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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Chicago White Sox

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The 2013 White Sox look a great deal like the 2012 White Sox, with the core of a team that won 85 games returning nearly en masse to try and challenge the Tigers for the American League Central crown (or, at least, the Athletics for the second wild card spot). There isn't much new with Chicago: A.J. Pierzynski left via free agency to sign with the Rangers, which elevated Tyler Flowers to starting duties at catcher. Flowers hasn't exactly set the world on fire so far -- in 108 career games, Flowers has a .205 batting average with 12 home runs and two steals. But the 26-year-old former top prospect has been relegated to backup catching duties the past two years. When he was given more regular playing time in the minors, Flowers was much better, hitting .275 with an .876 OPS in more than 1,800 at-bats. He hit 15 or more home runs four times, despite getting more than 400 at-bats just once. Look for flowers, given regular playing time, to flex a decent amount of power, while bringing his average up to the .250 to .260 level.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

The White Sox also brought in Jeff Keppinger to play third base. The team had acquired Kevin Youkilis halfway through 2012, but Youkilis jumped ship to the Yankees in the offseason. Keppinger has quietly put up impressive numbers in his career, with a .288 average -- buoyed by a .325 average in 385 at-bats last season as a member of the Rays. The 32-year-old will have first, third and second base eligibility in 2013. Despite his lack of power -- he could top out at 15 home runs if he manages full-time at-bats and gets a few lucky swings in a hitter-friendly park -- Keppinger is a decent bet to hit for average and score a good amount of runs in a lineup with plenty of power behind him. Mixed-leaguers desperate for middle infield help can consider him a late option that won't hurt your team, while AL-only leaguers should consider Keppinger a mid/late-round sleeper option.

The pitching staff seems to be Chicago's possible weak spot, as every member of the rotation has question marks: Will Chris Sale's 2012 elbow issues pop up again? Can Jake Peavy stay healthy for two straight seasons? Will John Danks rebound from shoulder surgery? Can Gavin Floyd finish a season with a sub-4.00 ERA? And was the Jose Quintana we saw last year the real deal? Granted, the talented rotation could also shine if things break the right way, but the lingering doubt about each of them should give drafters pause when their names reach the top of the queue. Additionally, Addison Reed, who was a revelation after the White Sox cycled through their first few choices at closer, had a higher-than-we-may-remember 4.75 ERA last year. And while 29 saves for a rookie is a solid start to a career, Chicago has a lot of safety nets in that bullpen (Jesse Crain, Matt Lindstrom, Donnie Veal) in case he falters.

Deep sleeper ... Hector Santiago, pitcher

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Alejandro De Aza CF
2. Jeff Keppinger 3B
3. Adam Dunn DH
4. Paul Konerko 1B
5. Alex Rios RF
6. Dayan Viciedo LF
7. Alexei Ramirez SS
8. Tyler Flowers C
9. Gordon Beckham 2B
Bench Jordan Danks OF
Bench Hector Gimenez C

Santiago is currently slated for a role out of the bullpen, which will give him value in AL-only leagues as a low-ratio, high-strikeout reliever, but if any member of the starting rotation falters, Santiago could be a surprisingly solid option in his place. Many owners may not have noticed, as it all took place in September, but Santiago made four starts in 2012, allowing four earned runs in 19 1/3 innings, good for a 1.86 ERA. He struck out 26 batters and had a 1.19 WHIP. His sleeper status is meant for deeper AL-only formats, where this type of risk-taking could pay off, but it wouldn't hurt for mixed league owners to keep an eye on his situation, as a few strong starts in this scenario could elevate Santiago to mixed-league worthiness (think Hisashi Iwakuma last season).

Breakout ... Dayan Viciedo, outfielder

One would think a 25 home run season from a 23-year-old would already be considered a breakout performance. But Viciedo's 2012 has been mostly overlooked by Fantasy players. Viciedo had two straight 20 home run seasons in the minors in 2010 and 2011, while keeping up a decent average. An improvement on his average is within reason and an uptick in power isn't out of the question, so a .280 average and 30 home runs from Viciedo in 2013 is a real possibility, making him a solid late-round pick in mixed leagues.

