With 2008 MVP candidate Carlos Quentin and Rookie of the Year candidate Alexei Ramirez both falling short of expectations, the White Sox didn't have much of a chance in 2009. They stopped contending in August, finishing with a losing record for only the second time in the last 10 years.
Considering those high standards, perhaps their relatively quiet offseason came as a surprise. Yet every change they made was for the better. They upgraded at the leadoff spot, replacing the perplexing Scott Podsednik with the reliable Juan Pierre. They also unloaded project Chris Getz for the more-established Mark Teahen and brought in right-hander J.J. Putz to help left-hander Matt Thornton set up for closer Bobby Jenks.
|Download a Draft Kit! | Join a Mock Draft!|
|Sign up to play FREE Fantasy Baseball|
And oh yeah, there was that little acquisition they made at the end of last season, landing Jake Peavy in a deal with the Padres. At the time, the move didn't get all the fanfare it deserved -- in part because of Peavy's injury and in part because the White Sox had already fallen out of a race. But the injury was to his ankle, not his arm, and he came back strong as ever. He revolutionizes an already deep rotation, immediately slotting ahead of up-and-comers John Danks and Gavin Floyd, who have the potential to become standout Fantasy options in their own right, and innings eater Mark Buehrle, who has two no-hitters to his credit.
Perhaps even more critical to the White Sox's success, though, is the return of Quentin to All-Star form. His plantar fasciitis kept him out of the lineup at times, but his wrist injury from late in 2008 had the greater impact on his numbers. He played with a wire in the wrist and didn't have it removed until the offseason, afterward telling one publication he felt "10 times better."
Breakout: Gordon Beckham, 2B
Beckham didn't need long to matter in Fantasy. A first-round pick in 2008, he nearly made the majors out of spring training and had become a fixture in the lineup by midseason. And just like in the minors, he didn't once look overmatched, walking more than you'd expect from a rookie, limiting his strikeouts, and getting better by the month, with six of his 14 homers coming in September. Beckham is a natural -- plain and simple -- and now that the White Sox have Mark Teahen to man third base, he'll move to second, where his power should prove even more valuable in Fantasy. He has the upside to rank alongside Chase Utley as the top offensive player at the position, and as polished as he looked last year, that breakthrough might not be so many years away.
Bust: Alex Rios, OF
True, Rios already busted last year, batting .247 after three straight years of at least .290. But based on early draft results, Fantasy owners seem willing to forgive and forget, especially in Rotisserie leagues where his steals come in so handy. When you consider his 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, though, last year might not be the aberration. Rios is no safe bet for 20 homers or 30 steals -- marks he has achieved only once in his career -- and as a 15-15 player, he'd have to hit far better than .260 to justify more than a late-round pick, assuming he'd deserve a roster spot at all. Rios is still skating on potential rather than results even though, at age 29, a sudden breakthrough is pretty far-fetched.
Sleeper: Gavin Floyd, SP
Coming off a breakout 17-win season, Floyd seemingly disappointed in 2009. But take a closer look at the numbers: A slow start concealed what was actually another step forward in his development. Over his final 22 starts, he posted a 2.97 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP and a strikeout rate of 7.7 per nine innings, improving in every way over that supposedly superior 2008 campaign. If a hip injury late in the year hadn't left a bad taste in his owners' mouths, he'd go off the board in the Ubaldo Jimenez-John Lackey range of starting pitchers rather than the Ben Sheets-Ervin Santana range. Floyd is the best kind of sleeper pick: the one that's already a sure thing. But because the world hasn't caught on to it yet, you get to reap the benefits on Draft Day.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Juan Pierre||LF||1||Mark Buehrle||LH|
|2||Gordon Beckham||2B||2||Jake Peavy||RH|
|3||Carlos Quentin||RF||3||John Danks||LH|
|4||Paul Konerko||1B||4||Gavin Floyd||RH|
|5||Alex Rios||CF||5||Freddy An. Garcia||RH|
|6||A.J. Pierzynski||C||Alt||Daniel Hudson||RH|
|7||Alexei Ramirez||SS||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Mark Teahen||3B||CL||Bobby Jenks||RH|
|9||Mark Kotsay||DH||SU||Matt Thornton||LH|
|Top bench options||RP||J.J. Putz||RH|
|R||Andruw Jones||OF||RP||Tony A. Pena||RH|
|R||Jayson Nix||UTL||RP||Scott Linebrink||RH|
|Shot up through five levels in the system last year, dominating in each. Should stick in majors soon.|
|Patient approach and power make him middle-of-the-order hitter. Just waiting for Pierzynski to leave.|
|3||Jared Mitchell||21||OF||Class A||Double-A|
|Former LSU wide receiver walks and steals bases. Projects as leadoff man, but has some power too.|
|Cuban defector has to refine swing to meet monster power potential. Perhaps too portly to stay at 3B.|
|5||Brent Morel||22||3B||Class A||Double-A|
|Polished hitter, but might top out at 20 HRs. Really just a race between him and Viciedo at this point.|
|Best of the rest: Carlos Torres, SP; Clevelan Santeliz, RP; Brandon Hynick, SP; C.J. Retherford, 3B; Brian Omogrosso, RP; Gregory Infante, SP; Jordan Danks, OF; John Shelby, OF; Jhonny Nunez, RP; Eduardo Escobar, 2B; Jeff Marquez, SP; Cole Armstrong, C; Josh Phegley, C; Trayce Thompson, OF; and Kyle Bellamy, SP.|
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.