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White Sox: Having Functional Options a Key for October

As the White Sox head into the postseason, they have a roster that is comprised of functional pieces that could line the team up for success.
White Sox Lineup

Photo: Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune

Not too long ago as White Sox fans, we were faced with the realities of a roster that was too top heavy to compete over the course of a 162-game marathon. In 2021, that script has changed as the team has received contributions from unheralded veteran pickups and forgotten prospects of the past. Heading into October, this roster's composition will give Hall of Fame manager, Tony La Russa, plenty of options when it comes to filling out the lineup card on a game-by-game basis. Despite much of the vitriol from loud portions of the fan base, the La Russa has a feel for this club and his ability to get the most of that roster flexibility will be paramount as the team seeks to win 11 daunting games in the postseason.


While most of the Sox everyday lineup is fairly set, questions remain as to how left field, designated hitter, right field, and second base will be handled on a game-by-game basis when the ALDS begins on October 7. The fact is the Sox actually have competent options to address these spots for the first time in ages. They all possess individual strengths and weaknesses in all facets of the game, but to a man they can be utilized in ways to accentuate those strengths and minimize the weaknesses.

With the returns of Adam Engel and Andrew Vaughn, this team has a solid mix of players with varied handedness and defensive capabilities. Switch-hitting options in Leury García and Cesar Hernandez will allow TLR to use platoon splits to his advantage. Power hitting youngsters Vaughn and Gavin Sheets can be utilized in ways to best take advantage of their ability to drive the baseball. Defensive and speed minded players like the aforementioned Engel and Billy Hamilton will allow the team to upgrade defense with leads late in the game and attempt to take extra bases, when needed.

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There has been a lot of consternation within the fan base as it relates to lineups and playing time throughout the course of the season, and to be frank, it's gotten exhausting at this point. I expect nothing less come October. We've seen the multitude of injuries that have befallen this team in 2021, so ensuring that the players are at full strength when the games mean their most is paramount. We've also seen players hitting a wall in either their first full season of big league play or simply readjusting back to the full 162-game grind coming off the pandemic shortened season of 2020. All of these issues have played a role in Tony La Russa making lineup decisions that have been argued about by many, yours truly included in full transparency.

Riding Hot Hands

Tony La Russa has shown throughout the course of his career that he trusts his gut when it comes to making in-game decisions. For many with an analytical bend today, that is viewed as taboo and a way to minimize your team's ability to be successful. However, we've seen instances in recent years where an over reliance on data becomes detrimental to a team's success, most notably with Kevin Cash's decision to pull Blake Snell during Game 6 of the 2020 World Series. I fully expect La Russa's decision making process to be heavily influenced by the performances of the individuals leading into the postseason. With Leury Garcia continuing his torrid offensive output since August 1, I expect him to see almost regular playing time. Gavin Sheets' ability to provide left-handed power with consistency, has positioned him well to usurp plate appearances from Andrew Vaughn given the platoon splits for both.

The point of all of this is, the Sox are in a position we are not accustomed to as fans in recent years. They have a group of guys that can impact this team positively in a number of different ways. You're not simply relying on the same three or four guys to carry the entire team because the bottom half of the roster is comprised of dead weight. We saw back in 2005, unlikely heroes like Geoff Blum and Willie Harris left their mark on White Sox history with memorable moments in the playoffs. This year's group has a plethora of guys that could very well do the same. Is this team 1-26 as balanced as say Tampa or the Dodgers? No, but are there really guys that will be on the postseason roster that simply shouldn't be there? From my perspective, I don't see that to be the case.

While many of these options aren't stars, they can prove to be critical pieces on an overall solid baseball team. Every one of the non-core positional players has a strength in one asset of the game that could be the deciding factor in winning a game or series come October. How those strengths manifest themselves remains to be seen, but this group can be used in many different ways to make things problematic for opposing managers.

For the first time in a long time, the White Sox actually have a roster with depth. That's a word that was thrown around for years in the Twittersphere as a bit of joke, but it is no longer. This team is versatile but not perfect. Given their mix, they can beat anybody en route to 11 wins this October. I don't know if they will get those 11 wins, but I feel more confident in this group's ability to play the high stakes games of October because of their versatility.