Hey White Sox, what happened? Are you trying to give the cross-town Cubs a run for their money on worst in town? Seven years ago you won the World Series, and yet you've only made the playoffs once since then. Help on the way from the farm system? Sorry, not really. A young roster with oodles of potential? Unfortunately not.
Chicago has made questionable trades and free agent decisions and now they're left with a roster that's kind of old, kind of overpaid, and a farm system that's among the worst in baseball.
Will they be able to make any deals to save them? Will the experience of the roster help them overcome the lack of talent? Do they have a single fantasy "star"? Let's see...
Best Hitter: Paul Konerko
Bad sign #1: Your best hitter is a 36-year-old first baseman. Konerko hit .300/.388/.517 with 31 HR, 105 RBI and 25 doubles last season. He slumped from 2007-2009 but regained his form in his mid-30s. How much does he have left in the tank?
After posting a career-high .272 ISO in 2010, Konerko went back down to .217 last season which is right around his career average. He did reduce strikeouts significantly, walked more, but by getting slower on the basepaths and having a bad lineup around him, he only scored 69 runs.
He should hit around .280/.370/.500 with 25 HR, 90 RBI, and 65 R. If he gets traded to a good situation, the numbers could go up.
Best Pitcher: Chris Sale
All things considered, I'm going with Sale.
Last season, the White Sox had six starting pitchers post 2.9 fWAR or better, but Mark Buerhle and Edwin Jackson are gone. Gavin Floyd, John Danks, and Philip Humber posted FIP's under 4.00, but none of them possess the overall ability (and more importantly, strikeout ability) of Sale.
In 71 innings, Sale posted a K/9 of 10.01 and a BB/9 of 3.42 with a 2.79 ERA, 3.12 FIP, and 3.00 xFIP. Transitioning from relief to starter is never easy, but it's not like it's his first dance. While you have to limit him in innings and can expect a decrease in strikeouts with an increase in walks (hopefully not by much) Sale just possesses a much higher ceiling than anything else the Sox have.
Potential Breakout: Sale
I think that should be obvious. Did you think Alejandro De Aza was going to breakout at age 28?
Potential Disappointment: Gordon Beckham
Expecting a return to form for Beckham and like his positional eligibility? Call me when he doesn't walk less than 7% of the time, doesn't strike out 19.9% of the time, and doesn't post an ISO of .106. Beckham, Brent Morel, and Dayan Viciedo represent one of the worst "bottom thirds of a lineup" in baseball.
Prospect Watch: Per BA
Reed could be a top 5 closer in baseball soon. Last season over four levels, Reed pitched 78.1 innings and struck out 111 against only 14 walks with 43 hits allowed and a 1.26 ERA. He made a brief appearance with Chicago and struck out 12 in 7.1 innings with 1 walk. Addison Reed: The Best Player In Chicago?
Molina was also rather dominating last year and was acquired in the Sergio Santos deal. He struck out 148 and walked only SIXTEEN in 130.1 innings. That's Cliff Lee-stuff right there. He may not be as good as Lee, but he'll be up at some point this year with the White Sox and could be a future #2 or 3 starter.
Castro is another piece of the farm system rebuilt, acquired for Carlos Quentin. He was a top 60 prospect for two years but fell off last season when he struggled mightily in AAA. In 25.2 innings there, he struck out 21 and walked 18 with 37 hits allowed and a 10.17 ERA. He's 24 now, so it's do-or-die time for Castro to prove he can at least handle the high minors. This is the White Sox #3 prospect.
#4 Trayce Thompson struck out 172 times in 136 games.
Petricka could also be up soon and is 24, like Castro. He was 23 at high-A (not young for the league) and posted a 4.39 ERA with 46:26 K:BB in 67.2 innings.
I'm not trying to be overly harsh. As a Mariners fan, trust me... I've been there. "Fire Kenny Williams" anyone?
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