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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Chicago White Sox

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Chicago White Sox will enter this season a sleeker, younger, more exciting model than the 2013 version, which finished last season 63-99, owners of the American League's second-worst record.

General manager Rick Hahn began the re-tooling last season, at the trade deadline, sending away Jake Peavy in a three-team deal that netted the White Sox Avisail Garcia, a 22-year-old mini-Miguel Cabrera who hit .304 with five home runs and three steals over 161 at-bats after the trade. In the offseason, the team sent Hector Santiago to the Angels in a three-team deal, which brought back centerfielder and new leadoff hitter Adam Eaton. And less than a week later, closer Addison Reed was traded to Arizona (in a two-team deal) for third baseman Matt Davidson. Throw in the signing of Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, and the starting lineup features four players with tons of potential and an average age of 24, who weren't on the team last June.

2014 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

One of the casualties of the youth influx is Paul Konerko, who has been the team's starting first baseman since 1999, having accrued 7,961 at-bats and 427 home runs over those 15 seasons. With Abreu at first and Adam Dunn at DH, the 37-year-old Konerko will likely shift to a bench role -- Fantasy players should take note of this before casually drafting Konerko in the later rounds of mixed drafts, assuming nothing has changed and he's still a starter. At shortstop, Alexei Ramirez is coming off his first 30-steal season, which followed his first 20-steal season (in 2012). His home runs have essentially dried up -- he's staggered downward from 18 home runs in 2010 to a career-low six in 2013 -- but he hit a career-high 39 doubles in 2013 and his .284 average was his best since 2008. The transformation has basically moved around his value to other areas, instead of him losing any. But Roto players should be aware of this recent shift from power to speed.

One of the more interesting role players in 2014 will be Leury Garcia, a 22-year-old infielder/outfielder who stole six bases over 20 games with Chicago last year, after coming over in the Alex Rios trade with Texas. Garcia stole 12 bases in 33 Dominican Winter League games -- for context, Jean Segura and Junior Lake both stole 11 in that league last offseason. With his positional flexibility, Garcia could fight his way to 300-plus at-bats and be a nice AL-only option for steals at middle infield.

The rotation, led by lefties Chris Sale (3.06 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 over the last two seasons) and Jose Quintana (3.61 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.6 K/9), is probably better than many realize. If John Danks can return to his 2008-2010 form (3.61 ERA and 1.24 WHIP), the White Sox have a solid foundation. Prospect Erik Johnson -- who had a 3.25 ERA over five starts after posting a 1.96 ERA in 24 starts between Double- and-Triple-A in 2013 -- could be a nice surprise for owners willing to take a chance on a relatively untested starter.

In the bullpen, Nate Jones is a solid candidate to replace Reed as closer. His fastball averaged 97.7 mph last season, as he struck out 89 batters in 78 innings. If Jones -- who has never saved a game in the majors -- fails, there may be a darkhorse candidate in Felipe Paulino, who is currently lined up as the fifth starter, but hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012 Tommy John surgery (and a 2013 procedure to remove a cyst in his shoulder). If the White Sox feel Andre Rienzo can excel as a starter, and the team wants a safety net for Jones, it might make sense for the Sox to keep Paulino's innings low with a bullpen stint.

Overall, this is a White Sox team primed for a rebound year. They're young, exciting and full of Fantasy upside. Don't be surprised if some of 2014's biggest Fantasy surprises are on this roster.

Breakout... Avisail Garcia, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Adam Eaton CF
2. Alejandro De Aza LF
3. Jose Abreu 1B
4. Adam Dunn DH
5. Avisail Garcia RF
6. Matt Davidson 3B
7. Alexei Ramirez SS
8. Gordon Beckham 2B
9. Tyler Flowers C
Bench Dayan Viciedo OF
Bench Paul Konerko 1B

Avisail Garcia and Miguel Cabrera are both listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds. They're both from Venezuela and both played their first professional season at age 17. Over their first four minor league seasons, the two produced these lines:

Cabrera: .286 average, 28 home runs, 103 doubles, 23 steals, 1,428 at-bats
Garcia: .275 average, 23 home runs, 56 doubles, 49 steals, 1,534 at-bats

It's not a perfect comparison -- Cabrera walked and doubled a lot more, while Garcia has more speed -- but what's not in this comparison is the fact that Garcia spent another season and a half in the minors (Cabrera was called up after four), with his OPS rising and BB/K rate normalizing. And for a deeper picture of the similarities between the two players, this 2012 article from the Detroit Free Press should convert a few new believers (and be sure to check out the pictures of the two, mid-swing). Garcia's 2013 stretch with the White Sox was encouraging, and showed what he could do with regular at-bats in a hitter-friendly park. A .280 average and a combined total of 40 home runs and steals is not out of the question for 2014.

