By Kyle Johansen @kylejohansen on March 12, 2014
The Chicago White Sox had a productive offseason as they added potential big league pieces from a variety of sources. The White Sox acquired players internationally, via free agency, trades and the waiver wire to fill out a roster that will look drastically different from a year ago. Key spring battles will be on the pitching staff as the Sox look to anoint a new closer and add two new starting pitchers to the back of the rotation.
Adam Eaton burst into the prospect spotlight in 2012 at Triple-A where he hit .381/.456/.539 with seven home runs and 38 steals in 562 plate appearances. Eaton suffered an elbow injury early last year and it was essentially a lost season for the 25-year-old. Eaton plays with a toughness similar to former White Sox center fielder Aaron Rowand and may soon become a fan favorite with his exciting style of play.
While Alexei Ramirez no longer has the power he once displayed having hit 15 combined home runs in the past two seasons, he has begun to steal bases at will. After a 20-steal campaign in 2012, Ramirez upped his total to 30 stolen bases in 2013 to go along with his best batting average (.284) since his first season with the Sox in 2008.
The hyperbole that is tossed around regarding Jose Abreu is understandable when you look at his eye-popping numbers in Cuba. The slugger hit .399 and slugged .822 with 30 home runs in 286 at-bats during 2010, only to follow that campaign up with an insane 1.583 OPS in 2011. He has been called the best hitter in the world, and while that is very likely not the case, it will be fun to find out just how good he can be.
Acquiring Avisail Garcia in a three-team trade with the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers marked the first key acquisition for Rick Hahn in his first year as GM for the White Sox. Garcia is a young and talented outfielder who is well-built at 6-foot-4 and 240-pounds, but he is prone to the strikeout and does not have much patience at the plate. Garcia has a high ceiling but will need to make some adjustments to reach his potential.
Adam Dunn gets a raw deal because of his huge strikeout totals and absurdly low batting average, but the hate Dunn receives is misplaced. While Dunn is no longer the player he once was, routinely putting up an OPS around .900, he is still a valuable player and useful to the White Sox. It may not look pretty, but Dunn had an OPS of .800 in 2012 and .762 in 2013, showing he is still an above average offensive player.
Dayan Viciedo was a major international signing for the White Sox in the winter of 2008, signing a four-year Major League contract worth million. Viciedo is only 25, but he does not show patience at the plate and hasn’t hit for a high batting average, leading to on-base percentages of just .300 in 2012 and .304 in 2013. Viciedo has time to continue developing but has shown no signs of improvement and may eventually wind up on the bench.
Back in 2009 when former first-round pick Gordon Beckham made his debut with the White Sox, stardom seemed all but assured for the second baseman out of Georgia. However, after that 103-game performance in which Beckham put up an OPS of .808, he has failed to reach a .700 OPS in the four seasons that followed. Beckham is now 27 years old, and it’s time to put up or shut up if he is going to have a future in Chicago.
The White Sox revealed what they thought of Conor Gillaspie’s long-term role on the team when they traded for Matt Davidson to be their long-term third baseman, but the Sox can delay Davidson's service clock with 61 days at Triple-A. Gillaspie is out of options meaning he cannot be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers. He proved last season that while he may not be a long term answer at third, he still belongs in the big leagues.
If Adam Dunn has a strikeout problem then Tyler Flowers has a strikeout addiction. After a 36.6 percent strikeout rate in 2012, Flowers was only able to knock that down to 34.2 percent in 2013. Unless a player is hitting 40 home runs a season, it is nearly impossible to be productive when striking out at a rate of over 30 percent. Tyler Flowers should get another chance but he will need to improve in a hurry to have any future on the South Side.
Paul Konerko considered retirement during the offseason but chose to come back to the White Sox despite the presence of Adam Dunn and Jose Abreu. Konerko realizes that he will not play every day, will split time with Dunn at DH and play first base when the Sox want to give Abreu a rest.
After the White Sox traded for Adam Eaton and Avisail Garcia, Alejandro De Aza suddenly found himself in a crowded locker room of outfielders. Unfortunately for De Aza, the White Sox also have more money invested in the development of Dayan Viciedo which will may result in extra time on the bench for De Aza. Outside of an injury to Viciedo, De Aza's best chance for playing time may be if the White Sox choose to use a strict platoon in left field.
Jeff Keppinger was able to parlay a career year in 2012 into a three-year, million deal with the White Sox prior to last season. While the contract is far from a burden, the White Sox are now locked into a million utility player when they have capable younger players who can fill the same role at the league minimum. Keppinger will likely platoon at third base with Conner Gillaspie until Matt Davidson is ready to take over full-time.
