Back to Basics: The 2023 Chicago White Sox Season Preview

South Side faithful are hoping the Sox can recover from an unexpectedly dreadful 2022 season and return to the playoffs in 2023.


Finn Hartnett

The White Sox take on the Baltimore Orioles during April of 2023.

By Dheeraj Devarajan

Last season was an absolute disaster for the Chicago White Sox. Practically every media outlet picked the White Sox to comfortably win the AL Central, and they did nothing but disappoint, finishing the season at 81-81—11 games behind the division-winning Cleveland Guardians. The off-season brought major changes in the organization, with manager Tony La Russa retiring and Kansas City Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol taking his place. Along with Grifol has come a revamped coaching staff; pitching coach Ethan Katz, bullpen coach Curt Hasler, and first base coach Daryl Boston are the only holdovers from the previous regime. In the various interviews that he’s given since becoming the manager, Grifol has talked about wanting his team to be “fundamentally sound,” whether that’s hustling to first base, taking a more balanced and patient offensive approach, or simply being consistent with effort and intent on a day-to-day basis. All of these points have been music to the ears of White Sox fans after the undisciplined play they’ve had to watch over the last couple of years. Talk, though, is nothing if the players are not able to execute on the field, so let’s take a look at the collection of athletes that General Manager Rick Hahn has assembled at each of the position groups. 

Yasmani Grandal has had a stellar career in the big leagues and was one of the best catchers in the league leading into the 2022 season, but last year was a major letdown for him. In 99 games, he had career lows in almost every offensive category, barely hitting above .200 and only having 12 extra-base hits in 327 at-bats. The same held true defensively, with Grandal putting up a career-low -5 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2022. There is optimism that he will be able to turn things around after recovering fully from the back injury he suffered in the middle of last season that caused him to miss almost two months of action, but at 34 years old and in the last of year of his four-year, $73 million contract, Grandal can’t be expected to produce at the same level he was at in his prime. His backup at catcher is the quietly effective Seby Zavala, who had an excellent 2022 while filling in for Grandal. He had three defensive runs saved behind the plate in just 60 games, and hit .270 with a .729 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), encouraging signs that the 29 year old is fitting nicely into his role as one of the more valuable backup catchers in the majors. Expect Zavala to take on a more prominent role at catcher if injuries begin to pile up; Grandal could also be expected to be a designated hitter (DH) or play first base on occasion. 

Andrew Vaughn will be expected to fill some massive shoes as he takes on one of the most vaunted positions in Major League Baseball: playing first base for the Chicago White Sox. For over 30 years, legends have been occupying that spot on the south side of Chicago: Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, and José Abreu collectively have over 1100 home runs, 3700 runs batted in (RBIs), and almost 6000 hits in 33 years as Sox first basemen. With Abreu leaving in the off-season for the World Champion Houston Astros, the responsibility of succeeding those names has fallen onto the broad shoulders of Andrew Vaughn, who has spent the last two years playing in the outfield, at second base, and as a designated hitter. Now, he returns to his preferred position, where he will be expected to provide a Gold Glove-level defensive presence and live up to his intimidating offensive potential, which led to him being picked third overall in the 2019 draft out of the University of California. Vaughn had a decent season last year, with a .750 OPS and a weighed Runs Created plus (wRC+) of 113, but this season, he is expected to take a massive jump into one of the premiere first baseman in the major leagues. Now that he is back in a comfortable defensive position and has a solidified position anchoring the heart of the batting lineup, his offensive production and power numbers should take a major jump; it wouldn’t be surprising to see him cross the 30 home runs threshold, especially with the way that he dominates left-handed pitching. Backing Vaughn up at first base will be Gavin Sheets, who has also spent the majority of the last two years in the outfield and at designated hitter. The strapping 26-year-old comes off a season where he was perfectly average as a hitter—he posted a wRC+ of exactly 100. He will be expected to be an effective power bat off the bench, especially against right-handed pitching and will likely occupy a larger role as the designated hitter against righties and as the season progresses and injuries begin to pile up. Sheets’s role should be far more defined this season: just hit the ball out of the park. If it is, I’d expect him to put up much-improved power numbers and provide another option for Grifol in the lineup as a left-handed hitter. 

