Chicago White Sox: How They Currently Rank at Each Position in the AL Central
As the second half of the season begins, the Chicago White Sox find themselves in a position few people thought they would be in.
And that position is first place.
Now the task is to try to remain there, which won't be easy.
They have 15 games remaining with Minnesota, 10 with Detroit, nine with Kansas City and six with Cleveland.
You would think that sets up nicely since 24 of the 40 games are against the bottom two teams in the division, but as most White Sox fans already know, the Twins and Royals play the Sox just about as tough as anybody.
So there's no doubt the White Sox are going to have to play some good baseball down the stretch in order to capture the division.
Every series becomes more important as they get later into the season, especially within the division.
Since they will be spending so much time playing teams within their own division, it would be nice to know what they're up against.
Here's a look at how I feel the White Sox stack up at each position against the other teams in the AL Central prior to the July 31st trade deadline.
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1. Prince Fielder (Detroit)
2. Paul Konerko (Chicago)
3. Justin Morneau (Minnesota)
4. Eric Hosmer (Kansas City)
5. Casey Kotchman (Cleveland)
As much as I love Konerko, I have to give the nod to Fielder here.
Fielder and Konerko were both All-Stars, and while Konerko has been near the top of the league in hitting all year, Fielder gets the nod here because he has more home runs and RBI than Konerko while still hitting around the .300 mark.
At one time Morneau was at the top of this list, but ever since his battle with a concussion he hasn't quite been the same player.
Eric Hosmer is a young player with a ton of potential, while Casey Kotchman is a decent veteran first baseman, but doesn't stack up with the rest of the talent at this position.
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1. Jason Kipnis (Cleveland)
2. Gordon Beckham (Chicago)
3. Yuniesky Betancourt/Chris Getz (Kansas City)
4. Alexi Casilla/Jamey Carroll (Minnesota)
5. Ramon Santiago/Ryan Raburn (Detroit)
Jason Kipnis has shot to the top of this list fairly quickly. In his first full season at second base Kipnis is hitting .277 with 11 home runs and 49 RBI, which projects to some big numbers.
Beckham is starting to turn the corner at the plate and show people why he was so highly regarded coming out of Georgia. He should be a fixture at second base for the White Sox for years to come.
There is a reason that the rest of the second basemen on this list split time with other members of their team, and that's because for the most part, they are all just average utility-type players. Betancourt had a couple nice years for KC, but other than that there isn't much on this list.
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1. Asdrubal Cabrera (Cleveland)
2. Alexei Ramirez (Chicago)
3. Alcides Escobar (Kansas City)
4. Jhonny Peralta (Detroit)
5. Bryan Dozier/Jamey Carroll (Minnesota)
Cabrera was selected to his second straight All-Star game and is the best the AL Central has to offer at the shortstop position, but Alexei Ramirez isn't far behind.
Ramirez is a notorious slow starter and that remained the case this year, but he has begun to heat up at the plate recently, which is typical for him over his career.
Escobar is an up-and-coming player at the position. He leads all shortstops in the AL Central with a .311 batting average and makes all the plays defensively. He is someone to watch over the next few years.
Peralta was once higher on this list, but is having a subpar season for his standards. He is still a solid option at shortstop, but has fallen off a bit.
Dozier and Carroll split time with Minnesota who is in the midst of an awful year.
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1. Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)
2. Mike Moustakas (Kansas City)
3. Kevin Youkilis (Chicago)
4. Trevor Plouffe (Minnesota)
5. Jack Hannahan/Jose Lopez (Cleveland)
I think it's fair to say that Cabrera is definitely the class of this group. He is a seven-time All-Star who is again putting up monster numbers in Detroit.
Moustakas may be a bit of an unknown to many people, but he may not be for long. He is another one of Kansas City's young group of players that is turning some heads.
Youkilis has made a huge impact since joining the White Sox and is doing a good job of proving that he can still play every day.
Plouffe is showing that he can hit for power in Minnesota, while Hannahan and Lopez split time in Cleveland.
