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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Chicago White Sox

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Though the White Sox never fully recovered from a 10-18 April last season, they managed to hang around the American League Central race into mid-August before falling out of contention. For the most part, it's been an offseason of rebuilding for the Pale Hose, as Mark Buehrle and Juan Pierre were allowed to leave via free agency and Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor were traded. However, general manager Kenny Williams sent mixed signals, as he re-signed lefty John Danks to a five-year deal and did not trade away nominal ace Gavin Floyd as expected.

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Not only will the Sox have to fill the holes left by Buehrle, Quentin, Santos and others, but they will need Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham to rebound from abysmal seasons if they are to compete this year. The rotation appears to be set, as Chris Sale will move up from the bullpen to fill the vacancy left by Buehrle, who signed with the Marlins. Santos' successor has not been named, but lefty Matt Thornton and rookie Addison Reed are the strongest contenders. Paul Konerko will anchor the offense once again, and Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza will take over the outfield corners formerly occupied by Quentin and Pierre.

Perhaps the most notable change this season will be in the dugout, as controversial skipper Ozzie Guillen departed to manage the Marlins. Robin Ventura, who has no managerial experience at any professional level, will take over the club's reins. While Guillen tended to favor aggressive baserunning, it remains to be seen what impact Ventura will have on speedsters like De Aza and Rios.

With many of the familiar faces gone, it may look like a bleak year ahead for the White Sox. However, with their pitching staff largely intact and Quentin as the only major offensive force missing from last season, they could make things interesting in a division that may be weak aside from the Tigers. A lot will have to go right, from a resurgence for Dunn to a healthy campaign for Jake Peavy to a breakout for Viciedo. The pieces are there for a respectable season, if not a playoff berth, but there are plenty of questions as to how sturdy and reliable those pieces will be.

Late-round flier...Alejandro De Aza, OF

With Pierre gone, De Aza will get his first real chance to be an everyday outfielder for a whole season. As a slap hitter, the 27-year-old won't take advantage U.S. Cellular Field's homer-friendly dimensions, but he has a history of using his speed to leg out base hits. De Aza should produce enough steals and a high enough batting average to help owners in Rotisserie leagues, and he is good enough at avoiding strikeouts and hitting doubles to be of use in Head-to-Head formats. His lack of home run power prevents him from being even a middle-round option in standard mixed leagues, but he does enough things well to be worthy of a late-round pick.

Bust...Matt Thornton, RP

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Thornton got the first crack at the closer's job last season, but after blowing each of his first four save oppotunities, he was demoted to a set-up role. He recovered well enough to post a 2.95 ERA from April 18 on, and that has positioned Thornton as the likely frontrunner to succeed Santos in the ninth-inning role. Despite the respectable ERA there is no shortage of warning signs for another implosion. For the second season in a row, Thornton's control eroded as he threw fewer strikes and issued more walks per nine innings. When opposing hitters have gotten ahold of one of his offerings they have increasingly been able to hit him ... hard. Thornton's line drive rate ballooned to 24 percent, which contributed to a 64-point increase in opponents' batting average against him. Thornton still gets his fair share of strikeouts, but his trends are all running in the wrong direction, making him a risk to count on for saves this season.

Head-to-Head hero...Philip Humber, SP

As a pitch-to-contact hurler, Humber doesn't have much appeal for owners in Rotisserie leagues, but over the last two seasons, he has developed a special talent that should endear him to Head-to-Head owners. Humber has developed a much stronger command of the strike zone, which was first in evidence at Triple-A Omaha (in the Royals' system) in 2010, and it translated to his first season with the White Sox last year. More strikes have meant more efficient outings, as Humber went through plate appearances with a tidy 3.69 pitches on average, and he averaged nearly 6 1/3 innings per start. Humber's place in the Chicago rotation should be more solidified this year, so his potential to rack up innings is even greater. While Humber should go undrafted in most mixed Rotisserie formats, he is a worthwhile pickup late in standard mixed Head-to-Head drafts.