Second base will likely be the position in the most flux for the White Sox as the season goes along. Two players will probably platoon at second: Elvis Andrus and Romy González. Andrus was signed to the White Sox late last season when shortstop Tim Anderson was injured and was an outstanding offensive addition. The two-time All-Star hit .271 with a .773 OPS and nine home runs in just 43 games for the White Sox, and while he isn’t expected to recreate the same level of production, anything resembling those numbers would be a major upgrade from what the Sox have had at second base for them since the departure of Nick Madrigal in 2021. González has played sparingly for the Sox in his two short stints as a part of the major league team, but was promoted to the Sox’s major league roster after an outstanding Spring Training; he had an OPS of over .950 and has shown clear development in his power hitting abilities, with six home runs. Andrus has mostly been occupying the position during these early months of the season, but if things start trending the wrong way, don’t be surprised if González gets a shot at becoming the Sox’s everyday second baseman. 

There’s not much that needs to be said for shortstop: it’s Tim Anderson, the Sox’s superstar and de-facto leader after Abreu’s departure. Anderson is coming off an excellent showing at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) for Team USA, where he showed off his abilities on both sides of the ball, making highlight-reel plays at second base while hitting .333 with an .881 OPS and five RBIs in six games. This came off the back of another stellar offensive season for the White Sox in 2022, where Anderson hit above .300 for the fourth consecutive year in spite of the injury troubles he faced in the middle of the season. TA is as consistent as they come at the plate, and I would expect him to produce at the same level he has been producing at for the majority of his career while taking on a greater leadership role and showing improvements in his defensive game. The signs were all there at the World Baseball Classic. 

Another player who shined at the WBC was Yoán Moncada, who will be the everyday third baseman for the Sox in 2023. Frankly speaking, Moncada had a torrid 2022 season offensively, barely hitting above .200. However, there have been plenty of positive signs since the end of last season, as Moncada made the All-Tournament Team at the WBC with an average above .400 and an OPS above 1.200 against some of the best pitchers in the world. More than the numbers, it was the eye test that told the fans that Moncada was back to his usual self: his short, sweet, easy swing looked as effortless as it did in the 2019 and 2021 seasons, when he was stellar, and the confidence was back on both sides of the ball, as he flashed the glove on multiple occasions and showed off the swagger White Sox fans have come to associate with him. I expect this season to be a major bounce back for Moncada, and I would not be surprised to see him return to form as an A-tier third baseman in the Major Leagues. 

After 10 years with the White Sox, utility player Leury García will reportedly not be breaking camp with the Southsiders. While García is not a bad player by any stretch of the imagination, he was grossly misused by La Russa in his two years with the Sox, played as an everyday second baseman in 2022 and occasionally hitting at the top of the lineup at the expense of players like Moncada, Vaughn, and Grandal. Instead of García, the Sox will likely be employing the services of Hanser Alberto, who was signed for close to nothing and will likely break camp thanks to an otherworldly Spring Training performance, where he hit over .400 and had an OPS of over 1.200 in 41 at bats. He will obviously not be expected to replicate these numbers in the regular season, but he is a career .270 hitter and a decent defensive player who can play all over the infield. Despite his lack of power, he will be good value to the White Sox as a bench piece. 

The infield for the 2023 White Sox consists almost exclusively of returning players, but the outfield is almost the exact opposite, with center fielder Luis Robert Jr. likely being the only returning starter. Robert simply did not live up to his immense potential in the 2022 season. His season was above average, but for a player of his ability, a .284/.319/.426 slash line with 12 home runs in 98 games and a DRS of -4 is simply not good enough. Robert is a five-tool player who has everything you could possibly want from a baseball player on a physical level, and with some injury luck, minor adjustments to his offensive approach and a little more effort and focus on the outfield, he could easily be an MVP-caliber player on both sides of the ball. Robert has a high floor in terms of his production, so even at his worst, he will be a very effective major league player. Getting the best out of him will be Pedro Grifol’s most important individual coaching job, and it could make the difference between the White Sox being also-rans and making a deep playoff run. 

