Our next team in this series is one we don’t have to travel far to find. We don’t even have to leave the city of Chicago. As usual, the Chicago White Sox and the Cubs are in two very different places right now. The Cubs are rebuilding with a weaker Major League roster and a top-10 farm system while the White Sox are the exact opposite. Their MLB roster is bursting with top-100 fantasy picks but this is also one of my least favorite farm systems in baseball. The White Sox are the only organization without a prospect within my top-200 overall. I’ll still be discussing five prospects in this system to target in dynasty leagues, but the majority of this article will be discussing intriguing players and storylines at the Major League level as they pertain to 2022 redraft leagues and dynasty as well.
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Chicago White Sox 2022/Dynasty Notes & Top Prospects
Can Luis Robert Provide First-Round Value in 2022?
The short answer to this question is a resounding yes. But here’s why. The upside of Luis Robert has been known for quite some time. Offensively, there are few players that can match his statistical ceiling. However, “upside”, “ceiling”, and “potential” don’t win fantasy leagues. Actual production does. Obviously. After a tumultuous rookie season in 2020 where Robert racked up 11 home runs and nine steals in 56 games but with an uninspiring .233/.302/.436 slash line, Robert made several noteworthy adjustments in 2021.
It’s hard to express in words how encouraged I am with the adjustments and improvements made by Robert this past season. He went from extremely talented with a flawed profile to extremely talented with a profile that isn’t much of a threat to his overall production and other skills. Now, assuming these improvements stick in 2022, the sky is the limit. Through his first 124 MLB games and 523 PA, Robert has put up 75 runs, 24 home runs, 74 RBI, and 15 steals for a 650 PA pace of 93/30/92/18. That’s highly impressive and even more so when you factor in his inconsistencies in 2020. You’re going to have to pay up to get him as his ADP is in the 2nd round currently, but Robert has a legit chance to go 40/20 in 2022 and finish as a top-10 player at the end of the season.
WOW! LUIS ROBERT GOT ALL OF THAT ONE! pic.twitter.com/Lb2C21lBzt
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) September 29, 2021
Steamer projections are high on him, and so am I.
Steamer: 636 PA, .286/.340/.510, 90 R, 31 HR, 92 RBI, 15 SB
Cross: 650 PA, .275/.336/.525, 94 R, 34 HR, 97 RBI, 19 SB
Was this performance fluky? Some might point to Robert’s inflated .394 BABIP (3rd in MLB, 200+ PA) and say yes. And while that BABIP is bound for regression in 2022, Robert’s combination of speed and quality of contact will likely keep his BABIP higher than most. Robert posted a 98th percentile max exit velocity in 2021 along with a 91.2 mph AVG EV, 12.5% barrel rate, and a 45.1% hard-hit rate. So while the AVG is likely to come down a bit, there wasn’t much in Robert’s 2021 performance that I would consider “fluky”.
2022 Value Picks: Eloy Jimenez & Jose Abreu
How is it that every year Jose Abreu’s ADP is incredibly reasonable? It’s just mind-blowing to me. Ever since his rookie season back in 2014, Abreu has been one of the most consistently good ro very good players in baseball. He’s a career .290 hitter that has exceeded or been on pace to exceed (damn 2020) 100 RBI in 7/8 seasons and 30+ HR in 6/8 seasons.
With first base getting questionable in a hurry after the top two tiers, I’m going to be looking to lock up a first baseman within the top-100 picks and Abreu will be one of my main targets. He possesses one of the highest floors at the position and will likely exceed 30/100 with a good AVG again in 2022, hitting in the middle of a potent White Sox lineup. As of now, his ADP sits at a modest 73 as the 6th first baseman off the board. Yes, please!
As for Eloy Jimenez, his 2022 ADP has dropped to a very tasty range due to his late-season struggles in 2021. And when I say “struggles”, that’s an understatement. After missing the first 2/3 of the season with a shoulder injury, Jimenez came back with a bang, slashing .287/.328/.537 with seven homers in 116 August plate appearances before hitting just two more in September with an awful .207/.245/.272 slash line. But even with his inconsistent two months, Jimenez still had well-above-average quality of contact metrics with a career-best walk rate and a strikeout rate still below 25%. This is a guy going close to pick 60 that can return top-30 value in 2022.
