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Saturday, March 1, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Chicago White Sox

Wild on Sports
MLB 2014 Team Preview: Chicago White Sox
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Doorman

2013 Overview:
It’s finally time to hit the reset button. After surprise contention in 2012, the White Sox played more to their true talent level last year; an old, boring roster with little depth or rookie reinforcements. The long-overdue overhaul had actually begun the year before, when Chicago let go of guys like Mark Buehrle and Carlos Quentin, but by the middle of the season the rebuilding was fully underway; goodbye Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and Jesse Crain. Hello high draft picks.

Winter Grade:
Coming: Jose Abreu, Matt Davidson, Adam Eaton
Going: Hector Santiago, Addison Reed
The mid-season deals looked like standard salary dumps, but this winter’s talent exchanges seem rather inspired. So what if they’re just taking advantage of Arizona’s bizarre and misguided mistakes? Current GM Rich Hahn was long thought to be an integral part of Chicago’s success in the mid-late part of last decade, and this winter he may have proved it, adding significant young pieces without having to give up much that will be missed. Reed is a generic mid-tier closer, while Santiago couldn’t hold up for a full season in the rotation. Chicago has a good track record of success mining the Cuban refugee talent base, and Jose Abreu could be a nice replacement for long-time White Sock Paul Konerko.

Wild Card(s):
Dayan Viciedo is still young enough to make some strides with the bat, and he’ll have plenty of room to do it considering this is not a year in which Chicago can realistically expect to contend. Even if he’s not a consistent 25-30 HR threat, some extra plate discipline would go a long way towards making him a league average regular.

Key Contract Years:
Adam Dunn, and that’s it. Paul Konerko is already nothing more than a glorified bench coach/veteran presence at this point, and Dunn may be close behind. Considering how useless his bat has been in two of the past three years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dunn get released before the end of the year, or for this to be his last season logging real time in the majors.

Abreu will be the Opening Day first baseman, and he’s 27 so the future for him is right now. Matt Davidson could be an immediate power threat at third base, and if he makes strides on defense, so much the better. Erik Johnson should get a chance in the rotation, and he has mid-rotation upside. Later on in the season, infielder Marcus Siemens could take over for the perennially disappointing Gordon Beckham at second base.

Key Questions:
How will the outfield rotation get resolved?
Is Alejandro de Aza now a fourth outfielder?
Does Chicago have any pieces left to trade for prospects?
Will they completely bite the bullet and instigate a Chris Sale sale?

Farm System Overview: RED (below average)
Chicago’s farm system is a marked improvement over past years, but the organization still suffers from lack of high-end talent and overall depth. None of their current prospects can safely project to be a star, although some of their rookies this year could help immediately as everyday average regulars, which is still very valuable. After drafting Tim Anderson in the first round last year, Chicago now has a glut of speedy middle infielders, none of whom project for much power. Next year, Courtney Hawkins could emerge as a potential blue-chip asset but he was badly rushed, so he’ll have to hit better than .178.

2014 Prognosis: Rebuilding
…But they have stepped away from the abyss, which is great news. This year could be a little rough as Chicago tries to solidify a new core, but they should be in a reasonable position going forward into 2015 and beyond. Theoretically things could break right and this team could hover around .500 as they did in 2012, but that’s a real long shot and I think the White Sox are better off selling some more guys. It would be a tough pill to swallow, but trading Chris Sale could really help transform the roster going forward.


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