Chicago White Sox Predictions
The White Sox have been trying to contend ever since they won the World Series in 2005. They have made some big splashes in free agency, but most have not worked out. It’s clear that an overhaul has been overdue, and for the first time in 2014, it appears the White Sox are headed for that route.
They went just 63-99 in 2013, including a 26-50 mark inside the AL Central. General manager Rick Hahn shed some payroll by dealing Jake Peavy and Alex Rios in July last year. Those moves paved the way for Hahn to build a younger, more athletic team heading into 2014.
Some of the new players you will see include Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, Leury Garcia, Jose Abreu and Matt Davidson. If these young hitters can produce right away, then the White Sox appear to already have a young, talented pitching staff that could make them contenders in the Central.
Adam Eaton (CF) – Eaton was one of the top prospects in the Arizona organization. When he finally got his chance to start in 2012 toward the end of the season, he made the most of it by hitting .259/.382/.412. He had a dominant spring for the Diamondbacks last year, but then proceeded to suffer a left elbow sprain that forced him to miss 100 games. When he returned, he was part of a crowded outfield and never really got consistent playing time. If healthy, the 25-year-old Eaton could prove to be one of the best offseason acquisitions in the majors.
Alejandro De Aza (LF) – De Aza committed eight errors, was picked off six times, and recorded 11 outs on the basepaths in a disastrous season for the White Sox overall last year. While those mental mistakes were frustrating, De Aza proved to be the most valuable offensive player on the team in 2013. His final .264/.323/.405 slash line was right around league average for leadoff hitters and center fielders. Plus, his increase in power (17 homers ’13, 9 in ’12) was a nice bonus. De Aza has stolen a combined 46 bases over the past two seasons, so his combination of speed and power is solid, and he’s also a plus-defender with his range in left.
Jose Dariel Abreu (1B) – The prized signing of the White Sox this offseason, Abreu comes over from Cuba’s Serie Nacional on a franchise-record $68 million contract. The 27-year-old first baseman has raw power, and that showed in the World Baseball Classic as he hit .383 with three home runs and nine RBIs. General manager Rick Hahn is gambling that Abreu will be the long-term replacement for the beloved Paul Konerko. Helping his cause is the presence of fellow Cubans Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo on the roster.
Adam Dunn (DH) – After posting one of the worst VORP (value over replacement player) numbers all-time for a guy who hit 40-plus homers in 2012, Dunn came back with the third-worst VORP in MLB history among guys with 30-plus bombs in 2013. The 34-year-old has been a complete bust in his time in Chicago, hitting .159 in ’11, .204 in ’12 and .219 in ’13. Each of the last three seasons have resulted in the three highest strikeout percentages of Dunn’s career (35.7% ’11, 34.2% ’12, 31.1% ’13). The good news is that Dunn had his best season with the White Sox in 2013, but that’s clearly not saying much.
Avisail Garcia (RF) – The prize of the Jake Peavy trade prior to the deadline in ’13, Garcia has a bunch of tools that can help out the White Sox. He dominated at the Triple-A level last year, hitting .379/.431/.561 in 216 plate appearances. He was also dominant in his two months with the White Sox, hitting .304/.327/.447 with five homers, 21 RBIs and 19 runs scored. It’s going to be tough for him to match his .370 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) that he had with the White Sox last season, but he has had a BABIP of .335 or better in every stop at all levels. The lone exception was his .295 mark in only 88 plate appearances in Detroit in ’13. I think this number will settle around .330, and that he’ll hit probably .270 to .280 this season for the White Sox, which they’ll take.
Alexei Ramirez (SS) – Not much has changed since the 32-year-old Ramirez joined the White Sox back in 2008. He has hit anywhere from .265 to .290 during this span, he is a rangy shortstop who is prone to making errors, and he rarely takes a walk. That is indicated by the fact that despite having a solid .277 career average, his .315 OBP is the result of a career BB% (base on balls percentage) of 5.0%, which is considered borderline awful by MLB standards. Ramirez did steal a career-high 30 bases while hitting .284 last year, so he was one of the more valuable players on the team. However, his 22 errors led the American League, and that has been a recurring issue in recent years.
Gordon Beckham (2B) – Beckham showed flashes of becoming a future star early in his career with the White Sox. In his rookie season in 2009, he hit .270 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs in only 103 games. It has been all downhill since, and after four straight year of disappointment, it appears that Beckham will never be a star in this league. He missed the first two months last season with a broken hamate bone. Beckham would come back with a different approach at the plate, one that focused more on contact and less on whiffs and power. The end result would be a decent .267 average, which is above his career mark of .249, but also just five home runs in 408 at-bats. He is no more than a placeholder on this team.
Matt Davidson (3B) – A December trade moved Davidson from a team loaded at third base in Arizona, to a team looking for a third baseman in Chicago. Davidson played well in limited action with the Diamondbacks last season, hitting .237/.333/.434 with three homers in just 87 plate appearances. He has hit an average of 20 homers per season in the minors over the past three years, so he’s got some pop. If he can start in 130-plus games for the White Sox this season, Davidson could have as good of a chance as anyone at winning the Rookie of the Year award.
