At first glance the 2013 Chicago White Sox don't look a whole lot different from the club that blew a three-game lead in late September of last season and went on to watch the Detroit Tigers claim the AL Central.
The only real acquisition they made in the offseason was the addition of free-agent infielder Jeff Keppinger and that can hardly be categorized as a big move.
And in the process they lost the services of catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who signed with the Texas Rangers over the winter.
This leaves many experts and fans wondering how the White Sox can possibly contend for a division title this year.
Well, the answer is this—they are going have to get a lot from their talented pitching staff and hope for some improvement throughout their lineup.
That's it, plain and simple.
The White Sox are going to have to get better production at the plate than they got last year from several guys and also hope that the new additions can bring something to the table.
Now with that being said, one area of the team that was solid offensively in 2012 was the outfield and the hope is that they can do it again.
In this final installment of the White Sox spring training report, here's a look at who is returning in the outfield this spring as well as other guys who have a shot at the roster.
Projected Starters (2012 MLB Stats)
Dayan Viciedo (.255, 25 HR, 78 RBI)
Alejandro De Aza (.281, 9 HR, 50 RBI)
Alex Rios (.304, 25 HR, 91 RBI)
In The Mix
Dewayne Wise (.259, 8 HR, 30 RBI)
Jordan Danks (.224, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
Summary By Position
In his first full season at the major league level, Dayan Viciedo showed flashes of why he is considered a rising superstar.
He put up solid numbers (.255, 25 HR, 78 RBI), but actually only touched the surface of how good he can be.
Like many others in the White Sox lineup, one area that Viciedo could improve coming into this year is his OBP. In 2012 it was only .300 and included only 28 walks in over 500 plate appearances.
In addition to drawing more walks, the hope is that he can cut down on his strikeouts and put the ball in play more often. If that can happen, then his production should be even better because the ball just jumps off of his bat.
In an effort to improve his time at the plate this year, White Sox hitting coaches Jeff Manto and Harold Baines have added a small leg-lift to Viciedo's swing. Baines was always known for his high leg kick during his playing days and if Viciedo can get the type of results that Baines did from this approach, he could be a monster at the plate.
Defensively, Viciedo played a solid left field, but probably isn't going to win any Gold Gloves. Eventually he may be in line to take over at first base when Konerko is gone as the White Sox have a lot of outfield talent that is waiting in the minor leagues.
Alejandro De Aza was a big part of the White Sox success in 2012 as he provided a steady presence at the top of the lineup.
De Aza showed that he had the ability to get on base and make things happen, which is something the White Sox had been missing in recent years from the leadoff spot.
He had a respectable .349 OBP and also showed a little pop with nine home runs and 50 RBI. In addition he also had a team high 26 stolen bases and played well defensively in center field, committing only three errors on the season.
The only area that was of concern last season were the number of strikeouts (109) that De Aza accumulated from the leadoff position. He will need to cut down on those and put the ball in play more often this year, which in turn should improve his OBP.
Overall the White Sox will need the same kind of effort and production from De Aza this season if they want to be a force in the AL Central. The only hope is that he can remain healthy as he missed several games last season due to back issues.
Almost nobody could have predicted the kind of season that Alex Rios had in 2012.
Coming off of a 2011 season that was the worst of his career, not much was expected out of Rios coming into last season.
Well, the expectations are certainly a little more lofty heading into the 2013 campaign.
Rios turned in an outstanding year at the plate in 2012 posting career highs in several categories including batting average (.304), home runs (25), RBI (91) and runs scored (93).
There's really no doubt that he was the White Sox offensive MVP in 2012.
Now the question is, can he do it again?
That may be a lot to ask considering his recent history of following up a good season with a bad one.
Since 2008 Rios has had a trend where he has been good in even-numbered years and bad in odd-numbered years.
The White Sox are hoping that this trend is now over—and so are the fans.
Odds are that the White Sox will only keep a fourth outfielder on their opening day roster with the other three spots going to the backup catcher and two infielders.
If this is the case, the most likely candidate for that spot would be veteran Dewayne Wise.
Wise will always be remembered for his catch that saved Mark Buerhle's perfect game in 2009, but he was actually far more productive last year in his second stint with the White Sox.
He came over from the Yankees mid-season last year and provided a spark for the team as De Aza was battling injuries. He can play all the outfield positions, hit the ball with some pop, and also steal some bases. He's the kind of guy that you need off the bench if you want to be a championship caliber team.
Another guy who saw time in the outfield last season was Jordan Danks.
Danks was decent in his limited playing time as a rookie, but he may not make the opening day roster just because the team probably won't keep a fifth outfielder.
He is also battling some elbow issues this spring which may decrease his chances even further. There is a lot of competition in the outfield as the organization is loaded with talent at the position and so Danks may find it tougher to get called up this year if he doesn't make the initial roster.
Other guys in the mix in the outfield include Blake Tekotte, whom the White Sox acquired in a minor league deal with San Diego in the offseason, and top prospects Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson.
While none of these guys are expected on the opening day roster, they all can play and have a chance at being with the club at some point during the season.
Both Mitchell and Thompson are in the top five on the list of White Sox prospects so these guys are very close to being ready. Of the two of them, Mitchell may get the first crack as he has spent more time at the Triple-A level than Thompson and may be more ready to contribute in the eyes of the organization.
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