Chicago White Sox: Guys Who Must Step Up Their Game in 2013
The Chicago White Sox surprised most of the baseball world this season by going 85-77 and remaining in contention in the AL Central until the very end.
Many experts had predicted this team to lose at least 90 games and finish near the bottom of the division, but the Sox had other plans.
They decided that they didn't care what people were saying about them and just played solid baseball—well, at least for most of the season.
And if they would have had anything resembling hitting in the last two weeks they would have been playing in the postseason for the first time since 2008.
But it wasn't in the cards this year and so they now direct their focus to next season.
They certainly have some questions to answer and holes to fill, but overall they still have the nucleus of a team that won 85 games.
Now the question is, can they improve next year?
I think the answer is yes, but not unless they can make some adjustments to the roster and more importantly get better production from some guys that are already there.
This season was marked with young players who got the opportunity to show what they could do and took advantage of it. And they are going to need more of the same next year.
Here are a few guys who need to take their games to the next level in order to ensure that the White Sox remain contenders in 2013.
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In his first full season in the majors, Dayan Viciedo certainly put up more than respectable numbers.
He hit .255 with 25 home runs, 78 RBI and also scored 64 runs.
Nicknamed "Tank," Viciedo has quickly become known for his power at the plate and the White Sox are hoping that continues in the future.
At the same time, they are also hoping for him to improve on his approach at the plate. He is a free swinger who needs to become more patient as well as more consistent. In 2012 Viciedo drew only 28 walks while striking out 120 times, which led to an OBP of only .300.
He was also prone to several long hitting droughts throughout the season.
Part of the issue is that his swing is pretty long at this point, but if he can cut it down and learn to hit the ball to all fields consistently, it certainly won't be much fun pitching to him.
Hopefully this will come with time as he gets used to hitting at the major league level. After all, Viciedo is only 23 years old and has time to blossom into a dangerous hitter.
The hope would be that next season he can raise his average closer to the .275 mark, hit at least 30 home runs and drive in close to 100 runs, which is possible if he can stay more consistent.
With the strong possibility that Pierzynski and Youkilis won't be back, the White Sox will definitely need increased production from Viciedo.
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Alexei Ramirez didn't have a bad season in 2012, but he feels that he can be better and has vowed to work harder this offseason to make sure that happens.
In 2012 Ramirez hit .265 with nine home runs and 73 RBI, which isn't bad production from a shortstop.
However, he is capable of hitting 20 home runs and driving in at least 80 runs, but in order to do this he needs to bring his average back up to the .280 range.
In addition, he needs to improve his ability to get on base.
Like his Cuban counterpart Viciedo, Ramirez has always been a free swinger who doesn't draw many walks, and in 2012 he drew a career low 16 walks and struck out 77 times.
This all led to a career low .287 OBP as well as career lows with a .364 SLG and .651 OPS.
So while Ramirez was able to drive in a high total of runs, he wasn't able to get on base enough to score many runs which was evidenced by his career low of 59 runs scored.
There's no doubt that the White Sox expect more out of Ramirez, and it sounds like he expects more out of himself.
In order for the White Sox lineup to improve next season, Ramirez is going to have to make some changes to his approach at the plate.
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It seems as if Gordon Beckham's name always comes up when there is talk about making improvements for the next season.
And this year is no exception.
There is no doubt that Beckham is a gold glove-caliber second baseman, but his hitting has been an issue over the past few seasons.
After a solid .270 average in his rookie season, he has struggled to keep his average over the .230 mark the past couple of seasons, and fans have begun to grow impatient.
The good news is that in 2012 his power numbers went up as he hit 16 home runs and drove in 60, which is pretty good production from a second baseman.
Tha bad news is that he only hit .234 with a .296 OBP and .371 SLG.
Like the other hitters on this list, Beckham has simply got to find ways to get on base more often. The White Sox have to many guys in their lineup that just don't get on base enough, which leads to them not being able to score runs for long periods of time.
And as all Sox fans know, this was basically the downfall of the team in 2012 as they failed to score runs over the last few weeks which led to them giving away the division to the Tigers.
There is some hope here as Beckham did hit the ball hard for most of the second half of the season, but just didn't have much luck.
However, the fact remains that the White Sox need him on base more at the bottom of the lineup in order to turn it over to the guys at the top.
At this point the hope would be that Beckham can get his average in the .250 range and the OBP at least over .325 while continuing to produce solid power numbers—if he can, then maybe we won't have to have this same discussion next October.
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There is no doubt that one of the biggest surprises to come out of the 2012 season for the White Sox was rookie Jose Quintana.
When John Danks went down with a shoulder injury in mid-May, the White Sox called up Quintana to take his place in the rotation, but they had no idea at that time that Quintana would remain there for the rest of the season.
But that's exactly what he did.
The 23-year-old Quintana, whom the White Sox had a acquired as a free agent during the offseason after the Yankees let him walk, was much more than they could have hoped for for someone with no major league experience.
Quintana went 6-6 with a solid 3.76 ERA and helped to stabilize the rotation with the loss of Danks.
He did fade towards the end of the season as he saw his ERA increase from 2.77 to 3.76 during the last six weeks, but much of that has been attributed to fatigue.
Prior to this season, the most innings Quintana had thrown in a season was 102 and he finished the 2012 season with 136 innings pitched.
The White Sox are hoping that he can come back next year stronger and ready to throw an entire season because they are definitely going to need him, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the rotiation.
The hope is that he can be a middle of the rotation guy who can win 10-12 games and give them some innings.
Anything more than that will be a bonus.
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John Danks 2012 season ended abruptly on May 19 due to a shoulder injury that eventually resulted in surgery.
He finished the season with a 3-4 record and a 5.70 ERA which followed a 2011 season in which he went 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA.
So it's fair to say that Danks hasn't been impressive recently, however from 2008-2010 he was about as solid as they come.
During that span Danks went 40-31 with ERA's of 3.32, 3.77 and 3.72.
Going into 2013 the White Sox are hoping that he is fully recovered from the shoulder surgery and ready to go from day one, but it's tough to say whether that will be the case or not because it may take longer for him to fully recover.
However, if the White Sox want to contend next year they better hope that is the case.
With the possibility of losing Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd in the rotation, they will definitely need John Danks to come back strong.
Unlike the other guys on this list, Danks doesn't need to necessarily step up his game in 2013, rather he needs to return to his old form.
And hopefully that's sooner than later.