CHICAGO -- The 2021 White Sox roster earned the organization’s first American League Central title since 2008, although the team lasted just one round into the postseason.
Here’s a look at the key players from that group and how many of them fit moving forward.
Yasmani Grandal (signed through 2023)
Grandal suffered a right knee injury on Feb. 24, restricting his action in the season’s first month, and then had left knee surgery during the first week of July. But the switch-hitter still finished with 23 home runs, 62 RBIs and a .939 OPS. He’ll be back behind the plate hopefully for a fully healthy ’22.
Zack Collins (pre-arbitration)
It was Collins behind the plate for Carlos Rodón’s no-hitter against Cleveland, but he split time with Seby Zavala as the backup catcher or fill-in for an injured Grandal. Collins slashed .210/.330/.338 in 231 plate appearances.
Seby Zavala (pre-arbitration)
Zavala carried the reputation as a catcher first and an offensive presence second, but he hit five home runs in 104 plate appearances. Zavala also struck out 41 times. The White Sox could stick with Zavala or Collins or go with a more veteran, defense-first sort of catcher to pair with Grandal.
José Abreu (signed through 2022)
Abreu’s body was beaten up this season, from testing positive for COVID-19 during Spring Training to running full force into Kansas City’s Hunter Dozier while chasing a popup in May. But Abreu still finished second in the AL with 117 RBIs, knocking out 30 home runs and 30 doubles. The White Sox leader also has become a more than capable defensive presence at first. The ’22 season could be his last in Chicago, but Abreu simply is focused on what he can do to help the team get better.
Gavin Sheets (pre-arbitration)
It was a breakout year for the rookie, who presents the White Sox with pure left-handed power. Sheets hit 11 home runs with 34 RBIs in 54 games and was a force against right-handed pitchers. He also can play the corner outfield spots and has put himself in play for consistent playing time in ’22, with the designated hitter spot also an option.
Leury García (free agent after World Series)
Manager Tony La Russa didn’t take kindly to García being referred to as a utility player, describing him as an everyday versatile starter. García finished fifth on the team with 54 RBIs and had two of the team’s six extra-base hits in the postseason. The White Sox will look at a possible return for their longest tenured player currently, but the switch-hitter could explore his value in free agency.
César Hernández (team option for ’22, no buyout):
Hernández set a career high with 21 home runs but hit only three with a .299 slugging percentage after being traded from the Indians to the White Sox at the Trade Deadline. The White Sox have a $6 million option on Hernández with no buyout, so he would be an affordable possibility for the next season.
Danny Mendick (one year pre-arbitration)
Mendick is another candidate for the everyday versatile role held by García, doing everything in ’21 including pitching an inning in Boston.
Tim Anderson (signed through ’22, team options for ’23 and ’24)
If Abreu is the White Sox leader, then Anderson is the team’s driving force and heart and soul. Anderson has hit .322 with an .844 OPS over his last 295 games covering three seasons, with 45 homers, 72 doubles and 40 stolen bases. He has become one of the game’s premier leadoff hitters.
Romy Gonzalez (pre-arbitration)
The team’s 18th-round pick in the 2018 Draft earned a late-season promotion after strong performances for Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham. He’s another player with defensive versatility.
Yoán Moncada (signed through ’24 with ’25 club option)
The 25-home run power Moncada flexed in 2019 was not present this past season, but the switch-hitter still knocked out 48 extra-base hits with a .375 on-base percentage. Moncada also has played steady defense at third base since switching to the position.
Jake Burger (pre-arbitration)
After not playing for three years due to injuries, the team’s top pick in the 2017 Draft and No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline returned with authority in ’21 by making his Triple-A Charlotte debut, his Major League debut and hitting his first career homer. With Moncada entrenched at third base, Burger would have to work in at DH as well for playing time.
Andrew Vaughn (pre-arbitration)
The rookie dealt with back issues near the end of the season, but still was a productive hitter with 15 homers, 22 doubles, 48 RBIs and 56 runs scored. Vaughn played left field, right field, third base, first base and even second base for one game so he certainly has defensive versatility for ’22.
Yermín Mercedes (pre-arbitration)
Mercedes’ Most Valuable Player-caliber first 40 games helped the White Sox offset injuries to Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert and keep the team in control in the AL Central. Mercedes hit .140 and slugged .190 over his final 29 games and didn’t play for the White Sox after June 30. He appears to be a change of scenery candidate.
Eloy Jiménez (signed through ’24 with options for ’25 and ’26)
Jiménez suffered a ruptured left pectoral tendon chasing a home run during the end of Spring Training and didn’t return until July 26. Jiménez hit .302 with a .552 slugging percentage over his first 24 games but in his last 31 games, Jiménez hit .205 with a .342 slugging percentage. He still has 40 home run potential in a fully healthy season.
Luis Robert (signed through ’25 with ’26 and ’27 options)
Do you want an early candidate for AL MVP in ’22? Go with Robert, who showed off his five-tool talent despite a right hip flexor tear costing him May 2 to Aug. 9. Robert has 30 home run/30 stolen base potential to go with his Gold Glove-winning defense.