Is Yoan Moncada Worth The Price Tag Anymore?
What in the world has happened to Yoan Moncada? Seriously. Remember the guy that had back-to-back 40+ steal seasons in the minors back in 2015-2016? Well, that Moncada is gone and never coming back. Over the last two seasons combined, Moncada has swiped only three bags total in 196 games. THREE! At this point, I’m not even sure if the Moncada that stole 12 bags in 2018 and 10 in 2019 is going to return to our lives. It’s not that his sprint speed has taken a nosedive, rather just a sheer unwillingness to steal bases anymore.
It’d be one thing if he was still excelling at the plate, but even that’s not the case anymore. I’m willing to give Moncada a pass for 2020 given that he had COVID early in the season and was never 100% after, but his 2021 season wasn’t anything to write home about either. Sure, Moncada was better than 2020, but a .263/.375/.412 slash line, 14 homers, 61 RBI, 74 runs, and three steals in 144 games is barely even fantasy relevant. There’s a good approach here that will keep his OBP high, but Moncada has only had one season with an xBA of .280+ and an xSLG of .425+, both coming back in 2019.
The quality of contact metrics are still slightly above-average, so I wouldn’t rule out a return to the 20 HR range, but I’m not seeing much more than a .270/20/5 hitter here. At his near 150 ADP, that’s reasonable, but at that point, I’d rather wait a bit and get a similar profile later in the draft.
Can Dylan Cease Be A Fantasy Ace in 2022?
Some say yes, some say heck no. It really depends on where you look on Twitter or in the Fantasy Baseball content world as the masses are pretty split on the talented but frustrating right-hander. In 32 starts in 2021, Cease posted a pedestrian 3.91 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Solid but boring, right? But what if I told you that he ranked in the top 7% of baseball with a 31.9% strikeout rate and 34.6% whiff rate? That’s a bit more intriguing, without question. Cease also registered an above-league-average chase rate, chase contact rate, and zone contact rate.
But can Cease ever turn that corner? It feels like he’s also right on the cusp, teasing us with his potential only to never fully put everything together for a full season. Teasing is great and all in certain capacities, but not in fantasy baseball. Stop teasing us, Dylan!
With Cease, the main issue has been with his four-seamer. All three of his secondary offerings (CB/SL/CH) had a whiff rate above 40%, an xBA under .160, and an xSLG under .265 in 2021. Cease was one of only two pitchers with three offerings with a whiff rate above 40% last season. Can anyone guess the other? I’ll give you a hint… it’s the 2021 NL Cy Young award winner. Meanwhile, Cease’s fastball had a .264 BAA with a .449 SLG, .275 xBA, and .500 xSLG.
Obviously, I’m not saying that Cease can make a Burnes type of leap in 2022, but he easily could flirt with top-10 SP status if he improves his overall fastball command and continues to drop the walk rate, as he did in 2021 from 13.3% to 9.8%. A more effective fastball means a more dangerous Cease in 2022. Cease is currently being drafted around pick 85 on average as a back-end SP2/high-end SP3. That’s a very reasonable price tag for what he’s capable of in 2022.
Michael Kopech Ready to Breakout in 2022
If it feels like we’ve been waiting for a half-decade for Michael Kopech to break out, it’s because we have. Or, at least close to it. Here’s the timeline for Kopech’s career thus far.
2014: Selected #33 overall by Boston
2015-17: Dominated in the minors, albeit, while being a bit wild
2018: Makes MLB debut for the White Sox
2019-20: Doesn’t pitch for various reasons
2021: Flashes dominance out of the White Sox bullpen.
What a ride. While in the White Sox bullpen in 2021, Kopech recorded a 3.50 ERA and 1.13 WHIP across 69.1 innings with a stellar 36.1% strikeout rate. On top of that, he had 2.72 xERA, .182 xBA, and .255 xwOBA, all of which ranked in the top 6% of pitchers. But what really has me encouraged is the 8.5% walk rate. Kopech dealt with control issues frequently throughout his entire minor league career, posting an 11.7% walk rate in 395.2 innings. Seeing Kopech cut that by more than 3% has me all sorts of giddy when it comes to his 2022 and longterm outlook.