Roto gem ... Adam Dunn, first baseman

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Chris Sale LHP
2. Jake Peavy RHP
3. John Danks LHP
4. Gavin Floyd RHP
5. Jose Quintana LHP
ALT Hector Santiago LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Addison Reed RHP
2. Jesse Crain RHP
3. Matt Thornton LHP
4. Matt Lindstrom RHP
5. Donnie Veal LHP

When a player hits 39 home runs in nine of his past 10 seasons, that one year without the power production looks almost certain to be the outlier. Chalk up Adam Dunn's 2011 failings to any factor of your choosing -- the switch to a different league, the move to full-time DH, injury -- but know that it was the exception, not the rule. Dunn will get you home runs in bunches while dragging your average down. But 40 home runs bring at least 95 RBI and 80 or more runs scored. Dunn even stole two bases last year. You might luck into one of those .260 seasons from Dunn, but you won't have to worry about a lack of doubles or leading the league in strikeouts, which haunt those in points leagues.

Prospects Report

The White Sox have a pretty shallow group of top prospects heading into 2013. Not from lack of building, but mainly because many of them have been promoted recently, clearing out space at the upper levels. ... Trayce Thompson and Courtney Hawkins lead their farm stars, but the most intriguing prospect is Nestor Molina, a converted outfielder/third baseman who didn't start pitching until 2008. Since then, he's compiled a 2.92 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in more than 400 minor league innings. Pickins are slim here for Fantasy vultures -- you may want to look elsewhere for minor league impact.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @nandocbs . You can also send us an e- mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Tigers' Ausmus: James McCann can be very good major-league catcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:00 am ET) Tigers catcher James McCann, who is vying for a spot on the roster as a backup to Alex Avila, allowed a passed ball during Thursday's spring game against the Braves. After the game, McCann was very critical of his play and vowed to make sure no more pitches skip by him. 

McCann's relentless work ethic is one trait that manager Brad Aumus likes about the 24-year-old catcher.

"I don't have to worry about him working," Ausmus said Thursday, per the Detroit Free Press. "I think Mac does an excellent job. He is very alert. His head is into the game at all times. He understands that his value is greater on the defensive side of the game than it is when he is standing in the batter's box. That's not to say he doesn't take his hitting seriously.

"I think he has a chance to be a very good major-league catcher. I'm more concerned about how he handles a staff, how he calls a game, how he blocks balls in the dirt (than his ability to throw out runners)."


Phillies SP Cliff Lee having no doubts coming off elbow injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7:31 am ET) Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee appeared to be brimming with confidence Thursday, as he said following his first start since missing the final two months of the 2014 season due to an elbow injury that everything is "so far, so good."

While some folks still might have some doubt regarding the 36-year-old's durability moving forward, Lee has no such doubts.

"I don't have any uncertainty," Lee said, per The Philadelphia Daily News. "I definitely have confidence and expect to go out there and be successful, and I'm doing everything I can to prevent something like that from happening again. That's really all I can do. There's no worry or uncertainty or anything like that. I'm just going to go out there and be confident and expect to have success and not really even think about it, to be honest with you."

Lee threw only 22 pitches (16 strikes) in two innings Thursday in his spring debut. He still has a long ways to go in getting back to his previous form, but Lee is confident it will happen.

"As a starting pitcher, you've got to go out there and throw a hundred-and-some-odd pitches, get deep into games to do your job effectively," Lee said. "Personally, until I do that I don't think that I've proven that I can do that yet. I don't have any doubts, but still you have to build up to do that and prove you can do that . . . I don't think anyone is going to know that I can do that until I go out there and show it."


Mets' Jacob deGrom working on perfecting his curveball
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:42 am ET) Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is working on perfecting his curveball this spring, according to the New York Post

"This spring is so different," deGrom said. "I can really come in here and work on things. Last year when I was over on the big league side, I didn’t throw my curveball one time because I was trying to make the team and prove I could get outs in spring training."

After experiencing some success in the majors, deGrom said he is more willing to work on stuff this time around. While he actually started using his curve more late last season, it seems like deGrom is going to work on perfecting the pitch during camp. 

"It’s a great pitch whether it be strike one or a strikeout pitch," deGrom said. "Talking to Gee, Wheeler and all those guys and see how they throw theirs and taking little bits of information from them and trying it in bullpens. Sometimes I throw it at 78 (mph) and that’s a big difference from the slider. It gets the hitter off balance."

deGrom, 26, posted a 2.69 ERA over 140 1/3 innings last season.


