In my Mega Baseball Preview post I had the White Sox finsihing 4th in the AL Central behind the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and (sigh) the Kansas City Royals. Replace the Twins with the Indians and that's how the White Sox finished the 2011 season. As a White Sox fan, I am not hopeful on how my Pale Hose will fare in this baseball season and after last season can you blame me? Since last season the White Sox seemingly traded away a handful of their best assets. They traded away their star closer Sergio Santos to Toronto for peanuts and OF Carlos Quentin to the San Diego Padres for some cracker jacks. I don't care if they ever come back. The only real addition the White Sox made was they made relief pitcher Chris Sale into a starter.
But I'm still holding out hope. I think if things break the right away and the White Sox get enough luck in one season (hey, it happened in 2005, maybe it can happen again. Maybe.) then the South Siders can at least stay in contention throughout this upcoming baseball season (Look at me. I'm like Angels In The Outfield kid where a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt didn't want his Angels to win the World Series- just the pennant, which means he just wanted the Angels to GET to the World Series. Come on man, at least wish for them to win it all! Anyways, I can only hope the White Sox stay in contention. I'm not wishing for them to make the playoffs because even *I* know that can not happen).
We all love Mark Teixeira right? The Yankees and Red Sox got into a bidding war for Tex when he hit free agency and now that he's the slugger for The Pinstripes he's an amazing offensive first baseman, right? While that is true, White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko has actually been better than Teixeira offensively for the last two years. The South Siders have a legitimate Power Slugger in the middle of their line up to not only help drive in runs but to get on base and move runners over.
Protecting Konerko will be Adam Dunn. I know how atrocious Dunn was last year but Adam Dunn is not, well, er, done. For the past seven years Dunn has put up 38 home runs like clockwork and then he comes over to the AL and hits 11. Over the past eight years, seven of those years he walked like crazy and was a power beast and then one year he does not (at least from a power perspective)? You know what you call that? You call that one year an outlier. Adam Dunn had his worst BABIP since 2004 and the worst ISO of his career in 2011. With some other players (see: below) I'm just hoping they play well. With Dunn, I KNOW he will play well in 2012. And by the way, despite Dunn hitting an atrocious .159 last year, he still had a .292 OBP. That on-base percentage is terrible on its own but coupled with that batting average and it is actually pretty darn good.
To complement Dunn and Konerko we will have Alexei Ramirez. For the past three years he has had a wOBA of .319, .322, and .319 respectively. He's not an amazing player but he definitely is a sold complementary guy who can steal a little and has a decent amount of pop. Hit batting average suffered a tiddly bit in 2011 but he also started taking more walks. I expect Ramirez to improve a little bit in 2012 and still be a solid top half of the line up type of guy.
Here's where my optimism comes in, with players like Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham, and Dayan Viciedo. While I am not expecting these guys to be great, or even above average in 2012, they COULD be.
If Alex Rios is an All-Star in 2012 would it surprise you? Absolutely not. He has been an All-Star before and has the skills to hit the ball, walk, hit the ball for power, and steal bases. In 2010, Alex Rios hit 21 home runs, stole 34 bases, with a .345 wOBA. it is certainly possible and easily within the realm of possibility that Rios in 2012 is more like his 2010 days than his 2011 days.
Next we have Gordon Beckham. This guy was a #8 overall pick, played college ball, was an elite prospect, and almost won Rookie Of The Year in 2009. He has all the skills to be good, but over the past few years he has not lived up to his potential posting a .305 wOBA (.317 OBP) and a .284 wOBA (.296 OBP) over the last two years respectively. Beckham has looked completely overmatched and overwhelmed at the plate the past two years and I personally think he should have been demoted to the minors leagues a year and a half ago. The only reason Beckham was brought up to The Show to begin with was not because the organization thought he was ready but because of injuries to the club's starters and back ups. I still think the organization should demote him (which is obviously why I'm not TOO optimistic) but like I said, with Beckham's talent, it would not surprise you if he pulls a 2011 Alex Gordon and becomes a post hype sleeper.
Lastly, we have Dayan Viciedo. This is the player who I think has the biggest outside chance to perform well offensively yet still be realistic for his to play well offensively. In AAA Charlotte last year Viciedo hit .296 with a .364 OBP and 20 home runs. Again, I do not believe Viciedo will play well but considering he's shown success in the minors and is not a random prospect from a decently touted player, and this post is all about if things broke well for the White Sox, it would not surprise me if Viciedo got extremely lucky in one season and played well offensively.
With A.J. Pierzynski, Brent Morel, and Alejandro De Aza it WOULD surprise me if they played well offensively. Can they? Sure, in any given year they CAN get lucky, but even in my wildest imagination where the White Sox have a good offense again I can not image these three players being a contributing factor.
I still would like to see this line up take more walks and be more willing to get on base though. While I am trying to be overly optimistic, I know that good offenses aren't how well the players perform in fantasy (which is kind of where my hope lies), but really how well will this team get on base and walk. The power is probably going to be there but I can not imagine the walks will. *sigh*
Even in a non-optimistic world, the White Sox have a nice little rotation with Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jake Peavy, Philip Humber, and Chris Sale. This rotation does not have a legitimate ace but you don't need one if you have five guys who all are, or have the potential to be, above average. Even after losing White Sox great Mark Buehrle and his 3.59 average over 205+ innings last year, White Sox rotation is still pretty good.
