The 2009 White Sox will try to improve on an inconsistent offensive season in 2007 and 2008. Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen have stressed getting back to "small ball."
Having a stationary offense that relies on the long ball hasn't allowed them to be quite consistent enough over a long period of time during a season.
Of the five spots in the infield, there are three people that you can pencil in.
They are: Paul Konerko at first base, Alexei Ramirez making the move over from second base to shortstop, and A.J. Pierzynski again with the majority of the duties behind the plate.
Look for Josh Fields to get the nod at third, with Wilson Betemit as the utility infielder and 19-year-old Cuban phenom Dayan Viciedo starting out in the minor leagues. Second base is where the biggest question lingers.
As of right now, it is a three man race. Coveted prospect Chris Getz has received much praise as a "Nick Punto-type player," and we all know that the Sox need a fundamentally sound player who can lay down a bunt or two.
The other two competitors are free agent acquisition Jayson Nix and Brent Lillibridge, who was acquired in the Javier Vazquez deal with Atlanta.
Getz has the upper hand, but any one of these guys could crack the opening day lineup with a very strong spring training.
Barring a trade, Jermaine Dye will be the starter in right field and the ever-promising Carlos Quentin will be in left. The question mark in the outfield is in center, where Jerry Owens, Dewayne Wise, and possibly Brent Lillibridge will battle it out.
With Lillibridge having a better shot at being the backup second baseman/shortstop, Wise and Owens have the best opportunity of the three. The fact to be noted is that both of these guys are out of options, so one will be with the opening day roster and one will no longer be a member of the White Sox.
I assume Owens will come out of spring training with the nod, mainly because he is so much younger than the almost 31-year-old Wise. There is a good chance Owens would be much more effective on the base paths come August and September.
1. CF-Jerry Owens
2. C-A.J. Pierzynski
3. LF-Carlos Quentin
4. RF-Jermaine Dye
5. DH-Jim Thome
6. 1B-Paul Konerko
7. SS-Alexei Ramirez
8. 3B-Josh Fields
9. 2B-Chris Getz
Obviously, there are a few guys in the lineup who are questionable when it comes to being able to consistently produce during the 162-game marathon we call the regular season. But, if these guys all play near or up to their potential, this could be a deadly lineup.
The team has a speed demon leading off in Owens, who in the second half of '07 hit about .280 and stole over 30 bases. Next, they have a smart veteran in Pierzynski, who did a phenomenal job hitting second last year.
Then comes the meat of the order.
Hitting third will be Carlos Quentin. After the success he had in this spot last year, there is absolutely no reason to mess with that. Same explanation for Dye hitting clean up. After that, comes the still-productive Jim Thome, who can hit it over the fence at any time and instills fear in pitchers with every pitch.
We all know that Konerko has been a disappointment the last two seasons, but I feel that starting the season as the number six hitter will take a lot of pressure off of his shoulders, which should be a help.
Also, he has had more preparation for this season than any other in his career, which he started last weekend at Sox Fest.
The bottom of the order starts off with the Cuban Missile, Alexei Ramirez. Ozzie has said he will remain in a similar spot as last year due to his success. Flipping him and Pierzynski in the order was considered, but since both had a solid season in '08, there really is no need to do so.
Hitting eighth is Fields, who can hopefully build on the 23 home runs he had in '07. The key for him is to stay away from the strikeout.
Last but not least is Chris Getz. I feel that he will be a key to our lineup.
I actually see Getz as the perfect ninth hitter, because he knows how to get on base, lay down a bunt, and do pretty much whatever is asked of him. You can't ask for anything more than a fundamentally sound player wrapping up your order.