The Fantasy Top 5 for 2014: Chicago White Sox

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Kantecki highlights the top-five fantasy options on the Chicago White Sox in 2014.

The White Sox were one loss away from reaching triple digits in 2013, finishing 63-99 in the American League Central. Recent reports suggest the team is open to dealing second baseman Gordon Beckham, shortstop Alexei Ramirez and outfielder Alejandro De Aza, but left-handers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, as well as recently acquired outfielders Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu are thought to be off limits.

The White Sox lineup is predominantly right handed, so it would make sense for general manager Rick Hahn to be on the lookout for some left-handed bats. With an obvious need at catcher, Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be on Chicago's radar. But as things stand, there isn't a tremendous amount of ready talent on the South Side. Who knows? Maybe Abreu pulls a Yasiel Puig. Aside from the clear-cut No. 1 player in Chicago, you won't have to reach to draft any Pale Hose on Draft Day, so a few of these guys could turn into fantastic values.

5. Dayan Viciedo

The No. 5 spot came down to Viciedo and Adam Dunn, and, honestly, I'm not particularly keen on either as a solid fantasy option. But we know what we're getting from Dunn: a whole lot of home runs and nothing else. Viciedo hit just 14 home runs in 124 games last season, but he burst onto the scene with 25 in 2012. It's hard projecting him for much better than a .265 BA, but the potential for 25-30 home runs and solid RBI production is certainly there. He reminds me of Carlos Quentin, a former South Sider, and I think one of these years Viciedo will smack 30 bombs. 2014 could be that year.

4. Alexei Ramirez

Ramirez surprised everyone with 30 steals in 2013, and that helped propel the shortstop to a top-six finish at the position. Expecting 30 steals again is probably unwise, but he did steal 20 bags in 2012. Another 20-25 is not out of the question. On the season, Ramirez hit .284/.313/.380 with six home runs, 68 runs and 48 RBIs. He lacks pop and his home run total has dropped each of the last four seasons, from 18 to 15 to nine to six. Unless he rebounds in the power department, you won't get top-six value out of Ramirez again.

3. Addison Reed

Ranking Reed as the third best option in Chicago goes to show you just how little fantasy talent is on the White Sox, but I've always been a big fan of right-hander. I owned Reed on almost every team of mine in 2013, and he put in a decent year, saving 40 games and striking out a career-best 72 batters in 71 1/3 innings. Reed struggled in the ERA department (3.79), but I can safely tell you that a couple of awful games torpedoed that number. And so goes the life of a big-league closer. Reed's strikeout rate improved from 22.7 percent to 24.4 percent, and opposing batters hit just .206 against Reed after hitting .261 the year before. Reed's WHIP also improved dramatically, from 1.36 to 1.11. I think Reed continues to improve in 2014 and returns top-10 value at closer.

2. Alejandro De Aza

De Aza nearly made the 20/20 club with 17 home runs and 20 steals in 2013, as the White Sox centerfielder slashed .264/.323/.405 and added 84 runs and 62 RBIs. While I think the 17 long balls were fluky for a guy of De Aza's build, I'm buying the steals and the run production in what was an overall underwhelming Chicago lineup. De Aza has now recorded back-to-back 80-run seasons, and I don't see why that should change in 2014. He's a perfect No. 4 fantasy outfielder in my eyes, as a likely 10/80/55/20 performer.

1. Chris Sale

Sale is easily the White Sox most attractive fantasy player in 2014. The scrawny left-hander with the awkward throwing motion stuck out 226 batters in 214 1/3 innings while posting a 3.07 ERA. Sale's 2.95 xFIP was ninth best in baseball, and his 4.91 K/BB was fifth, behind only Cliff Lee (6.94), Adam Wainwright (6.26), Matt Harvey (6.16) and David Price (5.59). That's pretty good company. Sale, 26, made 30 starts for the second straight season and successfully hurdled the 200-innings wall for the first time, shedding doubt that he can hold up over a long season. Tied with Clayton Kershaw for the major's fifth highest strikeout rate (25.5 percent) since 2012, Sale is among the top-10 starters in baseball, and should be treated as such on Draft Day.

Honorable Mention: Jose Quintana

Quintana was my go-to streamer in 2013, winning nine games while posting a 3.51 ERA and 1.22 WHIP to go along with a solid 164:56 K:BB ratio in 200 innings. He isn't anything special, but the southpaw went six innings or more in 22 out of 33 starts. At the backend of a fantasy rotation, you could do much worse. Quintana's 3.7 fWAR was 25th best in baseball, in Madison Bumgarner and Homer Bailey territory. He's underrated.

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