StrategyFebruary 20, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox

By Michael Kropman

Entering the 2012 season, the Chicago White Sox seemed to be in a pretty tough spot. Not only were they coming off a sub-.500 season marred with injuries and under-performance, GM Kenny Williams seemed to be in a bit of a rebuilding mode, shipping off key pieces of seasons past, such as Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin, Juan Pierre and Sergio Santos. The problem was, he didn’t really do a whole lot to replace them.

Apparently, he must have known something that the rest of us didn’t, and the 2012 White Sox actually improved to an 85-77 mark in 2012, thanks to the combination of bounce-back, breakout and out-of-nowhere seasons from almost the entire roster (well, those not named Gordon Beckham, anyway). While the playoffs eluded them, the 2012 White Sox did give the heavily favored Detroit Tigers a run for their money.

Despite the improvement, the White Sox go into the 2013 season with a ton of questions. If last season’s individual gains don’t stick (which is not an unreasonable assumption), the Pale Hose could slip back into 2011 territory or worse. With next-to-no help on the horizon by way of their minor league system, the White Sox’ window could be closing fast.

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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Tyler Flowers.213.296.412197132153 
1B Paul Konerko.298.371.4866626750598 
2B Gordon Beckham.234.296.3716216605582 
SS Alexei Ramirez.265.287.3645997320621 
3B Jeff Keppinger.325.367.439469401418w/TB
LF Dayan Viciedo.255.300.4446425780543 
CF Alejandro De Aza.281.349.4108195026585 
RF Alex Rios.304.334.51693259123640 
DH Adam Dunn.204.333.4688741962649 

Unsettled: Catcher. Well, A.J. Pierzynski sure knows how to play for a contract. After the 36-year-old bested his career highs in nearly every category, he promptly signed with the Rangers for $7.5 million. It seems the White Sox didn’t expect a repeat in 2013, and neither should you. However, that has left Robin Ventura with a bit of a hole behind the plate. As of right now, monster slugger Tyler Flowers is penciled in as the starter and makes for an interesting watch-list candidate. While he has 30-HR power in his bat, he also has the potential to strike out at a rate that would compete with teammate Adam Dunn. If the 27-year-old can improve upon his .179 batting average against right-handers in his first shot at full-time duty, he could put up some great value. If things go badly, however, he’ll be relegated to part time duty with fantasy non-factor Hector Gimenez.
Target: Alex Rios. I was quite high on Rios as a value pick in 2012, even recommending him as a target in this very space last year. He definitely made me look smart, as he surpassed even what I had expected. While a repeat of last season’s numbers is unlikely, I think the initial perception of his 2013 potential is more negative than it should be. Yes, his average was buoyed by a .323 BABIP last season, but it’s not an unreasonable number considering Rios’s speed and line-drive percentage. Even if it does regress, I still think a .280 average is doable, and may even be a bit on the low side.

I think the main reason Rios is ranked so low, however, is because of his horrific 2011 season. Many potential drafters see that as Rios’s downside, but I consider it more of an outlier driven more by awful luck (his .237 BABIP that season was 71 points lower than his career mark), as well as a season full of tinkering with his stance, which he admitted had a huge effect on his comfort level. With a more basic and consistent approach at the plate in 2012, he surpassed even the most optimistic expectations. While I don’t think a repeat in 2013 is likely, a 20/20 season with solid counting stats seems to be a pretty safe bet. His average draft position as listed on Fantasy Pros is currently in the late 80s (15 spots behind similarly skilled Shin-Soo Choo), and I’d be thrilled if I could get him that late.
The Rotation

Chris Sale (L)17-83.051.1419251192.0 
Jake Peavy (R)11-123.371.1019449219.0 
John Danks (L)3-45.701.49302353.2 
Gavin Floyd (R)12-114.291.3614463168.0 
Jose Quintana (L)6-63.761.358142136.1 

Unsettled: On the surface, the White Sox rotation looks solid, if unspectacular. There is quite a bit of risk lurking in the background, however. While Chris Sale and Jake Peavy were amazing last season, there are questions as to whether they can hold up for another 200 innings considering Sale’s innings bump and Peavy’s health history. Also, Gavin Floyd and John Danks are returning from elbow and shoulder DL stints, respectively, making their 2013 projections murky as well. Currently slotted in the five-spot, Jose Quintana is a serviceable, if unspectacular, 24-year-old that did a nice job as a fill-in last season. Due to a little luck, his numbers looked a good bit better than they should have, and while he currently has a rotation spot, his grasp on it is tenuous, and another gentleman is waiting impatiently in the wings.
Target: Hector Santiago. When Sergio Santos left town, young strikeout artist Hector Santiago was given the opportunity to close games out at the beginning of the 2012 season. Unfortunately, giving up four home runs in 6.1 April innings promptly lost him the job, and he was forced into middle relief for a few months. As a reliever, he coupled high strikeout rates (10.1 K/9) with high walk rates (5.1 BB/9), often struggling to harness his impressive repertoire of pitches. However, when given the opportunity to start a few games in September, something seemed to click, and in 19 innings as a starter, he piled up 26 strikeouts to 11 walks, culminating in seven innings of one-hit, one-walk baseball to go with 10 strikeouts against Cleveland on the final game of the season. With John Danks looking like a possible scratch to start the season, Santiago may get a shot to build on his late season success. If he has shown the ability to cut down his walks, he could be a very pleasant surprise in the upcoming season. While I wouldn’t draft him, he’s a guy I plan on keeping a sharp eye on in spring training.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Addison Reed (R)294.751.36551855.0 
Matt Thornton (L)33.461.23531765.0 

Chasing Saves: Long seen as Chicago’s closer of the future, Addison Reed finally got his chance in May and held the job for the rest of the season. While his 4.75 ERA and 1.36 WHIP were a bit underwhelming, he’s still only 24 years old and has a track record of dominance in the minors. I’d be perfectly fine with him as my No. 2 closer, as his hold on the job is firm and his upside is quite high. If he does stumble at some point, the reliable Matt Thornton is still in the fold to hold down the fort and pick up the occasional save.
Final Thoughts
As last year proved, the White Sox have the offensive and pitching firepower to challenge for the AL Central crown, but age and injuries are very real roadblocks they will have to overcome if they hope to dethrone the mighty Tigers. Will their high upside youngsters step up and help them do just that, or is a repeat of 2011 on the horizon? Only time will tell.
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.
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