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#30 – Chicago White Sox
The White Sox may not be the worst team right now, but they don’t look good, and they come in at number 30 in my power rankings. The future doesn’t look good, and it appears that the rest of the competition in the AL Central is starting to pull away from the Sox, leaving them in the dust. Let’s take a look at the roster.
At catcher, the White Sox have three players on the Josh Phegley, Tyler Flowers, and Adrian Nieto. A rather unexciting group, both Phegley and Flowers have not put it all together in the Majors yet. Flowers is the one who should be worried, as his poor play cost him his job last season, and if he doesn’t show anything during spring training, he will either be the backup or out of a job, two things that are not good options. Nieto is a bit of a wildcard. He is on the 40 man roster, but has not played in the Majors yet. He has been suspended for drug use before. He was acquired from the Nationals in the Rule 5 draft, so there is time to let him develop. Catcher is a bleak position for the White Sox.
At first base, the Sox have two options. They can choose Paul Konerko or Jose Dariel Abreu. Abreu was signed this off-season to a $68 MM contract, and they obviously hope that after Konerko retires, Abreu will take over where Konerko left off. Paul Konerko announced in December that he would play one more season, and then he would retire. This was inevitable. The 37 year old has stopped producing like he once did, which was one of the main reasons for signing Abreu. The outlook at first base seems good, and hopefully Abreu works out with the Sox.
Second base is a big question mark for the Sox. Gordon Beckham has been their second baseman for a while, but has not proven much in his time in Chicago. Since his rookie season, he has not hit more .270. He does not post good RBI or HR numbers either. Beckham is more of a one or two year solution that should not have been kept. They will need to find a replacement for him, and Jeff Keppinger probably isn’t the answer either. Keppinger is a career .282 hitter, but the 33 year old hasn’t done much else in his career. Neither is especially good defensively, as both posted negative UZRs in 2013 at second base. Second is not a strong spot for the Sox, and is probably one of their weakest positions.
At third base, the White Sox have young Conor Gillaspie. The rookie held his own in 2013, batting .245 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs. I have a high opinion of Gillaspie, who was acquired in a trade with the Giants. Though his statistics are rather mediocre, he helped the team, and should be at third base for the White Sox for years to come.
At shortstop, the Sox boast Alexei Ramirez, a soft-hitting, defensive minded player. He has relied more on his defense and speed the past few years, and his offensive numbers have been declining. His home runs have been going down by an average of three per year. He only drove 48 runners in, but that might be attributed to the awful Chicago offense. In 2013, he stole 10 more bases than in 2012. He had 30 for the season. His defense is superb, he had a UZR of 5.5, and that was one of his lowest rating in his career. He is 32 years old, and nobody should be surprised when his numbers start to take a dive in the next couple of years, not that they haven’t started declining already. He might be one of the lone bright spots in the Chicago offense, but his light is becoming dimmer.
In the outfield, the White Sox made significant improvements this year, as they acquired Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks in a three-way trade this off-season. Eaton, Alejandro De Aza, and Dayan Viciedo are probably going to be the starters this year for the Sox. Eaton has shown glimpses of becoming a very good player. He was supposed to make the Diamondbacks out of Spring Training in 2013, but an injury kept him out of the bigs until halfway through the season. When he made it to the team, he hit .252 with three home runs and 22 RBIs. He also had five stolen bases. Eaton, 25, definitely will be a big help for the White Sox for years to come. In 2012, the Sox started Alejandro De Aza, and he became an everyday player. In two years, he has been decent. He hasn’t been anything special, but he has produced. He was three home runs away from a 20-20 season in 2013, but only had a .264 batting average. He has played both corner outfield positions, and has also played center. He will most likely play right field though, as Dayan Viciedo has only played left. Viciedo is 24 years old and hasn’t necessarily been outstanding. Through four seasons, he has a career .264 batting average. Viciedo’s best season was 2012, when he hit .255 and had 25 home runs and 78 runs batted in. Overall, the outfield can improve with three players who will be in the outfield for a long time.
The pitching rotation is rather bland, but the White Sox have one of the league’s best in Chris Sale. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana both threw 200 innings, but after those two, the rotation gets very iffy. They traded former Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy at the trading deadline last season, which didn’t warrant much in return for the Sox. Although the win stat doesn’t mean much nowadays, former closer Addison Reed had more wins that Dylan Axelrod, Hector Santiago, and John Danks. It is definitely one of the least stable rotations in the league. They have an ace though, and Quintana, who might be good enough for a three or four spot in any other rotation. It is not good on the mound.
