You know the guy in your league whose team doesn’t look too bad on draft day, and then in July, they’re in dead last wondering what happened? That was the story of the 2011 Chicago White Sox. Despite a seemingly solid veteran offense, the White Sox decided they could use more pop and signed Adam Dunn, a hitter long lauded for his almost eerie consistency in the power department. He then proceeded to dash their hopes for him, hitting a putrid .159 with only 11 home runs, “good” for a -2.9 WAR. On the pitching side, the White Sox boasted a steady trio of starters that had given the offense more than enough support to win in the past. Despite having a look of a team ready to contend for the AL Central title, the White Sox’ combination of underachievement and bad luck caused them to stumble to a 79-83 record, good for third in their division.
Aside from losing polarizing manager Ozzie Guillen (which may or may not be a good thing), the Sox also lost Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre, Mark Buehrle and Sergio Santos, hinting that they may be in rebuilding mode. The problem is, they have an awful farm system (ranked dead last by Baseball America) with not much help in sight. If current players don’t step up, and fortunes don’t turn, this could be a very long season for the Southsiders.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C A.J. Pierzynski||.287||.323||.405||38||8||48||0||464|
|1B Paul Konerko||.300||.388||.517||69||31||105||1||543|
|2B Gordon Beckham||.230||.296||.337||60||10||44||5||499|
|SS Alexei Ramirez||.269||.328||.399||81||15||70||7||614|
|3B Brent Morel||.245||.287||.366||44||10||41||5||413|
|LF Alejandro De Aza||.329||.400||.520||29||4||23||12||152|
|CF Alex Rios||.227||.265||.348||64||13||44||11||537|
|RF Dayan Viciedo||.255||.327||.314||11||1||6||1||102|
|DH Adam Dunn||.159||.292||.277||36||11||42||0||415|
Unsettled: Right Field. While there are many shaky starters on the White Sox offense, there are surprisingly few position battles. As of right now, stocky slugger Dayan Viciedo is penciled in as the starting right fielder. While he has displayed good power in the minors, his walk and strikeout rates leave something to be desired. If he stumbles out of the gate, utilityman Brent Lillibridge may see increased time there. While he popped 13 home runs last season in only 186 at bats, I wouldn’t get overly excited. His home run to fly ball rate was a ridiculous 21%, which is sure to push Lillibridge into platoon territory at best.
Target: Alex Rios. And so the hit rate rollercoaster continues. Right as it seemed as if Rios’s 2009 .280 BABIP was firmly in his rear view, his luck found new lows last season in the form of an awful .240 BABIP. While it is a bit worrisome that his line drive rate has gone down over the past few years while his ground ball rate has risen, they still weren’t much different from 2010, when he batted .284 with a BABIP more in line with his career norms. His MDP is currently 228, so you won’t have to sacrifice much to acquire what could turn out to be a decent five-category contributor.
|John Danks (L)||8-12||4.33||1.34||135||46||170.1|
|Gavin Floyd (R)||12-13||4.37||1.16||151||45||193.2|
|Jake Peavy (R)||7-7||4.92||1.26||95||24||111.2|
|Phil Humber (R)||9-9||3.75||1.18||116||41||163.0|
|Chris Sale (L)||2-2||2.79||1.11||79||27||71.0||RP|
Unsettled: Jake Peavy’s health. Remember when Jake Peavy was a perennial Cy Young contender? That sure was a long time ago. These days, he’ll struggle to crank out 150 innings of average production. Granted, he was quite unlucky last season, but the injury risk alone presents a need for a backup plan. If (when?) Peavy goes down, youngster Zach Stewart will be pressed into duty. While Stewart was less than spectacular last season, there is a silver lining in that he’s only 25 years old and has the makings of a decent ground ball pitcher.
Target: Chris Sale. Why is no one talking about him? Everyone seems to be looking for the next young pitcher to take the leap into elite territory, but Chris Sale tends to go oddly unmentioned. As recently as last season, there were scouts that had Sale above Matt Moore and Michael Pineda in prospect lists. He did nothing to lower expectations last season, mowing down 10 hitters per nine while posting a sparkling 3.00 xFIP over 71 innings in relief.
This season, Chicago plans on moving the 23-year-old into the rotation, where he makes for a very intriguing late round pickup. While his innings will surely be capped and his numbers will dip a bit in the rotation, he still has amazing upside. His MDP is a ridiculous 230, which I don’t understand at all. I plan on having Sale as my No. 5 starter in every league I can. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to expect 150 innings of an ERA in the mid 3.00s with 8.0 to 9.0 K/9 and potential for a good bit more.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Matt Thornton (L)||3||3.32||1.36||63||21||59.2|
|Jesse Crain (R)||1||2.62||1.24||70||31||59.2|
Chasing Saves: If the White Sox had anyone else other than Ozzie Guillen manning the helm last season, we might be discussing Matt Thornton as a nice third-tier closer option right now. However, after a mere six games, Thornton was yanked from the role at the end of April and Sergio Santos ran with it. Two things give hope that Thornton can succeed as a closer in 2012. First off, his April performance was not helped by a .406 BABIP and absolutely silly 33% strand rate. Secondly, his numbers from May on were just as dominant as ever, posting FIPs of 2.70, 2.51, 0.63, 2.17, and 1.94, respectively.
As of right now, Robin Ventura seems willing to start the season with Thornton as his closer. While electric rookie Addison Reed is looked at as the closer of the future for the Chi-Sox, the job is currently Thornton’s to lose. If he can hold the job all season, he could return great value as a No. 3 closer on your fantasy squad.
Looking at last season’s performance along with the offseason losses the White Sox sustained, it doesn’t seem too bright in the south side of Chicago for 2012. There is, however, some sneaky potential in the lineup, rotation, and bullpen. If things break right, the White Sox may surprise in the upcoming season. If not, a repeat of 2011, or worse, is entirely possible.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Cleveland Indians.
Mike Kropman is a transplanted New Yorker currently teaching high school math up in tiny little Rhode Island. He enjoys P90X, Unibroue, pitchers duels, and Super Bowl 42. You can catch up with him in the Cafe under the user name Inukchuk.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!