The White Sox made the biggest free agent signing in franchise history when they signed left fielder Andrew Benintendi to a 5-year, $75 million deal this offseason. Benintendi is an excellent addition to the team: he’s a good hitter, can run, and is a reliable defensive presence in the outfield. He also provides some much-needed experience to the team as a World Series Champion with the Boston Red Sox in 2019, and is the gritty, consistent player the Southsiders needed so badly at the top of the order and in the outfield. Last season, Benintendi ended early with a broken hand, but in over 120 games, he hit .304 with a .772 OPS and 122 wRC+. Grifol has experience working with Benintendi in Kansas City. The left fielder will likely have an important leadership role with the Sox as the season goes on and will be vital to the team’s chances of making the playoffs. 

In right field, Chicago has called up 24-year old Cuban rookie Oscar Colás to the big leagues. Colás signed with the Sox in 2021 and had an outstanding 2022 season in the minor leagues, with a .314/.371./.524 slash line and 23 home runs in 117 games. His power swing is striking at first glance, and so is his speed in the corner of the outfield. Colás is projected by most statistical projections to break the 20-home run mark in his rookie season, and when you throw in his ability to make plays in the outfield, you’re looking at a potential Rookie of the Year candidate in the American League. 

The fourth outfielder for the Sox, who has said on several occasions that he would like to be an everyday player in left or right field, will be their best offensive player: designated hitter Eloy Jiménez. Jiménez is spectacular to watch at the plate when he’s in his groove, and towards the end of last season, he was in his groove. Over 54 games in August and September, he hit .328 with an OPS of close to .950, 11 home runs and 37 RBI. He was spectacular to watch, and if he can put together a full, injury-free season at a similar level of production from the four-hole in the lineup, he will be in MVP consideration. The issue of injuries is often discussed when Jiménez plays in the outfield, which he will be doing for some periods of time this season. It will be up to manager Grifol to manage and limit his outfield play and make sure that he is able to stay on the field for the majority of the season. When he is healthy and on the field, he is a sight to behold. 

Now, let’s talk about the pitchers. The starting rotation is set: Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Mike Clevinger, and Michael Kopech. The top two in the rotation are as sure as they come. Dylan Cease is coming off a second place Cy Young finish in a fantastic season where he posted a 2.20 ERA and a 3.1 field independent pitching (FIP). Cease has always been nasty and has a fastball in the high-90s to go along with the nastiest of sliders and a very good curveball. Last season, he found the one thing that was keeping him away from being an elite pitcher: control. The placement of his fastball is impeccable and his offspeed pitches are tight and have great movement. The next step Cease needs to take is to pitch with efficiency and go deeper into games. Perhaps the only flaw in his game last season was the limited number of innings that he pitched, which averaged out to less than six innings a start. If he can pitch with greater efficiency, there is no ceiling to Cease’s game. 

The second sure thing for the Sox is Lance Lynn. He is coming off a season where he was quite unlucky, with his expected numbers for ERA (3.62) and FIP (3.44) being markedly lower than the actual numbers, 3.99 and 3.82 respectively. Lynn was also coming off a major injury he suffered in spring training and only started 21 games last year, with his numbers steadily improving as the season went on. Lynn is almost 36 years old, and at this point, his game has hit its ceiling, but what the ceiling represents is one of the top number two starters in the MLB. Lynn throws four pitches, all of which are variations in fastballs. This could be an issue against teams in the playoffs who usually excel at countering the fastball, but in the regular season, Lynn is a sure thing, and the expectation should be for him to pitch close to 200 innings and have an ERA somewhere in the threes, both of which he has hit or come close to hitting in practically every season of his career as a starter.  

After Cease and Lynn, there’s Lucas Giolito, who at his best could win a Cy Young and at his worst looks like a rookie pitcher making his first start. After three excellent consecutive seasons where he established himself as the ace on the South Side, Giolito had a miserable 2022, putting up a 4.90 ERA and a walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) of 1.44 in 27 starts. The reality of 2022 is that while Giolito was unlucky, with major disparities between his expected and actual numbers and an extremely high BABIP given up, he didn’t seem to have the same juice in his fastball and changeup that he was known for. His strikeout numbers were way down from the previous season, dropping below 10 K/9 for the first time since 2019, and his walk numbers increased from 2.62 BB/9 to 3.4 BB/9 from 2021 to 2022. It’s pretty difficult to predict where Giolito will end up this season, but there is some hope that his numbers will regress to the normal this season, although the eye test from 2022 may not reflect the same positivity. 

