in 2019, his debut year. Injuries have been the kryptonite of his promising career.
The ongoing fifth-year mentioned he aspires to play in right field more often than at the designated hitter spot – explaining he's only done so because of injuries. But, Pedro Grifol expressed in an interview with 670 the Score that he has plans for Jiménez to play more often at DH.
“I’m really preparing for playing outfield,” said Jiménez. “Not more DH than outfield.”
Jiménez's main priority will be cleaning up at the fourth spot in the lineup.
Third Base – Yoán Moncada
Moncada, like Anderson, missed the most amount of games in a season he's seen in the last five years – while also excluding the 2020 season. He played in 104 games in 2022, suffering one of the worst plate campaigns of his career.
He slashed .212/.273/.353 from the plate and hit a lowly 12 home runs and 84 hits. Moncada hasn't recorded under 100 hits in a full season since 2017. Luckily, on the defensive end, he recorded his second straight season with a positive defensive run saved (DRS) value, gifting the corner infield position a positive 2-run value.
Improvement at the plate is a must for Moncada in 2023. It starts by sliding him into the fifth spot in the batting order.
First Base – Andrew Vaughn
During the offseason, nine-year veteran Jose Abreu shifted to free agency and inked a three-year, $50 million deal with the Houston Astros.
In turn, the Sox will look to third-year slugger Andrew Vaughn to replace the likes of Abreu at first base – Vaughn's natural position. But, of the 261 games he's donned a White Sox jersey, he's played there 38 times.
The majority of Vaughn's defensive work has come in the outfield, a position Rick Hahn noted is not organic for Vaughn. The White Sox will get a fair evaluation of his defensive capabilities this season.
Vaughn also has one of the best bats on the team, slashing .271/.321/.429 last season with 17 home runs and 76 RBIs. Despite the loss of a perennially successful hitter and irreplaceable clubhouse leader in Abreu, Vaughn should serve as a seamless transition at first base.
Placing him in a second clean-up spot makes for a formidable second half of the lineup.
Catcher – Yasmani Grandal
On both sides of the ball, Yasmani Grandal recorded one of the least productive years in his career last season.
Weighed down by bulging discs in his back – that he decided to refrain from surgery on – Grandal's power significantly decreased last season. In 2021, his average exit velocity was set at 93.1 miles per hour – placing him in the top four percent of the league. Last season, it fell to 90 miles per hour, dropping him to the 69th percentile in MLB.
This offseason, he's training vigorously seven times per week, as he detailed on the White Sox Talk podcast.
"That’s why I’ve been going seven days a week. We play seven days a week," Grandal said. "I’ve always had this mindset that the catcher has to be the best-trained guy on the field because we’re pretty much doing the most difficult job in our game. We’re on a crouch and we’re moving all the time. That’s why I’ve developed this regimen.”
Hopefully, Grandal can return to his normal production and give pitchers a scare near the bottom of the lineup.
Right Field – Oscar Colás
Despite the recent wishes from Jiménez claiming a stake for the leftover corner spot in the outfield, Grifol made it clear in an interview with 670 the Score that Colás will get "every opportunity" to become the team's everyday right fielder.
In 2022, Colás jumped through all three hoops of the minor leagues, getting seven games in Triple-A before the season ended. Across all three divisions, he slashed .314/.371/.524 – underlining his ability as a power-hitter and diversifying the lineup as a lefty.
If placed in the lineup on opening day, hiding him near the bottom is the best answer given he has yet to make his MLB debut.
Second Base – Romy González
One of the biggest question marks this offseason lies at second base.
The White Sox waved goodbye to multiple middle infielders this offseason: Elvis Andrus, Danny Mendick and Josh Harrison. However, recently the White Sox expressed interest in trading for Kansas City Royals infielder Nicky Lopez to help address the gap at second base.
If the South Side executes a trade for Lopez, without relinquishing valuable assets, the move should serve as a helpful addition to the team's lineup. Without an external solution, the deed to second base lies in the hands of Romy González.
González, as of this writing, is the most likely Opening Day starter, which would place him in the ninth spot of the batting order.