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1. Josh Willingham (Minnesota)
2. Dayan Viciedo (Chicago)
3. Alex Gordon (Kansas City)
4. Andy Dirks/Quintin Berry/Ryan Raburn (Detroit)
5. Shelley Duncan/Johnny Damon (Cleveland)
It may be a bit of a surprise to see Willingham at the top of this list, but as of now he is probably the most productive left fielder in the division, with Viciedo a close second.
Viciedo is a star on the rise and may be at the top of this list soon. He has big power and can hit to all fields, which makes him dangerous.
Alex Gordon is a guy who has moved around during his career in Kansas City, but has found a home in left field and has been fairly productive.
In Detroit and Cleveland they have been platooning guys depending on matchups. However, Berry is showing signs of being a nice, young player. Duncan and Damon haven't done much at all in Cleveland.
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1. Austin Jackson (Detroit)
2. Michael Brantley (Cleveland)
3. Alejandro De Aza (Chicago)
4. Denard Span (Minnesota)
5. Jared Dyson (Kansas City)
There are come pretty good center fielders in the AL Central, but Austin Jackson is probably at the top of the list, although both Brantley and De Aza could make an argument for the top spot.
Jackson has by far the best average at .332 and has shown the most power with nine home runs, but Brantley has the most RBI and De Aza has the most runs scored and stolen bases.
Denard Span is a solid center fielder in his own right, but doesn't quite have the numbers this year to match the top three.
Dyson is yet another Kansas City youngster with potential, but he hasn't done a whole lot so far this season.
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1. Alex Rios (Chicago)
2. Shin-Soo Choo (Cleveland)
3. Brennan Boesch (Detroit)
4. Jeff Francoeur (Kansas City)
5. Ben Revere (Minnesota)
If I would have made this list last season, Alex Rios would have been at the bottom, but what a difference a year makes.
Rios has been pounding the ball all season for the White Sox and leads all the right fielders in almost every category.
If not for Rios having a big season, Choo would be at the top of this list. He is having another solid all-around season in Cleveland.
Boesch is a young guy who has shown signs that he could be a very nice player in Detroit for a while.
Francoeur has done a decent job in Kansas City and Revere is another young guy in the division who has flashed signs of potential.
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1. A.J. Pierzynski (Chicago)
2. Joe Mauer (Minnesota)
3. Alex Avila (Detroit)
4. Carlos Santana (Cleveland)
5. Salvador Perez/Brayan Pena (Kansas City)
I know that Joe Mauer is a five time All-Star and owns a .324 lifetime batting average, but Pierzynski has been the best catcher in the AL Central this year.
The fact that Pierzynski didn't make the All-Star team this season is a joke. He is second for catchers with 16 home runs and first in RBI with 50 while hitting .291.
Mauer is having another good season at the plate, hitting .328 with five home runs and 41 RBI, but part of the problem is that he has only actually played 38 games behind the plate compared to 70 by Pierzynski.
Avila is having a down year after having a really solid season last year, but he has all the tools to be a good catcher.
Santana is in the same boat as Avila. After putting up big numbers last year, he is struggling at the plate this year.
Perez has only played a few games for the Royals, but looks to be another young player with talent in Kansas City.
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1. Adam Dunn (Chicago)
2. Billy Butler (Kansas City)
3. Delmon Young (Detroit)
4. Ryan Doumit/Joe Mauer/Justin Morneau (MInnesota)
5. Travis Hafner (Cleveland)
Adam Dunn has had one heck of a comeback season. After having an absolutely miserable season last year, Dunn has come back strong this season. He is tied for first in the league in home runs with 27 while driving in 64 and making his second All-Star game.
Butler is another All-Star who can flat out hit and is yet another one of Kansas City's young, promising players.
Delmon Young has always been a dangerous hitter and he is beginning to heat up for the Tigers.
The trio of Doumit, Mauer, and Morneau has given the Twins solid production from the DH spot all season.
It may be strange to see Travis Hafner at the bottom of this list because at times he could probably be at the top, but he has struggled this year after battling injuries yet again.