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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
Brewers' Khris Davis to work on being a patient hitter in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Brewers outfielder Khris Davis realizes he didn't show patience at the plate last year in his first full major-league season, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I built a reputation in the organization of being a patient hitter," Davis said. "I felt like I wasn't a patient hitter at all last year. I was a little eager, wanting to please too much, too early. I found out I'm human."

Davis drew just 32 walks in 549 plate appearances while posting a .299 OBP in 2014, a number far away from his career .392 OBP in the minors.

"He was different last year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody goes through different phases. Guys change. (His walk total) was too low. He's a guy I think should be fairly patient. He sees pitches well. When he starts getting anxious, he becomes more aggressive and chases more. He realizes it, which is the first step. If you don't realize it and don't listen to other people when they tell you that, then you have issues. You have to have good self-awareness to be a good player. Sometimes these players don't have good self-awareness. But if they had better self-awareness they'd be a better player."

Davis is determined to fulfill the potential that caused the organization to move Ryan Braun to right field before the 2014 season and plug Davis into the regular left-field role.

"I can't thank them enough for having patience with me," Davis said. "I'm going to work it out. When you get here, you want to stay. That's the toughest part at first. I don't think this league has seen the best of me yet. I'm ready to pull that out and prove it day by day. I learned so many lessons there are too many to name."

Davis hit .244/.299/.457 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 501 at-bats.


Indians' Francona keeping a close eye on Giovanny Urshela
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Indians manager Terry Francona has been keeping a close eye on third-base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who was only recently cleared for a full range of activities after tweaking his knee during winter ball, MLB.com reports.

"He has a tremendous reputation of being a really good defender," Francona said. "I think I've been more wanting to watch his gait, just to make sure he's not favoring that leg. He promised us that, if he was, he'd let us know, but I also know he's a young kid in his first major-league camp."

Urshela suffered the injury on Nov. 15 and has rehabbed the injured knee at the team's spring-training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

"He's worked really hard to get himself to where he can go through a normal spring," said Indians' director of player development Carter Hawkins. "We're very excited about the spot he's in right now, given the possible outcomes of the injury."

Urshela saw his first action at the Triple-A level in 2014, hitting .276/.331/.473 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 395 at-bats with Columbus.


Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


 
 
 
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