10 Ks in only 5 IP for Michael Kopech 🔥 pic.twitter.com/vlTWGaN4QK
— MLB (@MLB) April 25, 2021
Honestly, Kopech is similar to Cease in a lot of ways. Both have nasty secondary offerings and electric fastballs but have been hampered by their command and strike-throwing abilities. And as with Cease, Kopech showed better fastball command in 2021. It appears that Kopech will get a chance to slide into the White Sox rotation next season and he has the talent to flirt with top-25 SP value if his 2021 improvements stick. I’m sure the transition won’t be seamless, but Kopech’s sky-high upside and elite strikeout ability make him a great upside pick in the middle rounds.
As of right now, the White Sox have Liam Hendriks (R), Craig Kimbrel (R), Aaron Bummer (L), Kendall Graveman (R), and Garrett Crochet (L) in their bullpen. That’s a damn sexy quintet in their
bullpen arm barn. For fantasy purposes, Hendriks is a top-2 relief pitcher for 2022 along with Josh Hader coming off a season where he posted a 2.54 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 42.3% strikeout rate, and a league-leading 38 saves en route to a top-10 AL Cy Young Award finish. He and Hader are the only relief pitchers I would personally be willing to take in the top-75 of 2022 drafts.
As for Kimbrel, the veteran right-hander is likely to be traded this offseason. At least, that’s what all the hot stove rumors are hinting at. If you see him sliding a bit in your draft since he’s not technically a closer this very second, don’t hesitate to scoop him up. As long as the White Sox don’t have a change of heart and hold onto Kimbrel in 2022, he’s likely going to land on a team where he can close, meaning top-10 RP value in 2022. Graveman, Bummer, and Crochet are all solid targets in leagues that value holds.
Top-15 Dynasty Prospects
Five Prospects To Target In Dynasty
Jose Rodriguez, SS: The 20-year-old slashed .301/.338/.469 with 14 homers and 30 steals across three levels in 2021. The upside isn’t huge here, but Rodriguez could be average to above-average across the board offensively. In this depleted farm system, he might just possess the best combination of ceiling and floor.
Romy Gonzalez, MI: As loaded as the White Sox lineup is for 2022, there’s a hole at the second base position with Nick Madrigal now on the Cubs. Assuming they don’t bring someone in via trade or free agency, Romy Gonzalez appears to be the top in-house option to start there in 2022. As with Rodriguez, Gonzalez doesn’t stand out in any one area offensively, but he put up one of the quietest 24/24 seasons you’ll ever see in 2021, and in only 93 games too. Gonzalez is a bit older at 25 doesn’t project to hit for a high average, but there’s 15/15 upside here, making Gonzalez a sneaky late-round flier in deeper leagues.
Bryan Ramos, 3B: Signed back in 2019 out of Cuba, Bryan Ramos is one of the most intriguing bats in the system. The 6’2 infielder played at both 2B and 3B in 2021, flashing his plus raw power for Lo-A Kannapolis. The contact skills lag behind Ramos’ power, but he’s shown the ability to draw walks at a solid clip and can chip in a bit of speed as well.
Norge Vera, RHP: Vera signed back in February 2021 and immediately made an impact for the White Sox DSL affiliate. Vera tossed 19 shutout innings, allowing only nine hits and five walks while striking out 49.3% of the batters he faced. Yes, he was 21 playing against hitters 2-4 years younger than him, but there’s plenty of upside here. Vera can sit in the low to mid-90’s with his fastball and has shown a solid feel for both of his breaking balls. If you target just one arm in this system, I’d go with Vera.
Yoelqui Cespedes, OF: I was honestly trying to avoid Cespedes here. Not because I don’t like his profile, but because he’s probably the most well-known prospect in this system right now for fantasy purposes. Cespedes had an impressive debut season in 2021, slashing .285/.350/.463 with 20 doubles, eight home runs, and 18 steals in 72 games between Hi-A and Double-A. However, the holes in his swing and aggressive approach were exposed out in the Arizona Fall League where he hit .181 with a 28.2% strikeout rate. There’s above-average to plus raw power and average speed in this profile, but Cespedes hit tool remains a question mark.
For more of these team by team reports, click here.
Media Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire, Chicago White Sox, MLB
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