Tyler Flowers (C) – Chicago gave Flowers the keys to the car when it designated him as the starting catcher entering last season. He abruptly fell flat on his face, hitting .195 while striking out in more than a third (34.2%) of his plate appearances. He did manage to belt 10 homers in about half a season, but lost playing time to rookie Josh Phegley in July. His season also came to an end in September due to shoulder surgery. Flowers later admitted that his shoulder bothered him dating back to spring training, so there is hope that the shoulder was the reason for his struggles.
Chris Sale (LHP) – Sale continues to prove his doubters wrong that say he won’t last due to his funky delivery. The fact of the matter is that Sale is one of baseball’s true aces, and reached the 200-inning mark for the first time in 2013. Sale was much better than his 11-14 record would indicate considering he had a 3.07 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, but was simply the victim of poor run support. He struck out 226 batters in 214 1/3 innings for a 9.5 K/9 ratio. It’s important to note that Sale’s brilliant numbers are even inflated due to pitching in The Cell, which is a hitter-friendly park. He should be a good one for years to come as long as his arm doesn’t fall off due to the nasty delivery.
John Danks (LHP) – Danks missed almost all of 2012 because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. He returned in 2013 to make 22 starts without an injury. He posted a respectable 1.29 WHIP last season, but his ERA (4.75) was inflated due to a knack for serving up the gopher ball. A whopping 16.8% of his fly balls left the yard, which was by far a career high, and six percentage points more than his career HR/FB mark (10.8%). His career walk rate (7.5%) is one of the best in baseball, helping to mask his inability to get strikeouts or pitch with velocity. If he can give up the long ball closer to an average rate next year, his numbers have a chance of improving drastically.
Jose Quintana (LHP) – Many believed that Quintana’s 2012 campaign was a fluke as he went 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 22 starts in his first big league season. They figured he’d regress as hitters caught on to him in his sophomore season. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Quintana quietly put together one of the best seasons of any starter in the American League. He went 9-7 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.22 WHIP while pitching 200 innings. His fastball even clocked in a tick higher than the previous season, his curveball had more movement, and his changeup was a legitimate weapon against righties. As a result, his K/9 went from 5.3 in ’12 to a solid 7.4 in ’13. His opponents’ BABIP of .282 last year may not be sustainable since it was .299 in ’12, but all in all this is one of the better No. 3 starters in the game.
Felipe Paulino (RHP) – Paulino comes over to the White Sox after spending his entire career in the Astros and Royals organizations. He has spent time as a starter and as a reliever, but is expected to get the nod into the starting rotation in ’13. Paulino went 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in his most recent big league action over 37 2/3 innings with the Royals in ’12. His career ERA of 4.93 is certainly little to be desired, and he’ll have his work cut out for him if he is going to keep is job in 2014.
Erik Johnson (RHP) – While I enjoy looking into the advanced metrics of baseball, it’s hard to ignore that Johnson went 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA in two stops at the high minors last season. He then got the call-up in September and proceeded to go 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA in five starts and 27 2/3 innings. He has a low-90s fastball to go with a wicked slider, which was a big reason he held righties to a .173/.220/.216 slash line last year. Lefties (.343/.418/.594) gave him much more trouble last season, and if he’s going to take that next step, he’s going to have to develop his suspect changeup. Johnson did give up five homers while walking 11 in his limited big league action last September, so hopefully those trends don’t carry over into 2014.
Making matters worse last season for the White Sox was a bullpen that went 19-36 while ranking 23rd in the league with a 4.00 ERA. They sent Addison Reed and all 40 of the team’s saves to Arizona in a trade. But considering they won the 2005 World Series despite using three different closers that year, they aren’t too concerned.
Nathan Jones and his triple-digit fastball will likely be thrust into the closer’s role. He struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings last season to go along with a 4.15 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. Setting him up will be Ronald Belisario, who comes over from the Dodgers after going 20-12 with a 3.29 ERA over 265 innings in his career with the team. Matt Lindstrom (2-4, 3.12 ERA, 1.43 WHIP in ’13) keeps the ball in the park with his improved sinker-slider combo, which is crucial inside The Cell.
- To Win World Series: 40/1
- To Win AL Pennant: 22/1
- To Win AL Central: 8/1
2014 Season Win Total: 74.5
After winning 63 games a year ago, I have a hard time seeing the White Sox improving by 12-plus wins in 2014. I have them improving quite a bit, but in the end coming up short of this lofty 74.5-win total.
Prediction: 4th Place AL Central (71-91)
If there was a sleeper team in the AL Central, it would be the White Sox. Expectations are now high for the Tigers, Indians and Royals as all three teams finished with winning records last year, and two went to the postseason. I would not be surprised one bit to see this team exceed expectations, but in the end the talent just isn’t there for me to pick them ahead of those three aforementioned teams.
I love the additions of Abreu and Eaton, who will play key roles in improving one of the worst lineups in baseball from a year ago. I also believe the starting staff has a lot to look forward to with Sale, Quintana and Johnson. I just don’t believe their talent as a whole matches up with what is one of the most underrated divisions in all of baseball heading into 2014.
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