2020 Fantasy Baseball: Chicago White Sox Team Preview

Full fantasy baseball stat projections for White Sox hitters and pitchers. What to expect from Yoan Moncada, Jose Abreu, Lucas Giolito and more.
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Chicago White Sox

The White Sox missed the playoffs in each of the past 11 seasons. Over that span, they have only had two winnings seasons (2010 – 88-74 and 2012 – 85-77). Their last World Series appearance was a win in 2005 over the Houston Astros. That team was led by Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, and Dustin Hermanson in the regular season. In the 119-year history of the franchise, they’ve made the playoffs just nine times with two other World Series titles (1906 and 1917).

Last year, they finished with a 72-89 record with weakness in their ERA (4.90 – 19th). They have allowed over 800 runs in each of the previous three seasons (820, 848, and 832). The White Sox scored 708 runs (24th) in 2019, which was their highest total since 2012 (748). Power (182 HRs – 25th) remains a problem as Chicago was only one of six teams in baseball to hit fewer than 210 home runs. They ranked 25th in RBI (676) with some growth in batting average (.261 – 8th). A big part of their failure was a high number of strikeouts (1549 – 6th) by their batters paired with a major league-low in walks (378).

The White Sox made a splash in the offseason by signing C Yasmani Grandal, DH Edwin Encarnacion, and by trading for OF Nomar Mazara. After adding a top outfield prospect in Luis Robert, who signed a six-year $50 million deal in early January, Chicago now has a balance of veteran and young upside bats to push their way up the offensive standings.

Their quest to contend for the AL Central title in 2020 didn’t stop at hitting. The White Sox signed SP Dallas Keuchel and SP Gio Gonzalez to add experience to their starting rotation. Chicago inverted in RP Steve Cishek for bullpen depth.

Chicago comes into 2020 with high expectations, but they still have to catch up to the Indians and the Twins based on the early Las Vegas expected win totals (CLE – 91.5, MIN – 90.5, and CWS – 80.5). The White Sox could improve dramatically if their chemistry develops, and some of their young players have breakthrough seasons. Their biggest question may be the depth and strength of their bullpen.

Starting Lineup

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1. OF Luis Robert

After a slow start to his major league career at the lower levels of the minors in 2017 and 2018 (.281 with three HRs, 31 RBI, and 27 SBs over 270 at-bats), Robert turned into a beast last season in his push through three levels of baseball. He hit .328 over 503 at-bats with 108 runs, 32 home runs, 92 RBI, and 36 stolen bases with his best power coming at AAA (.297 with 16 HRs, 39 RBI, and seven SBs over 202 at-bats). 

All signs point to upside, but his approach is trailing. His strikeout rate came in at 23.4 percent in 2019 while barely taking any walks (5.0 percent). Both his AVH (1.903) and CTBA (.441) graded high in 2019. Robert missed most of 2018 with a left thumb injury. With plus power and speed, Robert should hit the ground running in 2020. His swing path in 2019 delivered a high fly-ball rate (A – 55.6, AA – 49.1, and AAA – 49.3), which may hurt his batting average early in the majors if he doesn’t improve his approach. 

Pencil him in for a 30/30 skill set out of the gate with runs being an edge. I expect him to hit lower in the lineup early in the year. With an ADP of 107, Robert looks to be a steal, but his draft value will rise over the next couple of months due to his new contract and each good game in Spring Training.

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2. 3B Yoan Moncada

After striking out 217 times in 2018 with a strikeout rate of 33.4 percent, Moncada was taboo in drafts in 2019 due to his batting average risk, despite his high upside in power and plenty of underlying speed. He was a little more aggressive earlier in the count last season, which led to a lower strikeout rate (27.6) and regression in his walk rate (7.2 – 10.3 in 2018). Moncada had the highest contact batting average (.451) in the majors while ranking 25th in hard-hit rate (47.4) compared to 61st in 2018 (44.2). 