2012 Chicago White Sox Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Alejandro De Aza LF 1 Gavin Floyd RH
2 Alexei Ramirez SS 2 John Danks LH
3 Paul Konerko 1B 3 Jake Peavy RH
4 Adam Dunn DH 4 Philip Humber RH
5 Dayan Viciedo RF 5 Chris Sale LH
6 Alex Rios CF Alt Dylan Axelrod RH
7 A.J. Pierzynski C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Brent Morel 3B CL Matt Thornton LH
9 Gordon Beckham 2B SU Addison Reed RH
Top bench options RP Jesse Crain RH
R Kosuke Fukudome OF RP Jhan Marinez RH
R Brent Lillibridge 1B/OF RP Will Ohman LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Addison Reed 23 RP Majors Majors
Reed will contend for the closer's job this spring, though he may start out in middle relief. He rose all the way from Class A to the majors last year.
2 Nestor Molina 23 SP Double-A Double-A
Acquired from Toronto in exchange for Santos this offsesaon. Molina broke out in Class A last year and could reach the majors later this season.
3 Simon Castro 23 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Castro's command was absent in Triple-A last year, earning him a demotion to Double-A. Gets a fresh start after getting traded from the Padres in the Quentin deal this winter.
4 Tyler Saladino 22 SS Class A Double-A
Saladino has power and patience, which make him attractive as a future Fantasy shortstop. He could arrive in Chicago next season.
5 Dylan Axelrod 26 SP Majors Majors
The soft tosser has good enough control to thrive at the back of the White Sox's rotation. He could settle in there sometime this season.
Best of the rest: Trayce Thompson, OF; Jacob Petricka, SP; Keenyn Walker, OF; Jhan Marinez, RP; Juan Silverio, 3B; Ozzie Martinez, SS; Hector Santiago, RP; Kevan Smith, C; Andre Rienzo, SP; Erik Johnson, SP; Jared Mitchell, OF; Charlie Leesman, SP; Gregory Infante, RP; Jordan Danks, OF; Deunte Heath, RP; Brandon Short, OF.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens fighting for spot in bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Paul Clemens has been told he has a great arm. But Clemens, who posted a 5.51 ERA in 48 appearances with the Astros over the last two years, knows it'll take more than that.

"Some pitching coaches tell me how incredible my arm is and that I could play for a long time, so I think I've been showing some guys what I bring to the table," Clemens said. "I had a couple really good conversations with front office and some guys around here, so it's definitely motivating."

He wants to be able to pick out his spots better during spring training, knowing he has to impress as a non-roster invitee.

"Sometimes I think I get too overzealous with my fastball and I just pound it and pound it and pound it. So picking my spots more, being smarter. You can't really challenge guys at this level. Once in a while you've got to pick your spots, but you can't challenge too many guys, even the guys you don't really know their names as much. You've still got to pitch."


Athletics to ease Coco Crisp into action this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:08 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin wants to take things slow with veteran outfielder Coco Crisp this spring, reports MLB.com.

"I'll probably hold him out the first few because I'm going to cut down on his workload," Melvin said Sunday.

Crisp, who is dealing with a case of pinkeye, was held out of an intrasquad scrimmage, even though he was able to take part in batting practice.


Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta hoping to recreate 2014 season in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta wants to be able to do a lot of the things he succeeded doing in 2014. 

"I think what I did last year was pretty good for my first year in the National League," Peralta said. "I felt good about the home runs I hit. I know the average wasn't at .300, but I finished better than I started."

Peralta hit .263 with 21 home runs and 75 RBI in 560 plate appearances. His manager, Mike Matheny, wants to see a similar guy in 2015.

"He's been very consistent with getting himself ready and what he needs to do and who he needs to be. He came in here last year with a very workmanlike approach and went about it to build up for opening day," Matheny said.


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by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:43 pm ET) Braves catcher Tanner Murphy is feeling the love this spring. The second-year player is being tabbed by bullpen coach Eddie Perez as the guy to watch in spring training.