There’s a lot to be said about 2023 free agent-signing Mike Clevinger. The off-the-field allegations that come with him make the signing by Rick Hahn at the very best questionable and at the very worst simply inexcusable. On the field, Clevinger has pitched poorly in both of his last two full seasons, with xERAs of 4.77 and 4.65 and xFIPs of 4.18 and 4.76 respectively in 2020 and 2022. Even if we were to ignore the domestic violence and child abuse that Clevinger’s 10-month-old daughter’s mother accused him of in this offseason (which is impossible to do), Clevinger really hasn’t shown much promise on the field, which makes the signing even more puzzling. He’s only crossed 120 innings pitched once in his career, he doesn’t strike guys out, and he is highly prone to giving up home runs and leaving pitches hanging in the zone. I would not be surprised in the least if Davis Martin, who spent last season as an occasional spot starter for the Sox and showed promise towards the end of the season, were to replace Clevinger in the rotation as the season went on. 


The fifth starter for the Sox is Michael Kopech, for whom 2023 is a make-or-break season. After arriving in Chicago in the Chris Sale trade as a flamethrowing young gun, Kopech has been through a lot, dealing with adversity with both his health and his personal life. Last year, he didn’t quite make the large jump most expected him to make when he stepped into the starting rotation, and even though he put up a decent 3.54 ERA, his walk numbers were way up, his strikeout numbers were way down, and his xERA, FIP and xFIP were both sky-high. He also only threw 119 innings, and the injury issues that plagued him in the minor leagues and earlier on in his major league career returned again. With that being said, I simply can’t give up on Kopech’s immense talent and occasional brilliance. I keep believing that he will be able to put it all together, a thought that might be more emotional than it is logical. 2023 needs to be the season that Kopech puts it all together. If not now, then when? 

The last piece of the White Sox are its relievers, a group for which there should be high expectations and major reasons for optimism. Fan favorite and All-Star closer Liam Hendriks has the support and goodwill of an entire league with him as he continues to recover from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the signs seem to be extremely encouraging as he was not even placed on the 60-day IL, and according to reports, is expected to return before June. In his absence, the Sox’ bullpen will be led by the trio of Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, and Reynaldo López, all of whom pitched extremely well in 2022. Joe Kelly was one of the most unlucky pitchers of 2022, posting an ERA of 6.08 in spite of having an xERA of 3.15, a FIP of 3.06 and an xFIP of 3.16, and should be expected to his usual level of production this season. López broke out last season after getting Lasik surgery in the offseason and bloomed into one of the best relievers in all of baseball, with an ERA of 2.76 and a FIP of 1.93, and is extremely versatile, having the ability to be a spot starter, serve as a long reliever, a setup man, or even close games, which will be extremely useful to the manager. Graveman has been a high-level major league reliever since 2021, and after signing with the Sox on a three-year, $24 million deal in the 2022 offseason, he will be expected to close games and serve as the set-up man once Hendriks returns to the team. Looking beyond Kelly, Graveman, and López, Aaron Bummer, José Ruiz, Jimmy Lambert, Jake Diekman, and Gregory Santos will complete the White Sox bullpen while they wait on the return of Hendriks and Garrett Crochet, who is coming off a Tommy John surgery and will probably return to the team around the same time that Hendriks will. At full strength, the Sox have five extremely reliable bullpen arms, and the most expensive set of relievers in the MLB should be expected to perform to their price tag. 

2023 is a big season for the Chicago White Sox. They are in a good spot: Expectations aren’t high, but at their best, this team can easily win a division title and make a deep playoff run. A lot of that will depend on how Pedro Grifol manages this team—both physically and mentally—and while he may not have a track record, the way he carries himself, preaching consistency, toughness, and playing smart situational baseball is exactly what Sox fans have been waiting to see from their manager. After predicting 95 wins and an ALCS appearance last year, I will be staying away from making any predictions for the upcoming White Sox season, but Sox fans should feel cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead in 2023.