Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chicago White Sox 2014 Team Breakdown

CHICAGO WHITE SOX:  63-99 (5th Place in the AL Central)

Projected Lineup/Batting Order:

CF        Adam Eaton
SS        Alexei Ramirez
1B        Paul Konerko
DH       Adam Dunn
RF        Avisail Garcia
LF        Dayan Viciedo
3B        Matt Davidson
C          Josh Phegley
2B        Gordon Beckham

Projected Starting Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms:

SP        Chris Sale
SP        John Danks
SP        Jose Quintana
SP        Andre Rienzo
SP        Felipe Paulino
RP       Nate Jones
RP       Scott Downs
RP       Matt Lindstrom
RP       Ronald Belisario

The White Sox are in re-building mode.  But they are limited in that re-build because they have a debilitating farm system.  In addition, they play in a major market with an angry fan base that didn’t expect the team to be playing like this and don’t want a re-build to happen.  So the White Sox have walked a very fine line, and done a good job in my opinion to set the re-build in motion while still taking some of the necessary risks needed to keep the fans interested.  That being said, neither their immediate future nor their more immediate present look to be in good shape.

The Sox started by signing Jose Abreu for $68 million.  That is for a player who has never seen a single pitch in the major leagues.  But he’s a monster power hitter from Cuba who has shown up soon after seeing other Cubans (Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig) step into the major leagues with great success.  So that helped him tremendously in getting this deal.  If the big man can translate his power to the MLB level, then this would be a coup for the White Sox.  But it is a risk.  Still it’s the kind of risk they had to take.  That being said, if it doesn’t work out for him the White Sox still have Paul Konerko to play first and Adam Dunn to DH.  If all three of them can mash, Dun may even re-appear in left field to spell Dayan Viciedo, who has great power but can’t take a walk and strikes out a ton.  And if all 4 of them hit, then that’s the kind of problem the White Sox would love to have.  The other major addition was center fielder Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks.  They shipped off Hector Santiago to the desert for Eaton, and I think it’s a win for both teams, but especially for the White Sox.  Santiago was a back-end of the rotation fringe starter, but he should be better in the NL West.  Adam Eaton is a great on base guy who plays a nice defensive center field.  He was supposed to be the leadoff man in Arizona, but injuries slowed him down.  He’s healthy now, and I think this may be a huge gain for Chicago.  He’s young, but they are looking to get younger in a hurry.  They also sent closer Addison Reed to Arizona before arbitration ballooned his salary.  This was a cost cutting measure, but also returned a talented young third baseman in Matt Davidson.  He’s not going to be a star, but he’s a solid young player who will be a great glove on the left side of the White Sox infield.

So looking at the offensive lineup, there are risks.  Eaton is new to the leadoff position, as his MLB experience has been limited.  But all the scouts agree that he has the makeup.  So they will give him a shot at the top, and if it doesn’t work out they can maybe go back to Alejandro de Aza, who fell flat last year.  Alexi Ramirez is slotted to hit second on a make good deal that doesn’t cost a lot of money.  The ideal situation for Chicago would be for Ramirez to have a great season, so they could flip him to a contender at the deadline and get back some talented prospects.  They have a young shortstop prospect in Marcus Semien who is about ready to step into the major leagues.  This is the kind of thing the White Sox have to do to compete in a top-heavy division that they aren’t ready to be a part of yet.  I have Paul Konerko hitting third in his last season.  He gives the fans a reason to come out and will provide leadership in the clubhouse.  He may not be what he once was as he was limited to 126 games from injury.  But he should still add 15 HR and an AVG around 270 if healthy.  Throw in Adam Dunn at cleanup and you know what you are getting.  Low AVG, lots of Ks and BBs and HR.  He led the team with 34 HR and 80 RBI last year.  I’d expect more of the same.  Beyond the heart of the order, it’s all young guys trying to make good.  They can do the lineup any way they want, but I put Avisail Garcia next as the most is expected of him.  In 72 games for Chicago and Detroit last year he hit 283 with 7 HR, 31 RBI and 31 R.  That’s about 15 HR over a full season.  If the White Sox are going to grow, he’s got to be their star.  I put Dayan Viciedo 6th, with his 14 HR and 265 AVG.  His OBP is terrible, but at 6th it doesn’t matter as much.  After that I went with youngsters Matt Davidson, Josh Phegly and veteran Gordon Beckham.  The first 2 are question marks, but young ones who will hopefully improve.  There is little expected of them, so hopefully less pressure will enable them to grow into quality ball players.  With Beckham, he’s the better option at second, though Jeff Keppinger is around if he really struggles.  Keppinger also can back up Davidson at third.  That’s the lineup.  It’s not great, but there are pieces there.  Abreu and Avisail Garcia are the ones that will be the future of this team.  The White Sox hope they added talented ancillary pieces to their future in Eaton and Davidson.  They hope Viciedo is ready to be a major run producer for them.  Konerko is around for nostalgia and leadership.   Dunn is a HR hitter, if nothing else.  They have a young shortstop ready to play in the bigs, but right now have Alexei Ramirez up the middle with his team best 284 AVG.  And the rest of the lineup is fill-ins.  If Dunn or Ramirez over perform, don’t be surprised to see them moved to make space for Abreu or the young shortstop prospect Semien.  Not a lot to be excited about offensively, but a lot of options and hope for the future.