Billy Hamilton (free agent after World Series)
Hamilton is the perfect veteran presence to have on a winning team. He keeps the clubhouse energized, while also still possessing top-notch speed and a good glove in center.
Adam Engel (second year arbitration)
Engel battled injuries throughout much of the ’21 season, limiting him to 140 plate appearances and 39 games. He would figure into a right field platoon with Sheets at this point but has great value playing across the outfield.
Brian Goodwin (third year arbitration)
Goodwin delivered big hits for the White Sox but was not part of the playoff roster due to back issues. His left-handed bat and versatility could keep him around.
Lucas Giolito (second year arbitration)
The staff ace would be a candidate for a multi-year extension. Giolito topped 200 strikeouts for the second time and had a 2.65 ERA over 13 second-half starts.
Lance Lynn (signed through ’23, with ’24 club option)
Lynn agreed to an extension during the season, so he will be at the top of the rotation for at least two more seasons. He will receive Cy Young consideration with a 2.69 ERA and 176 strikeouts over 157 innings.
Carlos Rodón (free agent after World Series)
The best season of Rodón’s career and one of the best seasons for any Major League starter ended with the southpaw experiencing shoulder soreness and fatigue. The issue was understandable with Rodón throwing 132 2/3 innings compared to 42 1/3 over the last two seasons combined. With 185 strikeouts against 36 walks, Rodón seems poised to explore free agency. He also could accept the qualifying offer if offered.
Dylan Cease (one year pre-arbitration)
Cease wasn’t happy with the consistency of his ’20 season but made major strides in ’21, finishing third in the AL with 226 strikeouts. Cease should be a rotation fixture for ’22 and many years to come.
Dallas Keuchel (signed through ’22 with ’23 option)
The veteran southpaw had the worst season of his 10-year career with a 5.28 ERA in 32 games (30 starts) and was not part of the team’s Division Series roster. Keuchel has bounced back from rough seasons previously, and the 33-year-old currently is the only left-hander in the rotation.
Reynaldo López (second-year arbitration)
After early-season eye surgery to correct a vision issue, López succeeded as a reliever and spot-starter via a 3.43 ERA in 20 games (nine starts). López will be valuable in both roles for the ’22 squad.
Jimmy Lambert (one year pre-arbitration)
Lambert made three starts among his four appearances in ’21 and could be a bullpen candidate in ’22 with spot-starter capabilities.
Liam Hendriks (signed through ’23 with ’24 option)
Hendriks was one of the game’s most dominant closers with 38 saves, a 2.54 ERA and 113 strikeouts against six unintentional walks over 71 innings. Hendriks allowed eight earned runs in the second half of the season, with six coming in back-to-back August outings against the Yankees.
Aaron Bummer (signed through ’24 with options for ’25 and ’26)
The sinker baller had a career-best 76.9 ground ball percentage in ’21 and his .246 xSLG ranked in the top 1 percent of the league, per Statcast. The 28-year-old is a prime setup man and could close games as well.
Michael Kopech (one year pre-arbitration)
Kopech posted a 3.50 ERA and 2.97 FIP with 103 strikeouts over 69 1/3 innings after being out of action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2018. The plan is for Kopech to move to the starting rotation, after working 40 of 44 games in the bullpen, but the team will have to monitor a significant jump from this season’s innings total.
Craig Kimbrel (club option for ’22 with buyout)
The White Sox are likely to pick up the $16 million option on Kimbrel, but then might look to trade him, per the USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Kimbrel struggled with the White Sox in a non-closer’s role, featuring a 5.09 ERA in 24 games, after posting a 0.49 ERA closing for the Cubs before being traded.
Garrett Crochet (pre-arbitration)
If Crochet moves into a starter’s role, as they have discussed for the 22-year-old, it doesn’t figure to be at the big league level in ‘22. Not after Crochet threw 54 1/3 innings this season and featured a single-game pitch count high of 46. But he proved to have solid value out of the bullpen, even in higher leverage situations.
José Ruiz (one year pre-arbitration)
Ruiz posted a 3.05 ERA over 59 games but had a 1.057 OPS against in high leverage situations, a 1.053 in medium leverage and just a .540 OPS in low leverage. He fits in as a middle reliever at this point.
Ryan Tepera (free agent after the World Series)
Tepera was effective with a 2.50 ERA in 18 games after being traded from the Cubs. The White Sox might go in a different direction with Tepera as a free agent.
Evan Marshall (third year arbitration)
Marshall did not pitch in the Majors after June 29 due to a right forearm injury, although he tried to work his way back to be ready for the playoffs. Per The Athletic, the veteran will undergo Tommy John surgery.
Ryan Burr (pre-arbitration)
Burr featured a 2.45 ERA over 34 games in pitching for the first time since 2019. He could move into more significant bullpen work following this strong showing.
Matt Foster (pre-arbitration)
After producing a 6-1 record and 2.21 ERA over 23 games in ’20, Foster struggled in ’21. His 6.00 ERA was influenced by a game in Seattle on April 7 where the right-hander allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning. It was an outing where La Russa admitted to leaving in Foster too long.
Jace Fry (second year arbitration)
The southpaw appeared in six games for the White Sox and was on the Division Series taxi squad. Although very talented and now fully healthy, Fry would be a non-tender candidate.