Underappreciated... Adam Eaton, outfield

Adam Eaton entered 2013 with a ton of promise -- he'd steal bases, hit for average and maybe even throw in some home runs. But a spring training elbow injury that was supposed to have Eaton back by May turned into a series of setbacks that saw him playing his first game of the season on July 9. He finished with a .252 average, two home runs and five steals over 250 at-bats. With a full offseason to rest, strengthen and rehab, Eaton is expected to start 2014 as the leadoff hitter for this revamped Sox lineup, which could get him close to (or over) 100 runs scored. Eaton's minor league career was promising enough to have faith in the 25-year-old for 2014 -- a .348 average over 1,300 at-bats (an average dragged down by his 2013 rehab, when he hit .256 in 26 games), with 106 steals over those four campaigns, along with 26 home runs. Let others be scared off by his major league numbers. Eaton finally enters a season with a favorable set of circumstances, and can contribute with a great average and possibly 30-plus steals..

Impact prospect... Matt Davidson, third base

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Chris Sale LHP
2. Jose Quintana LHP
3. John Danks LHP
4. Erik Johnson RHP
5. Andre Rienzo RHP
ALT Felipe Paulino RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Nate Jones RHP
2. Matt Lindstrom RHP
3. Daniel Webb RHP
4. Scott Downs LHP
5. Ronald Belisario RHP

Addison Reed saved 69 games over the last two seasons, with 40 saves in 2013 alone. And the White Sox traded him -- with no clear-cut backup option -- to the Diamondbacks, getting Matt Davidson in return. Davidson has played in 31 major league games, all of them coming in 2013, as he hit .237 with three home runs and six doubles over 76 at-bats. A three-time Top 100 prospect (according to Baseball America), Davidson has hit 17 or more home runs in each of his last four minor league campaigns, with 30 or more doubles in three. His career minor league batting average (.268) doesn't give a ton of hope for anything over .250 in the majors, but he's slated to start at third base from opening day forward, and can probably be relied on for 20-plus home runs and 75-80 RBI.

Prospects Report

Erik Johnson and Matt Davidson are expected to start the year in the majors, so expect good things right away from the duo. And if we consider Jose Abreu a prospect (technically, he is), he joins Johnson and Davidson at the top of the list. ... Marcus Semien played shortstop, second base and third base last season, while hitting .284 with 19 home runs and 32 doubles. The 23-year-old would probably need an injury to Alexei Ramirez or Davidson (or just a total implosion from Davidson) to make an impact in 2014. Keeping him on the roster as a utility player would likely just stunt his development. ... Micah Johnson has a little Billy Hamilton in him, stealing 84 bases across three levels of the minors in 2013. He also hit .312 with seven home runs and 15 triples, but is likely ticketed for Double-A to start the season. Keep an eye on him in dynasty leagues, though, as Johnson plays second base and could offer lots of future speed potential from the middle infield. ... Daniel Webb excelled in his first season as a full-time reliever, finishing 2013 with a 1.87 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 62 2/3 minor league innings. The 24-year-old may have a shot at a bullpen slot in 2014 if he can put together a strong spring. Fantasy owners in deep AL-only formats who are pessimistic on Nate Jones (this is a very specific subset) may want to consider Webb as a very long shot option for saves.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyBB . You can also follow Nando at @nandocbs .

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Player News
Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers working to fix command issues
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers gave up four runs on four hits in Thursday's game, his first rough patch of spring training. Brothers thinks his command faded when he got batters down in the count, reports the Denver Post.

"It was like an out-of-body experience," he said Friday. "Just one of those oddity nights. I was sharp until I got into put-away counts, then it was brutal. Absolutely brutal."

Manager Walt Weiss isn't concerned about his appearance and thinks it was more of an aberration.

"There's been enough positive signs in spring to feel good about where he is," Weiss said. "But fact of the matter is, that stuff is always right around the corner. Not just him, but anybody."


Seven no-hit innings for Royals' Yordano Ventura
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:56 am ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura threw seven no-hit innings in Friday's start. 

Ventura walked two and struck out four, while throwing 49 of his 88 pitches for strikes. He lowered his spring ERA to 5.14.

The Royals took Ventura from the game after the seventh, as reliever Jason Frasor made it one out further before giving up a hit. 

The bullpen completed the one-hitter. 


Brewers pitcher Will Smith holds key to success out of the bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Brewers pitcher Will Smith could be the best cog in Milwaukee's bullpen this season. Manager Ron Roenicke sure hopes so, reports MLB.com.

