When you look at the 2021 White Sox, there are a handful of players or overall units that can be classified as an “X-factor.” Yoan Moncada certainly comes to mind, especially if he can revert back to his 2019 form before he had COVID-19. The bullpen should be one of the best in baseball and should do a great job shortening the game and closing out wins.
But at the end of the day, it’s Dylan Cease who can turn an already very good team into an American League favorite.
Four Is Better Than Three
As it stands, the White Sox have a rock-solid trio leading their rotation with Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance Lynn. These three are already proven and know how to execute their pitches even on days when they don’t have their best stuff. Three pitchers you can count on is nice, but if Dylan Cease can take that next big step, that will give the Sox 4 bonafide starters. That helps teams break out of slumps earlier and gives the rest of the rotation regular rest in potential playoff series. Not to mention the bullpen will be less taxed if Cease can go out and give you 6-7 innings every start.
Ethan Katz Already Paying Dividends
Sox fans first heard of new pitching coach Ethan Katz a couple of years ago when Lucas Giolito worked with him in the offseason after his dismal 2018. Giolito has been pitching like an ace ever since. Now that Katz is the pitching coach of the White Sox, fans are hoping that he can have the same effect on Dylan Cease. Dylan has allegedly been using a core velocity belt and doing a lot more drills than he used to this offseason. He has been virtually working with Katz ever since the latter was hired by the organization.
We already know Cease has the stuff to be a very good pitcher. His breaking pitches specifically are his bread and butter, but with him, it all starts with his fastball and how well he can command it. The big story with that was that Cease was getting unintentional cutting movement on it, which led to poor command and high walk totals. When he was the minor league pitcher of the year in 2018, he allegedly had 17 inches of ride on his fastball, which is considered pretty good. In 2019 and 2020, that total fell to 14-15 inches. Since he’s been working with Katz this offseason, he has been sitting at 20 inches of fastball ride. That’s a sign that Katz is already paying dividends. If Cease can maintain that ride and find better command, then his breaking balls will be that much more effective and he should see himself getting a lot more swing-and-misses.
Lack Of Experience Still A Big Factor
As it stands today, Cease has made 26 starts in the big leagues, so right around a full season’s worth. It just seems like he’s been here longer since he’s technically been on the White Sox for 2 seasons (called up mid-2019, shortened 2020 season). For context, it took Giolito a season and a half to turn into what he is now. With technically a full season under his belt, an analytics-driven pitching coach, and a better understanding of what he needs to do to improve, Dylan Cease is a prime breakout candidate for the Sox in 2021. If he does take that next step, there’s no reason to think that the Sox can’t win the American League pennant for the first time since 2005.