With Spring Training right around the corner, what better time to start looking at all 30 MLB teams for the upcoming 2014 season? This will go alphabetically through the teams over the next 10 days before wrapping up with my final season preview that will include standings, playoffs, World Series, award picks and Top 50 prospects. Next: Cincinnati Reds.
2013 Record: 63-99 (Fifth in AL Central)
Key additions: Signed 1B Jose Abreu, RHP Mitchell Boggs, LHP Scott Downs; Traded for OF Adam Eaton, 3B Matt Davidson; Claimed C Adrian Nieto
Quick winter recap: It was pretty quiet but very productive for the South Siders as they made strides toward a less expensive and younger roster. Abreu, Eaton and Davidson represent the largest steps toward the future, though Abreu’s signing creates a log jam at first base and DH with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn.
Farm system outlook: Davidson immediately becomes Chicago’s top prospect followed by Courtney Hawkins. Outside of that the system is relatively weak and in need of being rebuilt. Erik Johnson will look to log a lot of innings at the big league level.
Most intriguing player: Abreu. It’s kind of difficult to project the 27-year-old Cuban. He will certainly bring the power, but what else? Is he going to be a mainstay at first or settle in as a designated hitter? Like all high-paid Cuban imports, he brings in a ton of questions and potential success. Whether he’ll be Yasiel Puig or Yeonis Cespedes is yet to be seen, but somewhere more toward Cespedes seems about right.
Due for a better year: Eaton. This one seems like an easy call and it probably is. Eaton only played 66 games for the Diamondbacks. His walk rate could use improving, but his strikeout rate was close to what is was in the minors. He will certainly benefit from playing time and the White Sox will be banking on him to be their everyday man in center while batting leadoff. An average in the .260-.270 range with 20 steals should be considered a great year.
Due for a worse year: Konerko. Paulie is likely to find himself the odd man out in platoon roles, losing time to Abreu and Dunn, considering Dunn doesn’t repeat his 2011 performance. In 2013, Konerko managed just 126 games and 12 home runs. His power was noticeably missing from the start of season and what seemed like a slightly down year in 2012 was a sign of things to come. His power dipped with his average, his strikeout rate jumped and his walk rate was lower as well. To his credit, his .244 average should have been better as he recorded only a .265 BABIP with a strong line drive rate.
2014 outlook: The Sox made quiet improvements for the most part this offseason. A massive deal for Abreu was making noise, but overall they did a nice job and it should transfer over, somewhat, into the regular season. There’s still far too many questions on this team to safely say a basement finish won’t happen. The infield is loaded with question marks and even more are present in the pitching staff. Odds are this is definitely a 90-loss team, but a decent start to the future has been built.
Prediction: 72-90 (Fourth in AL Central)