With all the buzz surrounding the Chicago White Sox heading into the 2021 season, it can be hard to foresee the pinnacle to what may be a phenomenal season. Coaching, division strength, pitching, and position players are among the most-discussed topics in this debate, but there is no doubt the strength of the lineup is what it all comes back to.
Although the pitching has come a long way — and even more effective arms entered the mix this offseason — I believe the story of this season will come straight from the position players’ bats. The craze around Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, and Andrew Vaughn is extraordinary. However, reigning American League MVP Jose Abreu is somehow wildly overlooked. I have a couple of arguments I would like to make about Abreu going back-to-back in the MVP conversation, if not winning the award for a second consecutive season.
With several signs pointing to top prospect Andrew Vaughn joining the lineup from the get-go, Abreu could spend more time at DH than in years past. That would mean more swings in the clubhouse before at-bats and more time to study pitchers coming in from the bullpen. Adding Eaton and his career .360 OBP potentially batting ahead of Abreu would mean more RBI opportunities. Even if he slots in near in the bottom of the lineup, Eaton could still be a prime candidate to be on base for Abreu to drive in when the order turns over. Don’t forget about Nick Madrigal and his .376 OBP rounding out the White Sox lineup as well. Finally, coming off of a career year will help Abreu walk up to the plate on opening day with a plethora of confidence.
Another big advantage of this upcoming season is not having to face National League opponents outside of the Central Division. The arms race in Southern California resulted in highly sought-after pitchers such as Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell, and Yu Darvish landing in the NL West. Sure, Abreu will still have to face Shane Bieber multiple times and Gerrit Cole maybe once or twice, but pitching in the NL took a major step forward this offseason. Back-to-back years of batting against mostly the same rotations will be huge for Abreu and any batter with his caliber of plate vision.
There’s no doubt that Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, and other star players from around the American League will make strong cases in the MVP race as well. But Abreu’s stellar 2020 shouldn’t be dismissed solely because it was a truncated 60-game season. The White Sox contention window is wide open and several members of the organization have voiced their World Series aspirations heading into 2021. If they are to achieve at an elite level this year, Abreu will have to be a major run producer and clutch hitter. He showed those abilities last season as he helped lead the White Sox to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Youthful talent blossoming into star-level producers may be the sexy storyline heading into 2021, but Jose Abreu is undoubtedly still the leader of the White Sox.
So who says no to another run for MVPito? I think Abreu has the means to repeat history similar to greats such as Ernie Banks, Barry Bonds, and Frank Thomas. Do you think he can potentially repeat or is there another member of the White Sox on your MVP radar this year? Let me know on Twitter @DaGerbs.