Catcher, First Base, and Second base – are held down by Welington Castillo, Jose Abreu, and Yolmer Sanchez. These players were all significantly worse in 2018 than they were in 2017 and that’s part of the reason why the Sox ended up declining by five wins over their previous season. For these players to revert to their 2017 slash lines isn’t that improbable, because we’re merely asking the players to do something they did before.
Castillo needs to bounce back after a 2018 PED suspension, and Abreu needs to bounce back after having the worst season of his career as (per baseball-reference) he fell from 4.7 WAR in 2017 to 1.7 WAR in 2018. Given that this bad season was mostly due to weird injuries and a prolonged mid-season slump, it isn’t unrealistic to see him bounce back given how great of a hitter he is.
At second base, Sanchez returns to his original position, and the Sox will need him to play like the player he was in the first half of 2017, and not 2018 when he put up a weak .678 OPS. Lame. If all three players bounce back this could bring the White Sox up four wins from 70 to 74.
Shortstop – Tim Anderson. Now, this is where it starts to get really important. What would we like from Anderson? Presumably a 30-30 season (the White Sox have never had one of those, ever), an on-base percentage significantly above .300, and better defense at shortstop. FanGraphs predicts a 1.8 bwar for the Sox at shortstop, and Anderson will need to beat that projection by at least one win (although hopefully 2), in order to get the win total up to 75.
Third base– Yoan Moncada. The White Sox are projected a 2.5 bwar from this position, and we need Moncada to be the player he was supposed to be and beat this projection by two wins, bringing the Sox win total to 77. Moncada will need to go from hitting .235 with 17 home runs to hitting .280 with 30 home runs. A tall order, but at least his defense will likely improve as he moves to third base.
Outfield – Jon Jay, Eloy Jimenez, and Daniel Palka. This one is tough because the White Sox will have to choose between Adam Engel’s terrible bat or Palka’s horrible glove. That choice could have been avoided for $330 million, but that’s neither here nor there. Jay is projected for a 0.8 bwar in 2019, and it’s fair to say he could beat that by a full win.
The problem with Palka is that his bat is projected to decline from his breakout rookie season, and his defense is even worse in right field than left field where it would be easier to hide him, yet right field really is the only position available for him at the moment due to Hahn’s roster construction.
Eloy Jimenez projects for a 3 bwar, which is excellent for a rookie but we’ll need him to outperform that for the Sox to be contenders this year. I think he could do this, because his defense is probably better than what he has been given credit for. Overall the White Sox will need to out-perform their outfield projections by at least 2-3 wins bringing the teams win total to about 80.
Designated hitter – Yonder Alonso is pretty much the same player he is ever year, so it’s unrealistic to expect any significant improvements, and I was already generous enough with the projection for Jose Abreu.
So for the White Sox to contend this year, they will more or less need Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada to become super-stars, Tim Anderson to be a near all-star, and for Abreu, Castillo, and Yolmer Sanchez to return to their 2017 selves. That’s just the offensive side of things.