Chicago White Sox
Home Ballpark: U.S Cellular Field
2014 Finish: 73 – 89 · 4th AL Central
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 82 · Over
What We Love:
- Jose Abreu: Remember when there was talk that the White Sox may have made a mistake by inking Cuban slugger, Jose Abreu, to a 6 yr/$68 million dollar deal without him never having faced an MLB pitcher? That talk was quickly silenced as Abreu smashed 10 HR and drove in 32 RBI, all before the calendar flipped to May. What Abreu did, as a rookie nonetheless, in 2014 was (nearly) historical. By the All Star Break, Abreu was on pace to break both Mark McGwire’s Single Season HR total for a rookie (49) and Ted Williams single season RBI total by a rookie (145). Unfortunately for the record books, Abreu’s power dropped off after the All Star Break (mustered only 6 HR for remainder of season) and he finished the season with a tremendous stat line of .317/36/107 in 556 AB over 145 games. In fact, in the entire history of baseball, only a dozen players have enjoyed a rookie season of 30+ HR and 100+ RBI. Part of the power drop off could be attributed to general wear and tear, as the MLB season being (almost) 40% longer than the Cuban Baseball season. To combat further wear and tear on Abreu, the White Sox picked up 1B Adam LaRoche in the offseason. The signing of LaRoche should allow for Abreu to see more time at DH, and help him refrain from suffering a late season power outage; something the White Sox will need to happen in order for them to battle for a playoff spot in a tough AL Central.
- Flurry of Offseason Activity: While everyone in the baseball world was talking about AJ Preller and the moves the San Diego Padres were making, White Sox GM Rick Hahn was having himself quite the nice offseason too. The White Sox signed three high profile free agents (Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and David Robertson), one under the radar signing (Zack Duke) and one high profile trade (Jeff Samardzjia). Cabrera should fit nicely as the team’s two-hitter and help set the table for Jose Abreu, while LaRoche will offer protection in the lineup, and days off for the Cuban slugger. Robertson and Duke were brought in to help the White Sox bullpen refrain from losing another 32 games this season. Meanwhile, the acquisition of the Shark (Samardzjia) gives the Chi Sox a right hander to pitch between their dangerous duo of lefties (Chris Sale and Jose Quintana); perhaps giving the Pale Hose one of, if not the best, front end rotations in the American League. That’s a scary trio to have to run into IF they make it to October… and that is a big IF.
- Everything Adam Eaton does – legit leadoff hitter, fearless defender and now a bargain contract for the next 5 years (5yrs/$23.5 mil).
- Chris Sale being (perhaps) the 2nd best LHP in the game.
- Potential for 2014 top pick, Carlos Rodon, to make an appearance in 2015.
- Avisail Garcia (FINALLY) having a breakout season!
- The Hawk’s HR call, “Stretch. Stretch. You can put it on the booooooaaarrrd… YEEEEEESSSSSSS!” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY6McvgeHAo
What We Hate:
- Black holes at 2B and C: For someone who was not afraid to open up the chequebook this offseason, it is rather odd that GM Rick Hahn failed to address the pressing need for an everyday 2B and an upgrade behind the plate. When the Sox drafted 2B Gordon Beckham out of the University of Georgia back in the 1st round of the 2008 MLB draft, they believed they had found their 2B of the future. Wrong. After playing parts of five (subpar) seasons in Chicago, Beckham was shipped to the Angels in 2014, before being brought back to Chicago on a 1 year deal in the offseason. Beckham will look to compete with other 2B candidates (Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez) for the Opening Day spot; although it looks like Micah Johnson has already grabbed that spot with a torrid Spring Training. As grim as the 2B outlook is, the catching one isn’t much better. Sure Tyler Flowers hit 15 HR and drove in 50 RBI, but he also struck out an incredible 149 times in 407 AB. The C battle will most likely come down to a coin flip between Flowers and the recently acquired, Geovany Soto; with 2014 backup, Adrian Nieto, being the odd man out. I would not be shocked to see either one of, if not both, these positions being addressed as the season wears on.
- Chris Sale’s ankle/foot injury – hopefully it doesn’t rob us of seeing one of the best in the game work his craft.
- The 4 and 5 spots in the starting rotation – some combo of John Danks, Hector Noesi and Erik Johnson will end up here, at least keeping the spot warm until Carlos Rodon is up.
- Potential power output from 3B (Conner Gillespie and Emilio Bonifacio).
- Jeff Samardzia getting paid to be an MLB ace in the offseason – he is a solid #2 at best.
Player to Watch: SP Jose Quintana. Quintana has posted back to back seasons with 30 starts and 200 innings pitched, but he seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to wins and losses. In his past two campaigns, Quintana has failed to reach double digits in wins, despite having above average numbers in ERA, WHIP and K/BB ratio. Most teams would be blessed to have a LHP with Quintana’s arsenal as their #2; the White Sox have him as their #3. With all the additions the White Sox made in the offseason, especially in solidifying a leaky bullpen, it is not hard to envision Quintana easily winning double digit contests for the first time in his career. In fact, I believe that Quintana could conceivably win 13-15 games… if everything falls into place. Honourable Mention: OF Avisail Garcia.
Top Pitching Prospect: Carlos Rodon · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015
Top Positional Prospect: Tim Anderson · SS · MLB ETA: 2016
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=cws
Final Prediction: 3rd AL Central