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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
Diamondbacks' Jeremy Hellickson dealing with rib cramp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:51 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Jeremy Hellickson had to cut a bullpen session short on Saturday due to a cramp near his ribs, according to MLB.com.

Hellickson doesn't expect to miss any time due to the issue. "I feel fine. It's more of a cramp than anything. It was a precautionary thing to shut it down," Hellickson said. "It doesn't even hurt right now.

The team will evaluate Hellickson on Sunday, and that will determine whether he takes any days off. Manager Chip Hale said the team's trainers do not expect Hellickson to miss any time as of right now.

The 27-year-old posted a 4.52 ERA over 63 2/3 innings last year.


Tigers to use Kyle Ryan as a reliever this year
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:42 pm ET) The Tigers view pitcher Kyle Ryan as a reliever this season, according to MLB.com.

Ryan pitched five games in relief with the club last year, but made one strong start against the White Sox late in the season. Despite the success in his one start, manager Brad Ausmus said the team will look at Ryan as a reliever. "We're going to use him, at least at the start of Spring Training, out of the 'pen," Ausmus said. 

Throughout his minor-league career, Ryan was mainly used as a starter. He posted a 2.61 ERA over 10 1/3 innings in the majors last year. 


Dodgers' Erik Bedard to start spring opener
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:35 pm ET) The Dodgers will turn to Erik Bedard during their spring opener on Wednesday against the White Sox, according to MLB.com.

Bedard isn't expected to open the season in the team's rotation, but should be used as depth in case the club loses a starter at some point. The 35-year-old posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings with the Rays last year.


Diamondbacks' Tomas to see time at third and in the outfield
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:28 pm ET) Diamondbacks infielder Yasmany Tomas will play third and in the outfield this spring, according to MLB.com.

Tomas has mainly been used as a third baseman early in camp, but has started to shag balls in the outfield during batting practice. The club plans to use Tomas in the outfield once spring games begin. The idea behind the move is to give the Cuban infielder as many at-bats as possible. "We've told Tomas that if there's a day when he is not going to play third, we're going to put him in the outfield just to get at-bats," manager Chip Hale said.

Tomas was mainly used as an outfielder while in Cuba, but Arizona is attempting to transition him to third. He's looked raw in fielding drills during camp, but both Tomas and Hale remain cautiously optimistic about the move. "It feels like it's been a long time since I played third base, but I like the position and I feel good about it," Tomas said.

The 24-year-old is expected to earn a starting spot with the club to open the season.


Yankees' Brendan Ryan (back) making progress
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan is making progress in his recovery from a strained back muscle, he told MLB.com Saturday.

"It's no big deal," Ryan said. "I've had a lot more serious issues in my back before. I wasn't too concerned. It being February, let's just make sure."

Ryan is taking treatment and expects to resume baseball activities next week.

"I don't know what they're going to allow me to do," Ryan said. "If not batting practice, maybe some baseball stuff. I imagine they might baby-step me into it. We always want to jump right back into it. I'd imagine some dry swings or hit off the tee. We'll see.

"I don't want to speak for them. That's how I get in trouble."


Rockies' Tulowitzki, Gonzalez to start running bases next week
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:32 pm ET) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez are slated to start running the bases next week, MLB.com reports.

The team is taking it slow with both players after they lost a significant part of the 2014 season to injuries after undergoing surgeries in August. Neither player will see time in Wednesday's Cactus League opener.

"There are still some things they need to do on the field before they're even ready to go into a game -- running bases, specifically," manager Walt Weiss said Saturday. "Last year, we'd have been very happy with the way they're at right now when we thought about their recovery and everything they had to go through. With where they are now, we're very encouraged by it."


Twins' Kurt Suzuki fine after taking pitch off kneecap
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:24 pm ET) Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki said he would be fine after taking a pitch off his kneecap area Saturday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Ryan Pressly slipped while attempting to deliver a changeup during a live batting practice session Saturday, and the ball crossed up the catcher.

"It was my fault," Pressly said. "I just slipped on the mound and yanked a changeup down. The ball caught (Suzuki) in the meaty part right between the shinguard and the padding. There's a little spot where he's vulnerable."

Manager Paul Molitor said Suzuki wasn't added to the team's post-workout injury report.


Girardi: Yankees 'taking it slow' with Carlos Beltran
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) The Yankees are taking things slow with outfielder Carlos Beltran, and he won't be rushed into full throwing drills until he indicates he's ready, NJ.com reports.

"We're just taking it slow," manager Joe Girardi said. "He's done some throwing. We don't feel, with five weeks of games, there's really any reason to rush him. Guys do their work. But let's make sure he feels really good where he's at and we feel really good about where he's at."

Beltran had a bone spur removed from his elbow in October. He dealt with the issue throughout last season and hit just .233/.301/.402 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI in 403 at-bats. Beltran has performed light throwing drills and taken part in batting practice since reporting to camp Wednesday.


Miguel Montero trying to become workhorse with Cubs in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) New Cubs catcher Miguel Montero played the third most games behind the plate of all catchers in 2014 and he's not asking for any extra time off heading into 2015, reports MLB.com.

"I think the results of how you're playing as a team will dictate how you feel," Montero said. "You go to the playoffs, you're never tired. Your adrenaline goes so fast. You don't have time to think about, 'Oh, I've been catching 140 games.' Your mindset is, 'Let's go.'"

Manager Joe Maddon loves what he's seen from Montero, but knows expecting 162 games out of him is just too much.

"It won't be 162," Maddon said, "but we'll talk and try to figure out a nice little program to keep him on top of his game and provide that opportunity for other guys to play, too."


Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer focused bouncing back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is ready to get back on the field in 2015. After posting a 5-8 record with a 4.18 ERA in 26 starts last year, Bauer is starting to throw earlier than he usually does, reports MLB.com.

"This is the first time I've finished a year in the big leagues, so I had a month extra of season," Bauer said. "So that's one less month of the offseason. I'm used to targeting about the middle of February to be ready to go in games, so when I come to spring training I'm at peak level to try to make the team. That was really tough to do this offseason, just because I couldn't start throwing until Nov. 1."

Manager Terry Francona is not worried about his pitcher's focus for the upcoming season.

"Regardless of what you tell him, I think he has his own things that drive him every time he goes out," Francona said. "There's maybe a different purpose every time, but there's something he's trying to strive for. I don't think he really picks up a ball very often without a goal. Sometimes, I know he even charts it, just because it keeps him motivated to do the things he's aiming for."


 
 
 
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