"I think coming into it, we're counting on him to pitch some high-leverage innings," Roenicke said Friday. "He's going to be a huge part of that bullpen and what we do and how I match up the seventh and eighth inning. He's going to be important."

Smith has a 0.87 ERA in eight appearances this spring and posted a 3.70 ERA in 78 games last season.

"My last two outings I felt really good out there, really strong," Smith said on Friday. "Me and the catchers are on the same page for everything now. I think I'm good to go now."


Still no decision between Mariners' Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon still hasn't named a winner in the battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. 

RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP Roenis Elias are in the running for the spot. Walker has a 0.00 ERA in 18 innings this spring, while Elias' ERA is 6.75. 

McClendon said he wouldn't announce his fifth starter until the final week of spring. Saturday marks the start of the final week, and McClendon said he'd "be close" to making the call, per MLB.com's Greg Johns.


Brewers to decide leadoff hitter Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Brewers manager Ron Roenicke plans to decide between Scooter Gennett and Carlos Gomez for the leadoff spot in the lineup by Monday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Gennett hit .289 with 54 RBI and 55 runs scored in 440 plate appearances last season while Gomez hit.284 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI in 574 plate appearances.


Phillies' Jake Diekman historically bad in loss
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:33 am ET) Phillies pitcher Jake Diekman declared his Friday appearance, "the worst outing in the history of the world." 

Diekman entered a scoreless game in the fifth inning and promptly gave up a double and four singles before recording an out. He ended up allowing seven runs in one third of an inning.

"I fell behind in counts and every strike I threw they took a good swing at," Diekman said, per CSN Philly. "It’s embarrassing. ... It's unbelievable." 

Despite his 12.27 ERA, Diekman got a vote of confidence from manager Ryne Sandberg. "There’s no concern," he said. 


Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy gets first start at first base Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Brewers regular catcher Jonathan Lucroy drew his first start at first base after being cleared from a strained right hamstring injury. Manager Ron Roenicke wanted to be able to see Lucroy's versatility.

"Thought we needed to do it, so hopefully we can do it at least once more,” said Roenicke to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But as much as he gets out there, it will help. There’s some pitchers that we still want him to catch and if we can get through those then maybe some other days we can get him over there again."

Lucroy was happy to finally be back on the field.

"I've been doing a little bit out there every day," Lucroy said. "Taking some grounders and stuff to stay sharp over there."


Cardinals' John Lackey ready for the regular season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) John Lackey pitched seven innings, the longest of any Cardinals starter so far this season. 

Lackey allowed one run on six hits and didn't walk a batter, throwing 84 pitches. 

"Throwing seven innings, that was probably a little bit further than I thought I'd go today with the pitch count," said Lackey, per MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch. "But they were pretty aggressive, and I was throwing a lot of strikes. It worked out pretty good."

Lackey had his catcher call the game as if it were a regular season game, and his performance indicates that he's ready for the season to begin.

"That's what it looked like," coach David Bell said. "It looked like he was making all his pitches. The velocity was there. He probably had a little more in the tank, which is a good thing."


Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez not worried about role on staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez gave up just one run on five hits in five innings of work Friday against the Nationals. Martinez, who is competing for the final spot in St. Louis' starting rotation, has allowed just seven runs in 16 innings of work.

"I've been working hard," Martinez said through an interpreter to MLB.com. "Some of the outings haven't gone as good as I've wanted to, but I'm just trying to learn from that and get better every day."

Martinez is still focused on earning a starting spot.

"Right now I'm fighting to be a starter," Martinez said. "But if they call me into the bullpen I'm going to be ready for the team. I just want to help the team win, and I'm going to be ready when my name gets called."


Rays pitcher Everett Teaford making push for spot on pitching staff
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Rays pitcher Everett Teaford tossed two scoreless innings Friday, sending all six batters down in order. The 31-year-old is making management give him an extra look before deciding on the final pitching staff, reports MLB.com.

"I thought he threw the ball well. First pitch, Reimold was ready to go, but after that I thought Teaf did a nice job of mixing pitches just like he always does," manager Kevin Cash said.

Cash likes that Teaford can get out of nearly any situation that arises.

"He's been around enough that he's probably given up enough home runs and big hits so he knows how to handle it when he does deal with some adversity," said Cash. "I wouldn't have expected anything other than that from him. Just getting right back into the strike zone again."

Teaford has spent most of spring training working on his command and effectiveness.

"That's really been the biggest thing I wanted to do this spring is not walk anybody. If I'm going to get beat, make them beat me and up to this point, I really have," said Teaford.


 
 
 
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