He hit well against both right-handed (.322) and left-handed (.299) pitching. His season started with a hot April (.314 with six HRs and 20 RBI over 105 at-bats) and ended with a massive push in batting average in September (.412 with three HRs and 15 RBI over 102 at-bats). Moncada was at his best when hitting second in the batting order (.344 with 17 HRs and 42 RBI over 300 at-bats). His HR/FB rate (20.2) was a career high, along with his ground-ball rate (42.3). Fantasy owners are still waiting for his speed to emerge (111 SBs over 1,042 at-bats in the minors). 

Improving player with downside in batting average if his strikeout rate reverts to his previous resume. Moncada has an ADP of 68 as the 10th third baseman off the board in 2020. His intrigue comes from speed at third base. Next step: .270 with 100-plus runs, 30-plus home runs, and a push to 20-plus steals.

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3. 1B Jose Abreu

The quality of hitters at the top of the White Sox starting lineup improved in 2019, leading to Abreu’s most RBI (123), RBI chances (465), and highest RBI rate (21) of his career. In his six years in the majors, he has hit at least 30 home runs four times and produced at least 100 RBI in five different seasons. His ability to score runs (80.5 per year) remains only a slight edge. 

Abreu saw his strikeout rate regress for the second consecutive season (21.9), and matched his career low in his walk rate (5.2). His hard-hit rate (48.2) ranked 24th in baseball, with 237 of his batted balls hitting 95 MPH or more (3rd). Abreu is excellent against lefties (.360 with nine HRs and 31 RBI over 164 at-bats). His best month in power came in May (10 HRs and 26 RBI over 120 at-bats), but he did struggle to put the ball in play (.225 BA). After the All-Star break, he only had 12 home runs over 289 at-bats with 57 RBI and success in batting average (.291). 

Even with his highest HR/FB rate (21.0) since his rookie season (26.9), his power didn’t take a step forward due to a fading fly-ball rate (31.9). An outside chance at a 40/120 season with Chicago having a better overall lineup.

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4. OF Eloy Jimenez

Jimenez made the White Sox out of Spring Training in 2019, but he failed to make an impact in April (.241 with three HRs and eight RBI over 79 at-bats). He landed on the injured list on April 27th with an ankle injury that cost him just over three weeks of the year. His bat flashed in June (.284 with eight HRs and 20 RBI over 88 at-bats). 

After another IL stint with a right elbow issue, Jimenez delivered an explosive end to the season (.308 with 14 HRs and 40 RBI over 214 at-bats), highlighted by a great September (.340 with nine HRs and 25 RBI over 100 at-bats). His end to the year personally cost me $45,000 in one high-stakes event. Even with success, his strikeout rate (26.6) had risk with a below-par walk rate (6.0). His hard-hit rate (47.9) ranked 26th. Over six seasons in the minors, Jimenez hit .311 with 235 runs, 66 HRs, 282 RBI, and 15 SBs over 1,585 at-bats. His strikeout rate (18.3) and walk rate (6.8) showed more upside in his approach in the minors. 

Jimenez has beast upside in power but also has a vast history of injuries. His late-season success pushed his ADP to 56 in the early draft seasons in 2020. A future .300 hitter with a chance at 50-plus home runs. If I could trust his health, I’d draft him this year and expect .320/40/110.

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5. DH Edwin Encarnacion

The White Sox will have an interesting dilemma when setting their starting lineup in 2020. Do they want to protect their power hitters with more power behind them? Or do they want to have a mix of righties and lefties to protect from reliever arms later in the game? 

Last year, Encarnacion missed much of the final two months of the season with a broken right wrist and an oblique issue. He was on pace for another 40/100 season while continuing to have an edge in his RBI rate (18). His experience with runners on base should keep him in the middle of the White Sox batting order even with regression in his strikeout rate (21.2 – 17.3 in his career). Encarnacion will take walks (11.9 percent). His bat is lethal versus left-handed pitching (11 HRs and 22 RBI over 106 at-bats) despite his risk in batting average. His CTBA (.324) is trending down, but it isn’t far off his range (.340) where he hit .265 in batting average. 

Over the last seven seasons starting at the age of 30, Encarnacion has 255 HRs and 740 RBI. Pretty much a gift for a fantasy team looking over low-average power based on his ADP (209). Some of his downside in batting average is tied to many easy outs via his massive fly-ball rate (50.6 in 2019 and 44.8 in his career). With 500 at-bats, .250 with 35-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI. 

Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Chicago White Sox Team Outlook

Pitching Staff

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SP1 Lucas Giolito

For four starts in 2019, I had the keys to this breakout arm. His season started with an attention-grabbing outing (two runs over 6.2 innings with one walk and eight Ks). Over his next two games, Giolito regressed to his 2018 form (nine runs, 20 baserunners, eight walks, and two home runs over 9.1 innings). After 2.2 shutout innings with five strikeouts, he landed on the injured list with a hamstring issue while receiving a parting gift to the free-agent pool. 

Giolito ended up only missing two weeks of action. When he returned to the mound, his arm was electric on most nights over his next 12 starts (2.09 ERA and 92 Ks over 77.1 innings) thanks to a clean up of his command (23 walks). After pitching poorly in two of his next four starts (7.06 ERA), Giolito regained his elite form over eight starts (2.72 ERA and 75 Ks over 53 innings). His season ended in mid-September with five runs allowed and 12 Ks over six innings due to an oblique injury. 

Both his strikeout rate (11.6) and walk rate (2.9) beat his minor league resume (9.6 and 3.3) while being well above his early start to his major league career (6.4 and 4.3). Giolito dominated lefties (.172) and was successful versus righties (.235). His AFB (94.1) had more life and success (.204 BAA). He threw a plus changeup (.191 BAA) and a winning slider (.215 BAA). His biggest change form 2018 was dumping his sinker. Giolito pitched more up in the strike zone, leading to a higher fly-ball rate (42.8 – 37.3 in 2018), but he didn’t fix his issue with home runs allowed (1.2 per nine and HR/FB rate (13.6). 

Not ready to be a fantasy ace, but his stuff supports follow-through as long as he repeats his command. With an ADP of 59, Giolito seems reasonably priced. I expect more wins with a run at a sub 3.00 ERA and 250 Ks.

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SP2 Dallas Keuchel

After a slow start to his career in 2012 and 2013 (9-18 with 5.20 ERA and 161 Ks over 239 innings), Keuchel has been more than serviceable over the previous six seasons (75-53 with 3.33 ERA and 875 Ks over 1,063 innings) while posting an ERA under 3.00 in three years (2.93, 2.48, and 2.90). 

Last year, he held out for two months, which led to 19 starts for the Braves. Keuchel allowed three runs or fewer in 14 of 19 games with two disaster starts (13 runs and 20 baserunners over 8.2 innings). He had a massive problem against righties (.281 with 14 HRs over 360 at-bats). His walk rate (3.1) was his highest since 2012, with weakness in his HR/9 rate (1.3). He relies on a slow fastball (89.6) while his changeup (.227 BAA) and slider (.213 BAA) each still grade as assets. Keuchel gains his edge with a high ground ball rate (60.1) with a meniscal fly-ball rate (19.6) and a massive HR/FB rate (23.9). 

A solid inning eater that will win games, but his WHIP does have risk until he cleans up his walks and regains the life in his fastball. Worth a gamble based on his ADP (271).

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CL/RP Alex Colome

Colome ended up being a value reliever in 2019 after beating out Kelvin Herrera for the closing job. Before the All-Star break, Colome posted a 2.02 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 20 saves over 35.2 innings. Over the second half of the year, his arm (3.91 ERA, 28 Ks, and 10 SVs over 25.1 innings) lost value. He had almost the same value vs. righties (.192) and lefties (.190). Colome had his highest walk rate (3.4) since 2014 (3.8) with a step back in his strikeout rate (8.1 – 9.5 in 2019). His AFV (94.7) was a career-low while being tough to hit (.234 BAA). Colome relies on his cutter (.182 BAA) as his best pitch. 

Plenty of closing experience with less than desirable peripheral stats, which pushes him lower in the closer rankings (ADP – 172). The White Sox will win plenty of games, but he’s not a lock to hold the job all year. His fade in his first pitch rate (57) paired with regression in his command may be the sign to get off the bus. I would consider a 3.00 ERA with 75 strikeouts and 35 saves a win for Colome in 2020. 

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Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription. Shawn Childs is a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ. Gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.

READ MORE: 2020 Chicago White Sox Team Outlook

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