The Chicago White Sox have a poor outlook for the immediate future, and there’s no other way to say it. Entering the 2024 season, there is little doubt that they will be bottom-dwellers in the AL Central, and they could stay there for years to come.
Last year, their 61-101 record was – somehow – not enough to earn a last-place finish in the division. Yet, with the Royals having improved their team by so much this offseason, it seems that the two clubs are set to flip-flop in the standings.
It’s not that the White Sox have been silent this winter. Paul DeJong, Nicky Lopez, Martín Maldonado, Max Stassi, Erick Fedde, Michael Soroka, Chris Flexen, John Brebbia and Tim Hill have been their most notable additions. However, this group is largely made up of players other teams didn’t want, so they’re not likely to help sway the standings much.
Here at Just Baseball, we’ve been putting together a series of pieces that highlight Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections and what those projections foresee for our favorite teams in the 2024 season. For those that need a refresher, here’s what ZiPS is all about:
ZiPS is a system of player projections developed by FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski… ZiPS uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. On FanGraphs, the projections are updated daily and predict each player’s numbers over the course of the remainder of the season… Obviously, no one is claiming that every ZiPS prediction will come true, but it is widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry.MLB.com on the “sZymborski Projection System (ZiPS)”
While it will be a rough road, here is what we can learn from the ZiPS projections for the 2024 Chicago White Sox.
White Sox ZiPS: Position Players
Last year, the White Sox ranked in the bottom half of the league in home runs, runs scored, K%, batting average and many other major offensive categories. Expecting that to change much in 2024 is not realistic. ZiPS seems to share that sentiment.
- Oscar Colás won’t become the player the White Sox need him to be. The 25-year-old has rapidly gone from ascending star to disappointment. After he posted a 53 wRC+ in 75 games last year, ZiPS says we should expect an 86 wRC+ and just 0.3 fWAR from Colás in the upcoming season. That’s an improvement, but it’s not enough.
- The White Sox’s top two trade chips will have strong years. Both Luis Robert Jr. and Eloy Jiménez should be traded while their value is at its peak. The former projects to post 4.1 fWAR with a 119 wRC+ and 29 homers in 136 games. The latter, if he finally puts together a second-straight healthy season, projects for 21 big flies with a 115 wRC+.
- This offense will be every bit as hard to watch as you’d think. ZiPS thinks a grand total of four White Sox players will have a wRC+ over 100 in the coming season. Meanwhile, the likes of Yoán Moncada, Gavin Sheets, Colás, Lenyn Sosa and newcomer Dominic Fletcher are all projected to be below-average at the dish.
White Sox ZiPS: Pitching Staff
Similar to the offense, the White Sox’s pitching staff struggled last year. A combined 4.88 ERA, the fifth-highest in the game, just won’t cut it. They have yet to trade Dylan Cease, but once they do, that number has the potential to somehow jump even higher.
- Only one starting pitcher can truly be counted on. Cease, 28, is one of two pitchers on the entire staff projected to have an ERA lower than 4.00. He is also the only one that projects to make over 27 starts. His 3.4 fWAR projection easily tops the staff as well, so you can see how much value he’s truly bringing to the squad. ZiPS loves him and so should you.
- Fedde and Flexen won’t be good, but they’ll give the White Sox what they need. At this point, all the Sox need are innings, innings and more innings. Fedde projects to make 25 starts and average just over 5 innings per outing, which is all Chicago really needs from him. Flexen projects as more of a swingman, but he’d be right around 5 innings a start as well. The other numbers don’t matter this year. As long as those two can eat innings, they’re valuable to this club.
- The young guns deserve a shot, and ZiPS agrees. Behind Cease, the entirety of the White Sox rotation is full of unknowns and question marks. Jared Shuster, an offseason acquisition whom Roster Resource doesn’t think will make the Opening Day roster, projects to post 1.1 fWAR despite the fact that his ERA begins with a five. However, he can only do that if he makes enough starts, so his value depends heavily on how much the White Sox need him.
- Zero true relievers will post more than 1.0 fWAR according to ZiPS. Woof, this is tough. The Sox have multiple hurlers that project to make over 40 appearances out of the bullpen, but none projected to top 0.4 WAR. A ton of new names have been brought aboard to fill late-game innings, but the numbers aren’t exactly encouraging for how they’ll fare.
- Garrett Crochet spends another full season in the bullpen. The electric southpaw has, at times, shown interest in becoming a starting pitcher, and the White Sox seem to be at least considering that possibility themselves. However, ZiPS sees 55 relief appearances and no starts for the young pitcher. In that time, he projects to put up the only other sub-4.00 ERA on the staff, coming in at 3.98. ZiPS Depth Charts, which uses manual playing time estimates from Roster Resource, has Crochet making 57 appearances and six starts.
- John Brebbia will be one of the least valuable closers in the league. Let’s get it straight here: Any “closer” on the White Sox should not expect many save chances. The right-hander projects to close out 23 games while posting a 4.47 ERA and 4.32 FIP. For what it’s worth, that’s not the worst showing for a first-time closer.
There’s not much to say about the White Sox that hasn’t already been said. They need to do the right thing and trade any valuable players with a pulse. This will go a long way to further stocking an already improving farm system. There’s no reason Cease, Robert and Jiménez should finish the 2024 campaign in Chicago (on the South Side, at least).