"He's my number one guy so far," Perez said. "It's nice to have somebody like him because you don't know what's going to happen. When you look at this kid, you know something good is going to happen."

Murphy played just 82 games of rookie ball last year.

"He's got some talent and he's got some ability," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I saw him throw to the bases. (Catching instructor) Joe Breeden has seen him the most and Joe likes him a lot."


Jim Henderson throws off mound Sunday where season ended last year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:02 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Jim Henderson completed his first session against live batters Sunday and felt a weight lift off his shoulders, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"That same mound I threw on just now was the same mound that I realized the season was over on last year, so I was thinking about that when I got out there," Henderson said.

"I was like, ‘Forget this mound.’ It was kind of one of those moments where it was like this is where it ended and this is where it's going to begin again."

Henderson threw against three batters in Sunday's practice.

"It went well," he said. "It was just more of getting the feel out there today. Seeing the hitters and getting on a game mound again, just trying to get the feel back. That’s what I was looking for out of it – that competitiveness – and that’s what I got out of it."


Cubs' Joe Maddon impressed by Kris Bryant
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) Cubs manager Joe Maddon said third baseman Kris Bryant has been one of the most impressive position players this spring, reports MLB.com

"He's solid, he's motivated," Maddon said. "He's got a really nice way about him. He's really good, he knows he's really good, but he carries that very well. I like that. False humility doesn't do anything. It's kind of a worthless quality. I think his humility is sincere, but he also knows that he's good."

Despite Maddon's endorsement of Bryant, Maddon would not commit to Bryant making the Opening Day roster.

"Somewhere," Maddon said. "There's all kinds of Opening Days."


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(5:56 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth is getting towards the end of his throwing program to rehab his injured shoulder, reports MLB.com. But, manager Matt Williams doesn't want to take any chances with the injury flaring back up for McLouth.

"Once he gets sore, then we got to shut him down for a few days," Williams said. "So we don't want to get there."

McLouth is recovering from shoulder surgery that took place in August to repair a torn labrum. He is getting close to adding more distance to long toss.

"It doesn't hurt, and nothing I've done has made it hurt at all," McLouth said. "So it's fine. Now it's just a matter of getting more distance."


Nationals' Bryce Harper says he has to step up production
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(5:53 pm ET) With the Nationals losing first baseman Adam LaRoche to free agency, outfielder Bryce Harper knows he needs to increase his production, reports MLB.com.

"I'll help out for sure," Harper said. "After losing LaRoche, I have to step up a little bit. I have to do what I need to do. Our pitching is going to take us to the top, hopefully, but we still have to have offense. We have to do the things we need to do. I'm ready to go. I'll be feeling good."

Harper said the key to his success in 2015 will be sticking to his approach and not trying to overdo it.

"I have to see what [pitchers] are going to do to me, see how they approach me, really just working my pitch and not go out of my comfort zone," Harper said. "If I can do that, stay within myself and have a little bit of fun at the plate, that will go a long way."


Orioles' Jason Garcia turns heads in spring training debut Sunday
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(5:49 pm ET) Orioles pitcher Jason Garcia is battling to make the major-league roster this spring. If Sunday was any indication, he's got a good chance.

"He got a couple of our guys from the bench up to the top step," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Garcia threw a perfect inning with two strikeouts in the team's intrasquad scrimmage Sunday.

"It felt good. It's what you work for, throwing against those guys," Garcia said, who has never pitched above the Triple-A level. "Definitely it was a thrill. Pretty nervous out there, but it was awesome."


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by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) Braves outfielder Todd Cunningham believes he is the perfect replacement to fill in for Melvin Upton, reports MLB.com.

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He added that he doesn't have one particular skill that sets him apart, but he is a good all-around player.

"I'm definitely not trying to trick anybody and I'm definitely not trying to be anything that I'm not," Cunningham said. "When I describe what kind of player I am, I wasn't gifted with unbelievable pop or blazing speed. I pride myself on doing the little things. From what I've heard, I'm the kind of player that the more you see me, the more you like me."


 
 
 
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