2013 Chicago White Sox Preview
After a season that started with hope and ended in disappointment the White Sox look to rebound in a much stronger American League Central Division in 2013.
The Chicago White Sox lived up to their preseason expectations in 2012, unfortunately those expectations were not high and while the ball club came out of the gates strong, they struggled to compete with division leader Detroit as the season wore on. Now the White Sox face a division which saw Detroit get stronger and both the Indians and the Royals improve dramatically with their offseason acquisitions. Meanwhile, Chicago made few moves to replace free agents Brett Myers, Francisco Liriano, A.J. Pierzynski and Kevin Youkilis and now look to be an underdog team as they head into the 2013 campaign.
The success of the White Sox 2013 campaign will live and die with their starting rotation. If lefty Chris Sale (17-8, 3.05 ERA) can repeat his phenomenal 2012 campaign then expect good things from the White Sox this season. Sale came out of nowhere last season and in his first year as a starting pitcher lit up opposing batters, fanning 192 batters in 192 innings and holding opposition to just .235. With workload restrictions off the table in 2013 Sale should have a fighting chance to best those numbers and could see himself emerge as a potential Cy Young candidate if he can put up the season that most are expecting from him. Jake Peavey will pitch behind Sale and he too had a good 2012 despite not getting the run support he deserved from his offense. Peavey went 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA and fanned 194 batters of his own last year. The White Sox will need dominance from both of these guys if they plan to finish above the .500 mark this season.
John Danks will pitch third if he is ready to break camp with the club, but given that he just six months removed from shoulder surgery, it remains to be seen if he will be ready to go on Opening Day. His 3-4 record and 5.70 ERA from 2012 are not to be worried about as he was clearly battling soreness last season, so if he can rebound once he is healthy and give the club a 4.50 ERA and 180 plus innings, his comeback will be considered a success. Following Danks will be one of the best number four men in baseball, Gavin Floyd (12-11, 4.29), who has a nasty curveball that can handle the likes of Detroit and Toronto with their power line-ups. Floyd is good for at least 170 innings and has proven that even number four guys are capable of putting up 12 to 14 wins for a ball club.
The final spot in the rotation is currently up for grabs, and it is not out of the question the manager Robin Ventura will attempt to use a combination of Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago and Dylan Axelrod in the number five slot. Lefties Quintana and Santiago had so-so 2012 seasons, often dealing with fatigue as the season drew longer, and either one could end up in the bullpen as a long reliever but rotate in and out of that position with the other to keep their arms rested.
The White Sox have a strong bullpen and while their closer, Addison Reed can make you want to pull your hair out at times, he is still lights out in save situations. The White Sox also have two solid young relievers in Nate Jones and Donnie Veal. Right hander Jones went 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA and lefty Veal was lights out going 0-0 with a 1.38 ERA. Both figure to be big parts of the bullpen this year and don’t be surprised of Jones ends up being the go-to guy in the 8 th inning to set up Reed. The emergence of those two should lighten the load on Matt Thornton, who was overtasked last season and his 4-10 record proves it. Matt Lindstrom was brought in to replace Myers and he should be an upgrade bringing with him a 1-0 record and a 2.86 ERA from 2012. Jesse Crain is the other lock for the bullpen, and after going 2-3 with a 2.44 ERA last season he should continue to improve and become another dominant player in a very strong bullpen. Axelrod, Santiago and Quintana will also figure into the mix, but exactly which of them makes the bullpen will be played out this spring as they compete for the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
As strong as the White Sox pitching looks on paper, their offense leaves a bit to be desired. The ball club did upgrade their number two hitter by bringing in Jeff Keppinger but he will have to repeat his .325 batting average from 2012 to be worth the $12 million they are paying him. They will need production from catcher Tyler Flowers who hit just .213 last season, and they will need to get something out of first baseman Adam Dunn who hit an anemic .204. Flowers has the ability to change his approach at the plate and work more walks, though he will probably start the season at or near the bottom of the order until he can prove that he can bat his way onto base consistently. Dunn on the other hand is a strike-out machine who does not appear to show any signs of that changing, and so expect to see him moved out of the number three spot and into the number five or six slot in favor of right fielder Alex Rios.
Putting Rios in the third slot gives the White Sox more speed and more power in the heart of their line-up and pairing him with DH Paul Konerko should provide the White Sox with a solid middle-line-up. Shortstop Alexi Ramirez, lead-off man centerfielder Alejandro De Aza and second baseman Gordon Beckham are all solid hitters and left fielder Dayan Viciedo has been spending time this offseason working on his approach at the plate which should improve his .255 batting average from 2012.
The White Sox are pretty tough to call this season. They should have solid pitching and their offense could go either way. If Flowers, Dunn and Viciedo have good seasons, the ball club should be able to score enough runs to keep pace in the AL Central. If all three have mediocre years and Keppinger is unable to live up to his expectations, the White Sox are going to struggle. With Detroit, Cleveland and Kansas City all making drastic improvements to their ball clubs this offseason, I still think Chicago is the odd-man out, and it seems fair that they will struggle offensively but ride their starting pitching to an 81-81 record and finish in fourth place just behind Kansas City but well ahead of the Minnesota Twins.
By Robert Gonzalez