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Chicago White Sox Season Preview: Can the Sox Be a Playoff Contender?

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Chicago White Sox Season Preview: Can the Sox Be a Playoff Contender?
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The 2012 season had two distinct storylines for the Chicago White Sox. They shocked the baseball world, going  71-55 through August 26 and led the AL Central by 2.5 games over Detroit.

Then it all came crashing down, as the White Sox went 14-22 and failed to make the playoffs.

The 2013 White Sox roster is almost identical to the 2012 team. The major offseason storyline was the departure of catcher A.J. Pierzynski to Texas. The Sox also added Jeff Keppinger with hopes of getting more production from the hot corner.

Here's a look at whether the Sox can contend for a playoff spot.

 

Offense

The Sox offense was one of the best in the league in scoring. They scored 748 runs and hit 211 home runs in 2012. Despite the surplus of power in the lineup, the Sox were in the middle of the pack in batting average and on-base percentage.

Paul Konerko had a down season but is still one of the most underrated players in the league. He hit 26 home runs and drove in 75 runs while battling injuries throughout the season. Konerko and Adam Dunn are the main sources of power in the lineup.

In most at-bats, Dunn can be counted on to either hit a home run, draw a walk or strike out. In 539 at-bats, Dunn belted 41 home runs, walked 105 times and went down on strikes 222 times.

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The Sox will look for improvement from young outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo. De Aza had a solid season in his first full year in the big leagues. He hit .281/.349 with nine home runs and 50 RBI. De Aza also had 26 stolen bases.

Viciedo hit 25 home runs and drove in 78 runs, but only had a .255 batting average and .300 OBP. He also accounted for 120 of the team's 461 strikeouts.

The biggest question mark on the roster is at catcher, Tyler Flowers played in only 52 games in 2012 and wasn't impressive. He hit just .213/.296 with seven home runs and 13 RBI. The Sox may know right away whether Flowers is an adequate replacement for Pierzynski.

Newcomer Jeff Keppinger could be a pleasant surprise at third base. He had a .325 batting average and a .367 on-base percentage in Tampa Bay last season.

Both Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham will need to have better seasons at the plate. Ramirez is a good run producer, but he has a career .316 OBP, which needs to improve. Beckham is one of the weakest hitters in the lineup. Despite hitting 16 home runs and driving in 60 runs, he hit only .234/.260 and drew only 40 walks last season. He needs to work on his plate discipline.

The White Sox can definitely hit. Konerko, Dunn, Alex Rios and Viciedo are all capable of hitting more than r 20 home runs. The question will be whether the White Sox can get on base with more consistency.

David Banks/Getty Images

 

Rotation

The White Sox rotation is led by Chris Sale. In his first season as a starter, Sale had a Cy Young-caliber season with a 21-11 record and a 2.89 ERA.

A healthy Jake Peavy was also a valuable asset to the rotation. He started more than 20 games for the first time since 2008 and was pretty impressive. Peavy went 11-12, but had a 3.37 ERA. If Peavy can stay healthy next season, the White Sox could have one of the best duos in the league.

The rotation becomes questionable after that, however. Gavin Floyd was shaky at best in 2012, with a 12-11 record and a 4.29 ERA. Jose Quintana had an impressive rookie campaign and could develop into a pretty good pitcher in his second season.

The Sox will be without John Danks at the start of the season. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury. Dylan Axelrod will be the fifth starter in the rotation until Danks returns. Axelrod is another young arm who may be better suited for the bullpen.

The White Sox have some upside in Sale and Quintana, but they need Peavy and Danks to stay healthy and hope that Floyd figures himself out.

 

Bullpen

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The White Sox have a decent bullpen. Addison Reed emerged as a pleasant surprise and could become one of the premier closers in the game.

Matt Thornton's velocity and strikeout rate has declined, but he is still a reliable set-up man or seventh-inning pitcher.

The guy to watch will be another youngster, Nate Jones. In his rookie season, Jones went 8-0 out of the bullpen with a 2.39 ERA in 71.2 innings pitched. If Jones builds off of his impressive rookie season, he could emerge as the set-up man and give Chicago one of the nastiest and youngest eighth- and ninth-inning combinations in the league.

 

Prediction

The Chicago White Sox didn't add much to the roster during the offseason, but that doesn't mean they won't be a playoff contender.

The Sox should get similar power numbers from Dunn and Konerko, but they will need to find ways to get on base. Viciedo and De Aza should progress this season and could become nice complementary players.

It will be interesting to see how the White Sox infielders (other than Konerko) perform at the plate. Ramirez and Beckham have shown some pop in their bats, but they struggle to get on base consistently. Keppinger can get on base and will be a bigger upgrade than most people expect him to be.

The White Sox pitching staff will hinge on its young arms. Sale should be just as good as last season and if Quintana improves, the Sox could have two great young pitchers in the rotation. The biggest question is whether Peavy can stay healthy. The bottom of the rotation is also questionable and depends on Floyd's consistency and Danks' health.

The bullpen isn't very deep, but it does have two potential stars in Reed and Jones. If both can build off their impressive seasons, they could give the Sox an awesome back-end of the bullpen.

De Aza, Viciedo, Sale, Quintana, Reed and Jones could all develop into key players for the Sox. Along along with Dunn, Konerko and Rios, the Sox could have a pretty good team if things go well.

The AL Central is one of the weaker divisions in the league, but it does have the defending American League champion Tigers. The Royals and Indians also improved and should give the Sox a run for second place in the division.

The Chicago White Sox are usually underrated, and this year will be no exception. The Sox will finish second in the AL Central with about 83-to-88 wins. If the young players in the lineup and pitching staff improve vastly, this team could challenge Detroit for the division title.

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