Following a 2012 season in which they surprised just about everyone by maintaining a lead in the AL Central division into late September, only to collapse down the stretch, the White Sox will try to find a way to overtake the reigning division champion Detroit Tigers.
This will not be an easy task.
The White Sox were 6-12 against the Tigers in 2012, and Detroit has improved an already tough lineup over the offseason with the acquisition of Torii Hunter and the return of Victor Martinez. The Tigers also return arguably the best starting rotation in the division.
In addition, if the White Sox have plans of capturing the division, they will have to play better against their nemesis, the Kansas City Royals, who also owned a 12-6 record against the White Sox in 2012. The Royals also improved over the offseason, acquiring pitchers James Shields and Ervin Santana to solidify their rotation.
Additionally, while the White Sox will return the majority of their lineup from 2012, the key to their success will again hinge on their pitching staff, and it all begins with their starting rotation.
So here is a breakdown of the starting rotation heading into spring training and what we're likely to see when the season begins on April 1st.
Locks (2012 MLB Stats)
Chris Sale (17-8, 3.05 ERA)
Jake Peavy (11-12, 3.37 ERA)
John Danks (3-4, 5.70 ERA)
Gavin Floyd (12-11, 4.29 ERA)
In The Mix (2012 MLB Stats)
Jose Quintana (6-6, 3.76 ERA)
Hector Santiago (4-1, 3.33 ERA)
Barring something unforeseen, the first four in the rotation are pretty much set. It remains to be seen, though, if John Danks will be fully healthy by the end of spring training after having surgery last August to repair his injured left shoulder. However, all recent reports have indicated that Danks is right on schedule and should be ready to join the rotation when the season begins.
It's hard to say what the White Sox will get from Danks coming off of surgery, but they certainly hope he can return to the form that he displayed from 2008-2010 when he went 40-31 with an ERA in the mid-threes. He had a rough 2011 season and then another tough start in 2012 before the injury, so it's been a while since Danks has been effective. That will need to change if the White Sox want to contend in 2013.
In Chris Sale, the White Sox have a rising star and probably the best starting pitcher in the division not named Verlander. It's certainly within reason to believe that Sale can reach the 20-win mark, which would certainly go a long way toward helping the White Sox capture the division.
Peavy was much better in 2012 than his record indicated and probably should have won at least 15 games. It was the first time since he joined the White Sox in 2010 that Peavy was fully healthy and looked like his old self. The team is hoping to get more of the same from him this year.
Gavin Floyd has always had the ability to be a big-time pitcher, but outside of the 2008 season when he went 17-8 with Chicago, Floyd has been unable to live up to that potential. Since that time, he has gone 45-48 with ERAs on the rise. However, as a guy at the back end of the rotation, the White Sox will take another 12-win season, and there is a good chance that Floyd can provide that.
The last spot in the rotation is up for grabs. The likely candidates are left-handers Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago, both of whom were effective when given the chance in 2012. Quintana was given more opportunities to start than Santiago, who actually started last season as the White Sox's closer.
Regardless, they both have the ability to land in the starting rotation. Santiago has more pitches that he can go to, but that doesn't always translate to a better pitcher. Quintana showed as a rookie that he wasn't afraid of big situations and had the ability to get outs when he needed them. It should be a good battle between these two for the final spot.
Outside of Quintana and Santiago, there are a few other guys in camp that certainly have the ability to land in the starting rotation. That includes left-hander Charlie Leesman, along with righties Nestor Molina, Simon Castro and Andre Rienzo.
All four of these guys are on the list of the top 20 prospects in the White Sox organization and therefore have a lot of potential. Leesman may be the most ready of the four, but it's still unlikely that any of them will crack the rotation. However, it's a distinct possibility that one or more of them may end up spending some time on the pitching staff in 2013.