Alexei Ramirez celebrates after hitting his first home run this season.
Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has built a balanced team. Each position group for the White Sox is comprised of players with different skill sets asked to contribute in different ways.
As such, there has to be a linchpin within each group that will contribute most to the successes—or failures—the White Sox will find in 2013.
So, who is the most valuable player at each position?
While each member of the White Sox's 25-man roster needs to contribute, if we take a deeper look at specific situations, four of them stand above the rest.
Beginning with the White Sox infield and ending with the starting rotation—since they will win or lose the AL Central—here is a look at the most important players by position group.
*Statistical evidence provided by Baseball-Reference.com.
Did someone say defense?
Let’s look past Tyler Flowers—who hit his second home run of the season Wednesday—and Gordon Beckham. Alexei Ramirez is the most important member of this group, and it is not because of his defense.
His defense will be there. That much is certain.
What the White Sox desperately need is for Ramirez—who also homered on Wednesday—to return to the offensive form that earned him the 2010 Silver Slugger Award.
That season, Ramirez slugged 18 home runs and drove in 70 runs for the White Sox.
Those are not the numbers that really matter, though. More importantly, he legged out 29 doubles and finished with a .744 OPS.
That type of production from the No. 7 hitter will bode well for the lineup, and without a productive Ramirez, the bottom of the order could become an Achilles heel for Robin Ventura.
Alex Rios, everyone.
Alejandro De Aza is the table setter. Without him, the entire structure of the lineup could implode.
Dayan Viciedo is the offensive X-factor and will, in large part, help determine how successful the bottom of the order is.
Alex Rios is the most important player among the group, though. After all, he is the No. 3 hitter in the lineup.
That spot in the order is of critical importance—and not just for the White Sox, but every team.
The good news is that it appears Rios has finally found a groove. In 2012, the right fielder hit .304 and finished with 25 home runs, 91 RBI and a .850 OPS.
The bad news is that Rios has made adjustments at the dish in the past and then—inexplicably—reverted to bad habits. Look no further than his .227 batting average in 2011.
How he plays is of added importance because of the makeup at the top of the order.
De Aza will be counted on to get on base, and Jeff Keppinger will be tasked with moving him into scoring position. It will then be on Rios to bring the run in.
That is how winning teams play baseball. If the White Sox hope to win more often than not, Rios needs to be clutch.
Addison Reed will need to produce this year.
Closers get the glory…They also catch the most grief.
And while guys like Matt Thornton, Nate Jones and Jesse Crain lead an above-average bullpen, Addison Reed is the guy who holds the key.
He will need to build off last year’s 29 saves this season for the White Sox to take the Central.
It will take some work. See, Reed wastes too many pitches at times and has not developed enough confidence in his slider.
The lack of confidence in his full arsenal led to a string of 19 consecutive appearances last season in which he failed to retire the side in order (h/t Matt Spiegel, 670 The Score). He is off to a good start in 2013, collecting saves in each of the first two games.
If Reed can find the faith in his secondary pitches and save 40 games or more, the White Sox are in good shape. With a team built around pitching and defense, there will be ample opportunity to protect one-run leads.
Gavin Floyd will be instrumental in the team's success.
The easy choice here would be Chris Sale—but that would be short-sighted.
To be sure, Sale is going to be counted on to improve off last season’s performance. If he falters, the White Sox will find themselves in serious trouble.
Gavin Floyd, however, is the most important pitcher.
As the No. 3 starter in Robin Ventura’s rotation, Floyd is in a unique position to impact the race for the Central.
Much like how the No. 6 hitter in the lineup directly impacts the lower third of the order, the bridge starter will set the tone for the bottom of the rotation.
There is no doubt Floyd is capable. He has won as many as 17 games in a season and has reached double digits in victories the past five years.
If he lays an egg this season, though, the resulting pressure on Jose Quintana—entering his second season as a full-time starter—and whoever the fifth guy is may be too great to overcome.