Excluding last year, John Danks has had an ERA of 3.72, 3.77, and 3.32 respectively over the past three seasons. Danks is not a good fantasy pitcher because he doesn't overwhelm batters and get a lot of strike outs but in terms of ACTUAL baseball the man eats up innings and can do it with a low ERA. Plus, over the last (actual) three season Danks has increased his strike out rate and decreased his walk rate.
Gavin Floyd has had an ERA over 4.00 the past three season but xFIP's of around 3.65 for those three seasons. There's no reason Floyd can not have an ERA of around 3.50 for the season. Do I expect it? No. Would I be surprised if it happen? Absolutely not.
Last year Philip Humber had an ERA of 3.75, a FIP of 3.58, and an xFIP 3.86. Those numbers suggest Humber did not get super unlucky, or really unlucky at all, in 2011. Humber, like Danks, is not a strike out pitcher but in reality I don't care about strikeouts if he eats innings and does not let guys score. While I do not expect Humber to have an ERA below 4.00, with Don Cooper as his pitching coach and being a guy so good the Twins wanted him to help replace Johan Santana, it is definitely within the realm of possibility Humber duplicates his 2011 season. This is certainly more logical than Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham being good again.
Chris Sale is an damn good prospect and was the best pitching prospect the White Sox had in their organization for the past two seasons. While we just do not know what Sale will do in 2012, with his talent, he will probably be the South Siders best pitcher in 2012.
I'm not going to have any delusions of grandeur that Jake Peavy will both be healthy AND pitch well in 2012 but I expect him to be the Sox's 5th pitcher and just go into a 4 man rotation when he spends time on the DL. All I can hope for is that Peavy has an ERA between 3.50 and 3.75 when he does pitch and considering he's a former Cy Young winner, he has the talent to do so.
This rotation can easily be one where every pitcher has an ERA under 4.00. I would like a legitimate ace to ease everyone back into a more natural role but if this rotation is even above average, they alone can make some noise in the weak AL Central.
The White Sox bullpen isn't half bad with Matt Thorton, Jesse Crain, and Will Ohman. The White Sox have consistently had an above average and consistent bullpen over the past few years. The closer of this team is still up in the air but once The Matt Thornton Experiment busts again like it did in 2011, flamethrower Addison Reed will become the next Sergio Santos. Speaking of Thornton, despite a 8.64 ERA in March and April, Thornton finished the year being Matt Thornton posting a 2.45 ERA and a 9.29 K/9. Even in my realistic world where I have the ChiSox finishing 4th in their division and not being in contention all year, I still expect them to have a good bullpen.
This is the only area where I am not going to be optimistic because I just can't. In a world where the pitching and hitting click, the defense just can't. I expect Alexei to be an elite fielder at shortstop, but that's about it. Paul Konerko has had seasons where he's not completely terrible at first but three out of his last four seasons he's posted negative defensive fielding.
Gordon Beckham posted a 4.9 Fielding Rating last year and with continued development and growth and being a shortstop in college you would think he could play second in the majors and he should be an above average defender. Brent Morel barely posted a Fielding Rating above 0.0 last year but considering the club is using him more for his defense than his offense, I'm realistically expecting a Fielding Rating above 0.0 (but probably below 1.0. Hey, it is still positive!). The same can be said Alejandro De Aza. While he posted a Fielding Rating above 9.0 last year, it was in a very small sample size. The fact remains is that we just do not know what De Aza will do defensively.
Dayan Viciedo has always been known to be a hitter and not a defender, that's why he will play left field. I also don't expect anything defensively good out of Pierzynski expect that I hope Tyler Flowers will play instead.
Lastly, we have Alex Rios. Words can not describe how bad Rios was defensively was in 2011. OK, he wasn't THAT bad, but Rios has been more terrible than good defensively since his time on the South Side. However, his Fielding Rating was amazing while he was in Toronto. Hopefully the move from center field to right field will help Rios return back to glory, but I wouldn't hold my breath about it.
I do not expect the White Sox to be spectacular defensively but I can hope for an overall defense that is not negative. If De Aza, Morel, and Beckham can post positive Fielding Ratings, Alexei to play elite, and for Konekro, Rios, and Viciedo to not take dumps on the field, then the weakest aspect of even my wildest hopes will just not HURT the White Sox.
In my ideal world, the White Sox will have above average pitching with above average hitting and then have their bullpen take the game over and close it out. In 2005, the White Sox had four pitcher have career years (Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, and Freddy Garcia). Things broke the right way that the Sox won 99 games, had the best record in the American League, and won the world series. If things break right for the 2012 White Sox, they'll win 94 wins in the terrible AL Central and thus win their division.
Again, let me make myself perfectly clear, (as if I have not already), I DO NOT EXPECT THE WHITE SOX TO BE GOOD. This post is just mentioning what if. What if this current White Sox team have players that reach their potential. If a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates or Houston Astros reach their potential they will still only win like 82 games at most. But not the White Sox.
One can dream can't they?
If you would like to comment on this post, please visit our facebook page