2013 results: 63-99 (.389), 5th in AL Central
The Chicago White Sox couldn’t get much worse in 2014 than they were a year ago. A 63-99 record was good enough for dead last in the AL Central. The Red Sox were able to go from worst to first a year ago, but don’t expect that from the White Sox this season. The sub-par talent pool on the roster is far from being able to compete for the post season, let alone within Chicago’s own division.
At $84.4 million on the payroll, the White Sox are paying a lot of money for each win. This is about $4 million less than last season, and the majority of the off-season budget was allocated to bringing in Cuban phenom Jose Abreu. Chicago could be a seller towards the end of the season as they have a lot of players not signed to long-term deals and could look to get something in return for those departing in 2015.
Player to Watch
Jose Abreu – At 6 years and $68 million with no Major League experience, this is a no-brainer. The White Sox won the Abreu sweepstakes in the off-season and have huge expectations. They are hoping he can become what Frank Thomas was in the 90s and then some. Expectations are sky-high, but he will likely play every game even if he struggles since he is the future of the franchise at first base.
Must Improve in 2013
2nd basemen – Gordon Beckham and Jeff Keppinger – Both of these players can play any position in the infield, but they are best suited for 2nd base. The problem is that neither is productive enough to warrant Robin Ventura making them an everyday starter with confidence. Beckham hit .267 in 371 AB and Keppinger batted .253 in 423 AB. Neither has much power and the one who plays better in Spring Training will likely get the nod while the other will be delegated to utility roles.
Paul Konerko – Konerko has been in Chicago since 1999, but he may not be much longer. At 37 years old, he has been replaced by Jose Abreu while Adam Dunn is the team’s DH. He doesn’t have the ability to play anywhere else and will be lucky to get 100 at-bats is worth the deal he signed for. Team leadership is important, but the White Sox need production, which is something they didn’t get from Konerko last year and will get even less of this year.
Konerko may be the heart and soul of the White Sox, but Adam Dunn is the key to the offense. He has been their most productive hitter over the last few seasons and should have even more chances to produce with Abreu in the lineup. If Abreu can hit for a high average, that would open the door for Dunn’s RBI total.
The infield has some well-known names in Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham. The problem is that they are mediocre starters despite the expectations when they came into the league. Matt Davidson could see some playing time, but Conor Gillaspie had enough production last year with 13 home runs and a .245 average to garner another shot at starting.
On the mound, Chicago gave up 182 home runs as a staff last season. It can be devastating seeing that many balls leave the yard when a team loses as much as the White Sox. There is hope in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, who won 11 and 9 games last year respectively. John Danks needs to find his form from the 2008-2010 seasons where he won over 11 games each season. With a solid 1-2-3 punch, these three could ease the load for the bullpen.
Catching duties are one of the biggest concerns for the White Sox as they have an unproven rookie in Josh Phegley splitting time with 27 year-old Tyler Flowers. Phegley hit .206 in 204 AB last season while Flowers has a .200 career average in 529 AB; Chicago could look to obtain a prospect to solidify the position better.
Every team starts the year in first place, but that won’t last long for Chicago. The competition is too stiff for a team managed by Robin Ventura, who went 85-77 in his first season at the helm. One player doesn’t make up a team, but if Jose Abreu can be as big a spark for the White Sox as he was in Cuba, Chicago could turn some heads and be in contention before ultimately having another losing season.