Rockies' Charlie Blackmon hoping for more consistency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is hoping for more consistency in 2015, according to the Denver Post

Blackmon had a breakout season in 2014, but admits it's hard to be on every single game. "Last year, I swung the bat really well at certain times," he said. "But you go through a lot of ups and downs over 162 games, and that was a learning experience. I think that's going to help me this year."

Blackmon said his strong start made him a target for other teams, and that may have contributed to a slight slump during the season. Blackmon added that he's hoping to hit the ball to all fields this season.

Manager Walt Weiss is hoping Blackmon can deliver more of the same. "I don't know if he necessarily has to have an encore. I'm thinking more of the same," Weiss said. "I think Charlie would say that he wants to be more consistent."

The 28-year-old Blackmon hit .288/.335/.440 over 593 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Gibson feels 'a little more comfortable' with curveball
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson surrendered one run on two hits and one walk in two innings while striking out two in his spring debut Thursday, using the outing to work on his curveball, the Associated Press reports.

"I felt really good," Gibson said. "I'm working on some stuff, and some stuff worked out that I was working on. I threw more curveballs than normal. That's what spring training's for. It's just fun to be able to work on a particular pitch. I feel a little more comfortable."

Gibson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, completed his first full major-league deal in 2014, going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA and 107:57 K:BB ratio in 179 1/3 innings.


Blue Jays' Barton hoping his glove wins him a spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Blue Jays first baseman Daric Barton is hoping his glove can win him a spot on the 25-man roster, according to the Toronto Sun.

Barton isn't much of a power hitter, but gets strong marks for his defense at first. Manager John Gibbons is well aware of Barton's skills. "One thing that put Daric on the map was that he was such a disciplined hitter and a great defender," Gibbons said. He added that the first baseman is involved in a large chunk of plays, so defense at the position is probably more important than people realize.

With that said, Barton may need a trade to make the opening day roster. As currently constructed, the Blue Jays may carry three catchers. If the team retains Dioner Navarro, Barton could find himself in the minors.

The 29-year-old Barton hit .158 over 57 at-bats last year.


Pirates' Pedro Alvarez feeling comfortable at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez is feeling comfortable at first base, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After playing third the past couple of seasons, Alvarez will transition to first base full-time in 2015. The 28-year-old is still getting used to the position, but he seems comfortable with the change.

"It’s just a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view, get the reps in so that the responsibilities that come with playing the position become second nature," he said. "That’s just with time and repetitions."

Alvarez hit .231/.312/.405 over 398 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman gets strong marks at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman received strong reviews after playing his first game at first base this spring, according to MLB.com.

"He is still in the stages of having to think about it out there, because it's not natural yet," manager Matt Williams said. "He looked fine. He has fantastic hands." Zimmerman was tested during the start, and had to make two scoops in order to prevent possible throwing errors. 

He's been taking extra practice at the position this spring, and was fairly happy with how his first game turned out. "You can do so many drills, exercises and things like that until you have to go out there and play," Zimmerman said. "So it's nice to have a few chances. The more I play over there, the more comfortable I will get. I feel fine."

Zimmerman, 30, hit .280/.342/.449 over 214 at-bats last year. 


Orioles' Brian Matusz tosses scoreless inning in return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz tossed a scoreless inning in his return to the mound.

Matusz came into camp dealing with a shoulder issue, but said he was pretty close to 100 percent. He allowed one hit during his one inning of work, and struck out one batter. Matusz is expected to open the season in the team's bullpen. 

The 28-year-old posted a 3.48 ERA over 51 2/3 innings last year.


Red Sox's Rusney Castillo wouldn't alter plan if sent down
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo won't be upset if he winds up being sent down to the minors, according to the WEEI.

That's not a likely outcome, but with his recent oblique injury, there's a chance Castillo could fall behind the other outfielders on the roster. "To me it wouldn’t be anything that would alter my plan, or my attitude, or my perspective," he said. "If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come."

Castillo did note that he's feeling a lot better, and is expected to return in about a week. Castillo hit .333 over 36 at-bats in the majors last year. 


 
 
 
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