They traded away Addison Reed this off-season. Reed had 40 saves for the Sox in 2013, and was one of the best closers in the AL Central. Glen Perkins, Greg Holland, Chris Perez, and Jose Veras were good, but Reed was the best. There will be a competition for the closer spot, and it will either be Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones, Daniel Webb, or Ronald Belisario. I predict that when Spring Training is over, 2013 holds leader Matt Lindstrom will be the closer, unless they make a trade or sign a free agent.
The farm system for the White Sox is not good either. Anchored by Matt Davidson and Erik Johnson, who are the only White Sox in the MLB.com top 100, the Sox don’t have much else. Marcus Semien and Courtney Hawkins are other notable names. The Sox don’t have much home-grown talent in the minors, as their best prospect, Davidson, was acquired in the Addison Reed trade.
Overall, the White Sox are a bad team. They seem destined for last place, and there isn’t much that looks good for the White Sox. Their current roster is bare, their minor league system is bare, and it will take a lot for the team to win the Fall Classic in the near future. It looks like the White Sox are rebuilding, and they need all the help they can get.
Projected Finish: Last place in AL Central.
Team MVP: Chris Sale
In the AL Central the five teams are the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, and the Minnesota Twins.
Again the first place team in the central will be the Tigers. They have lost first base slugger Prince Fielder in a trade with the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. They have also signed closer Joe Nathan and reliever Joba Chamberlain. Miguel Cabrera will be moving back over to first base. Even with the loss of Doug Fister they still have a dominant starting rotation.
For the second straight year the Cleveland Indians will finish in second. They haven’t made any huge moves in this off-season. If they can bring back Ubaldo Jimenez, and can pitch like he did with the Rockies, and in the second half last year they may have a chance at a wild card. They added veteran outfielder David Murphy and re-signed veteran Jason Giambi. Indians fans want Swisher, Kipnis, Santana, and Bourn to play to their potential.
The Chicago White Sox will go from last place in 2013 to third place in 2014. Jose Abreau the Cuban slugger will man first base this year. Paul Konerko said that 2014 is his last major league career, he might not get a ton of playing time with Abreau but will still perform capable to how he can play. The rest of their stars have to play like they did in 2012 when they came in second place. Last year the only good sign was pitcher Chris Sale.
In fourth place will be the Kansas City Royals. Adding right fielder Norichika Aoki and pitcher Jason Vargas will do better than last years players, but not good enough. Last year they came in third place and fifth for the AL Wild Card, and this year will be fourth place in the division. They lost the bidding war for Carlos Beltran to the Yankees but New York lost it for Omar Infante.
In last place will be the Minnesota Twins. The Twins added two starting pitchers in Phil Hughes, and Ricky Nolasco. They have star Joe Mauer moving over to first base. Josh Willingham has the potential to hit 30 plus home runs when he is healthy. If the Twins pitching holds up and guys like Mauer, Willingham, Dozier, and Nolasco play like the all-stars they can be than you may see they can land ahead of the Royals.
Robin Ventura was hired on October 6, 2011 to be the Chicago White Sox 39th manger. He succeeded the controversial Ozzie Guillen, who left to be the manager of the new look Miami Marlins. In Robin Ventura’s two seasons at the helm of the Chicago White Sox, they have gone just 148-176.
In 2012, Ventura’s first season as manager, the White Sox were in first place for much of season. The division rival Detroit Tigers later caught fire with a week to go, and stole first place right out of the Sox’s hands. The White Sox finished three games out of first place, missed the playoffs, and finished 85-77. Ventura was a finalist for AL Manager of the Year, but finished third behind the A’s Bob Melvin and the O’s Buck Showalter.
2013 was a completely different story for Ventura and his White Sox. They struggled the whole season, and finished one game away from 100 loses at 63-99. The Sox were the worst fielding team in the MLB, committing 121 errors, and an MLB worse .980 fielding percentage. Not only did their offense struggle, the pitching was just as bad, if not worse. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana were really the only consistent starting pitchers, and the bullpen was not so bright either.
After a rebuilding year, Ventura will look to bounce back in 2014, The Sox future doesn’t look so bad. This offseason, they made some moves. They signed Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu to a 6- year $68 million dollar deal, traded for prospects like Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, and Avisail Garcia, then later re-signed long time White Sox Paul Konerko to a one year deal. The White Sox announced the deal today around 1:00 PM on their twitter page. “There was never really any question in our minds as to who we wanted in the White Sox dugout now and into the future,” said White Sox GM Rick Hahn on Ventura.