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.
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
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.
|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|| |
|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|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
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