Defensively this team should be just fine.  Konerko is solid at first.  Jose Abreu isn’t known for his glove work.  Neither is Adam Dunn.  But if there is a reason they are putting all 3 of them in the lineup it’s because the offense from them is great, so they don’t mind a drop off defensively.  All three can play first and Dunn can play left, albeit poorly.  But that won’t be the norm.  Perhaps they can send Dunn to a contender at the deadline.  Gordon Beckham is great defensively at second, and Keppinger is solid there, but good at third.  Alexei Ramirez is fantastic at short and Davidson, like most young players, broke into the majors with his defense.  In the outfield nobody stands out, but I mean that in both ways.  No one is really bad or good.  Pretty solid across the board.

The one area that looks pretty good is the pitching staff.  They are led by ace Chris Sale, a young lefty who is among the best pitchers in baseball.  He was 11-14 with a 3.07 ERA.  He was a monster with 226 Ks in 214 IP.  His WHIP was a mere 1.07 and batters hit 230 against him.  4 CG and 1 Shutout.  This guy is the epitome of an ace.  They are set at the top of the rotation.  The rest of their guys are better than people realize, despite the names not being well known.  Jose Quintana led the team with 33 starts.  He turned in a 9-7 record with a 3.51 ERA in 200 IP.  That’s great for a number 2 man.  John Danks is a veteran on this squad who had a terrible season in 22 starts.  He went 4-14 with a 4.75 ERA.  Both his WHIP and BAA were well above average.  He was coming off shoulder surgery and didn’t return until late May.  The hope is that he’ll pitch better now that he’s fully healthy, but that’s a lot to hope for.  The good news is that at best they need him to be their number 3 man.  If he can rack up innings, they won’t mind an ERA over 4, though hopefully it’ll be closer to 4 than 5.  They then have 2 youngsters for the last 2 spots.  Andre Rienzo went 2-3 in 10 starts with a 4.82 ERA.  He also has to work on cutting down the walks because his WHIP was way too high.  But they love his stuff, and if he can learn to harness it he could be a future All Star.  As it is, he’s buried at 4th in the rotation.  They also bought low on Felipe Paulino, coming off Tommy John surgery.  It’s a low risk deal for a guy that missed all of last year and only made 7 starts in 2012.  If he hits, then it’s a great deal as he had a 1.67 ERA in those starts.  And with so little pressure on him they hope he can find his way.  And the bullpen also looks pretty good, especially for a re-building team.  Scott Downs and Ronald Belisario were brought in on cheap deals and those are the kinds of guys who could easily be flipped for more prospects.  Every team needs pitching at the deadline, and if these guys pitch the way GM Rick Hahn expects them too, they should get a decent haul back for short term, cheap bullpen signings.  Matt Lindstrom will likely set up for Nate Jones.  He’s the favorite to win the closer’s role, and likely will get it even if he struggles.  The expectations are low for this team, and that’s almost a treat as it allows the great young pitchers to grow and improve to be better in the future.


Sorry White Sox fans, this is gonna sting.  The White Sox won’t be any good in 2014.  I think they could be good in the future however.  They are working on that future now with young guys at third and in the outfield.  They signed a new big bopper and have young guys in the back end of their rotation.  They have one of the best pitchers in baseball at the front of the rotation, which will keep them from being abysmal in the interim.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the team looks completely different on the last day, than it does on opening day.  But if that’s the case, then the season went well for Chicago.  This team has the unfortunate distinction of being in re-building mode, but having a bare cupboard of young talent in the minors.  So this season is about re-stocking and adding pieces to the young team they hope to build in future seasons.

The White Sox lost 99 games last year.  They may be able to improve some, but that’s just because of some talent at the top of the rotation.  The back end is weak and the offense is also fairly anemic.  I’m thinking perhaps 70 wins and maybe a 4th place finish in the AL Central.

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