Chicago White Sox fans were losing hope when their team lost a combined 188 games over the past two seasons. After going 63-99 in 2013, the White Sox did improve by 10 games with a 73-89 campaign in 2014, but that’s still not good enough. Management knew it, and that’s when it decided to bust out its checkbook this offseason.
The Sox added at least six key pieces through free agency or trades in starter Jeff Samardzija, closer David Robertson, relievers Zach Duke and Dan Jennings, outfielder Melky Cabrera and DH/1B Adam LaRoche. With Chris Sale holding down the staff and Jose Abreu leading the lineup, the White Sox are expected to contend with the Royals and Tigers in the AL Central in 2015.
Adam Eaton (CF) – If he can stay healthy, Eaton is a solid leadoff hitter who gets on base a ton (.362 OBP) last year. He missed 39 games last year but still finished second on the team with 76 runs scored.
Melky Cabrera (LF) – The Sox nabbed Cabrera to a three-year, $42 million deal. He hits for average, gets on base and advances runners with the best of them. He is proving that his previous PED issues are behind him.
Jose Abreu (DH) – The 36 home runs by Abreu last season set a franchise record for rookies. He also finished in the top five in the AL in batting average (.317) and RBIs (107). What a get this guy was from Cuba at six years and $68 million for the White Sox.
Adam LaRoche (1B) – One of the most underrated veterans in the game, LaRoche hit 26 homers to go along with 92 RBIs last year in Washington. He continues to hit for power, and his power numbers should even improve inside hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
Avisail Garcia (RF) – Suffered a torn labrum while diving for a catch last April, but managed to return in four months. He did struggle with a .244 average and a .305 OBP in 172 at-bats, but if he’s healthy he should be much better in 2015.
Alexei Ramirez (SS) – Ramirez not only has a tremendous glove at short, but he’s also the most durable player in Chicago. He has played in at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons. He hit .273 with 15 homers and 21 stolen bases last year.
Conor Gillaspie (3B) – His .300 average last year against righties suggests that he would make a great platoon candidate. With only seven home runs all season last year, he lacks the power of a top corner infielder.
Tyler Flowers (C) – What a change glasses make. Flowers did not wear glasses in the first half when he hit .218, but after adding glasses after the All-Star Break, he hit .280 the rest of the way.
Emelio Bonifacio (2B) – Versatile veteran who could platoon with Gillaspie at third or step in at second base. He’ll be competing with youngster Carlos Sanchez for the everyday job at second, and I expect him to win.
You have to like what the White Sox added this offseason in Cabrera and LaRoche. If Eaton and Garcia stay healthy this year, this may be one of the most underrated lineups in baseball. The White Sox also got better this offseason with addition by subtraction. They got rid of Alejando De Aza, Gordon Beckham, Marcus Semien, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. Those five players combined to strike out a whopping 423 times, or 26.7 percent of their plate appearances. Look for the White Sox to get many more runners on base than they did last year.
Chris Sale (LHP) – Finished third in the American League in Cy Young voting last year. He delivered eight games with 10 strikeouts or more en route to going 12-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 2014.
Jeff Samardzija (RHP) – The right-hander was picked for the All-Star Game before being traded to Oakland last year. He went 2-7 with a 2.83 ERA with Chicago and 5-6 with a 3.14 ERA in Oakland. He struck out a combined 202 batters in his two stops.
Jose Quintana (LHP) – The left-hander has proven to be very durable, quietly giving the White Sox back-to-back 200-inning seasons. He also cut his homers allowed from 23 in 2013 to only 10 in 2014. He finished 9-11 with a 3.32 ERA last year.
John Danks (LHP) – His velocity may never return after having shoulder surgery in 2012. Danks did managed to split his 22 decisions last year with an 11-11 record, but his 4.74 ERA leaves a lot to be desired heading into 2015.
Hector Noesi (RHP) – After the Rangers and Mariners gave up on him, Noesi found at home in Chicago last year. He set career highs in wins (eight), innings (172.1) and strikeouts (123) last year to go along with a 4.39 ERA.
The top of this rotation is one of the best in baseball. With three straight trips to the All-Star Game, Sale has cemented himself as one of the game’s most overpowering left-handers. Samardzija had terrible luck last year, winning just seven of his 20 decisions despite posting a combined 2.99 ERA in his stops in Chicago and Oakland. Throw in Quintana and his durability, and this may be the most underrated 1-2-3 punch in baseball. I do have concerns about Danks, who gave up 25 homers and 205 hits last year. Noesi is a serviceable 5th starter.
The White Sox had the third-most blown saves (21) in the American League last year. Enter David Robertson, who followed Mariano Rivera as the Yankees’ closer and converted 39 of 44 opportunities last year. The Sox also lacked a trusty left-handed specialist last year, but now they have two in Zach Duke and Dan Jennings. Jake Petricka goes from a closer role back to likely a 7th inning guy. The rest of the bullpen consists of Daniel Webb, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra and Maikel Cleto. One thing is certain, the Sox are in a lot better position to close out games than they were a year ago.
Betting Odds (Bovada)
- To Win World Series: 16/1
- To Win AL Pennant: 7/1
- To Win AL Central: 9/5
- 2015 Season Win Total: 81.5
Prediction: 4th Place AL Central (81-81 – UNDER 81.5)
While many expect the White Sox to win the AL Central this season, I just don’t see it. There’s no question they improved in the offseason in bringing in Samardzija, Robertson, Cabrera and LaRoche. After winning 73 games last year, I do have them improving to 81 wins and a .500 mark in 2015, but I do not have them winning the division. They should be in the thick of it for much of the year, but the bottom of their lineup and the bottom of their rotation leaves a lot to be desired. There are still plenty of questions surrounding their bullpen outside of Robertson as well.
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