White Sox Rule 5 draft pick Adrian Nieto has incredible patience at the plate, consistently walking in over 10 percent of his plate appearances in the minor leagues. He has only played as high as advanced-A ball, but was impressive last year in the Nationals' system hitting .285/.373/.449 with 11 home runs. Given the dearth of catching in their system, it's likely that Nieto will get a chance to show what he can do for the Sox.
Chris Sale has been nothing short of brilliant during his young career with the White Sox. In 500.2 total innings for the White Sox since 2010, Sale has compiled 529 strikeouts, a 2.97 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with a 3.95 K/BB ratio. He also continues to get better as he increased his strikeout rate to 9.49 K/9 last season while decreasing his walk rate to a minuscule 1.93 BB/9.
Jose Quintana continued to prove doubters wrong in 2013 and improved across the board from a decent rookie season in 2012. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Quintana lowered his ERA to 3.51 and lowered his walks while increasing his strikeouts enough to raise his K/BB ratio from 1.93 in 2012 to 2.93 in 2013. In doing so, Jose Quintana established himself as the clear No. 2 in the White Sox' rotation.
While John Danks had decent peripherals last year such as a 3.30 K/BB and a 1.29 WHIP, he gave up an inordinate amount of home runs which led to a bloated 4.85 ERA. At 1.82 HR/9 last season, Danks gave up home runs at nearly twice the rate that is generally deemed acceptable (1.00 HR/9). If Danks can lower his home runs allowed he may get his ERA down to around 4.00 in 2014.
Erik Johnson is the White Sox' No. 1 prospect and breezed through the minor leagues on his way to a late call-up to the majors in 2013. He has a big frame at 6-foot-3, 235-pounds and has an easy delivery that allows him to have strong command on the mound. Johnson has a nasty slider that touches 90 mph as well as a curveball, giving him a solid three-pitch arsenal. Johnson is a near lock for the rotation and could make an impact as a rookie.
Felipe Paulino will be given every chance to win a job in the White Sox rotation after being signed for .95 million with a million club option for 2015. Paulino last pitched for the Royals in 2012 and had success with a 1.67 ERA in 37.2 innings pitched before undergoing Tommy John surgery. With a fastball that can reach 95 mph and strong strikeout rates in the past, the White Sox could do a lot worse for their fifth starter.
Nate Jones is the assumed closer after the Sox traded Addison Reed to acquire third baseman Matt Davidson. Jones has the stuff to be a successful closer and struck out 89 batters in 78 innings pitched last year. While his ERA was 4.15, his FIP was 2.64 showing that he was more than a little unlucky in 2013. If he wins the job, Jones has a chance to be even more successful than Reed and the White Sox will have created another valuable a
Matt Lindstrom is the veteran in the bullpen and slots in well as the primary setup man. Lindstrom had a strong season across the board in 2013, though he did regress a bit from the 2.68 ERA he had in 2012. Lindstrom should continue to be a generally reliable option at the end of the Sox bullpen.
The White Sox signed Ronald Belisario to a one-year, million deal in the offseason and now control his rights through 2016. Belisario has had success in the past as a reliever, compiling a 3.29 ERA in 265 career innings. While Belisario’s ERA slipped from 2.54 in 2012 to 3.97 in 2013, he continued to induce ground balls at an extremely high rate of 61.4 percent with a hard sinking fastball that averaged 94.4 mph in 2012.
The White Sox signed Scott Downs to a one-year deal worth million guaranteed, including an option for 2015 at .25 million. Downs joins Lindstrom as the other veteran reliever, having come up in the initially back when the Expos were still a team. Downs has carved out a nice career as a left-handed reliever and should be another reliable option for the Sox.
Mitchell Boggs is another offseason acquisition the Sox made as part of a complete overhaul of the bullpen. Boggs is now controlled by the Sox through 2015 as he will be arbitration eligible for the last time following the 2014 season. Boggs had a breakout season for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, but after a rough start to 2013, the Cards cut him loose. Boggs has shown decent command in the past and is a low-risk pickup that adds solid depth.
Daniel Webb has a fastball that can reach 100 mph, and he cruised through three levels of the minor leagues last year and received a late call-up to the Sox at the end of the year. In 62.2 combined innings last year in the minors, Webb compiled a 1.87 ERA with 78 strikeouts and 27 walks. Webb should be another piece of a strongly rebuilt White Sox bullpen and is a sleeper candidate to take the closer job and run with it.
Eric Surkamp is an interesting case as he came back from Tommy John surgery last year to post a 2.78 ERA in 71.1 innings at Triple-A. Surkamp is a big lefty at 6-foot-5, 215-pounds and looks to be a nice pickup by the Sox. While he has the ability to start, Surkamp will likely pushed to a bullpen role and should be able to beat out Charlie Leesman and Donnie Veal for the final roster spot.
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