Wednesday, March 21, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox

2011 Record: 73-83

Key Additions: Kosuke Fukudome (OF), Nestor Molina (P)

Subractions: Carlos Quentin (OF), Mark Buehrle (P), Jason Frasor (P), Sergio Santos (P)

2012 Outlook

The White Sox are coming off a disappointing year that saw them finish third in the AL Central, despite the fact that they had the highest payroll in their division, and the fourth highest in the MLB. Much of this is due to the struggles of Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and Adam Dunn, players who the Sox invested big dollars in, but have yet to see the returns they were expecting. So it was not surprising when Chicago made moves that screamed “REBUILDING MODE” this offseason. They shed the contacts of Carlos Quentin and Jason Frasor, let long-time number two starter Mark Buehrle walk, and started to collect prospects. It’s going to be a long road though. Chicago has one of baseball’s worst farm systems (ranked 30th out of 30 by John Sickels), and a few horrible long term contracts that will weigh them down. Still, there are a few bright spots for White Sox fans to look forward to.

For one, the offence isn’t too bad. Alexi Ramirez is a stud shortstop, who has led AL players at his positions in homers over the past three seasons. He’s also an excellent defender, finishing third among AL shortstops in runs saved last year. Paul Konerko is aging (36), but he’s still an elite offensive first baseman. He will be counted on to fill part of the void created when Quentin was traded. The key to Chicago`s offensive success this year is bounce back seasons from Rios (CF), Dunn (DH), and Gordon Beckham (2B). Beckham and Rios are former top prospects who have shown flashes of greatness, but have yet to put it all together for a full season. Dunn is coming off a historically bad season in which he hit .159, with only eleven long balls, a far cry from the forty that he seemed to be able to crush every year. The White Sox desperately need good seasons from these guys. The rest of the lineup features veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Brent Morel at third, and corner outfielders Alejandro de Aza and Dayan Viciedo.

Chicago’s rotation has a lot of potential, but this group has yet to develop much of it. John Danks is coming off a tough season that saw him open the year 0-8, and spend time on the DL. Despite his tough year, the White Sox clearly believe in him, as they gave him a five year extension this offseason. Gavin Floyd has struggled since his sensational 2008, and Jake Peavy has yet to produce quality seasons in a Sox uniform. Peavy, a former ace, is costing Chicago far too much in terms of his production. Phillip Humber had a great first half last year, but struggled mightily in the second. Youngster Chris Sale will fill the final rotation spot. He has electric stuff, and many believe he is the future staff ace. Zach Stewart, acquired in the Edwin Jackson deal with Toronto, is a dark horse rotation candidate.

The White Sox’s bullpen is a mess. They traded last season’s closer, Sergio Santos, to Toronto, moved Chris Sale to the rotation, and now only have one reliever in their bullpen from last year, Matt Thornton. It is likely that Thornton will close, and Jesse Crain will set up, but the rest of the roles remain undefined.

The Final Count: 82-80, 3rd AL Central

The White Sox still have a strong enough roster to win about eighty games, but they probably won’t contend this year. They’ll have a hard enough time holding the third place spot with a young and talented KC team hot on their heels. Best case scenario: The Sox finish above .500, manage to dump a couple of bad contracts, and acquire some decent prospects along the way.

Note: There was an error when calculating how many wins the staff thought the Twins, Royals, White Sox, and Indians would have. Turns out, the entire AL Central's wins total except for the Tigers was messed up. Full corrections will be posted on March 31st in our full MLB Standings preview.

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