If things go as planned, Chris Sale will be the beneficiary of more run support.
When the 2014 season opens for the Chicago White Sox, the composition of the 25-man roster will be quite different from the one that ended last season with a 63-99 record, and that’s a good thing for both the White Sox and their fans.
There was, after all, no way that the team could move forward without making some significant changes. They needed to upgrade in so many areas that a complete overhaul was most certainly in order.
From bringing in three young prospects and three new pitchers to hiring a new hitting coach, general manager Rick Hahn has been a busy man, and each of the moves he’s made so far have had positive and negative repercussions for the players directly and indirectly involved.
With that as a rather ambiguous launching point, let’s take a look at some of the White Sox’s winners and losers to this point, with a dishonorable mention to lead us off.
Adam Dunn, everyone.
Adam Dunn is still on the roster, and that makes us all a little sad.
In a perfect world, general manager Rick Hahn would have been able to trade Dunn for a box of bubble gum and a pair of well-worn sandals. Alas, the $15 million he is scheduled to make in 2014 prevented that from happening, and White Sox fans will have the displeasure of seeing Dunn bat fourth or fifth on Opening Day next April.
There is a silver lining, though.
Dunn could get off to a strong enough start to warrant another team taking him on at the non-waiver trade deadline next July. Then again...maybe not.
Daniel Webb has a chance to be a good one.
Heck, Webb may end up challenging for the closer's role.
The kid is that good.
According to FanGraphs, Webb’s fastball averages 95.6 mph, while his cutter and slider average 98.6 and 84.0, respectively. Nathaniel Stoltz from RotoGraphs went so far as to say that Webb “throws as hard as any pitcher ever needs to,” and “there’s clearly more to his arsenal and approach than merely lighting up radar guns.”
Strong words, indeed. For a guy who flew across three minor league levels last season, they couldn’t be more appropriate.
Charles Leesman is on the outside looking in.
Charles Leesman was vying for a spot as one of the left-handers in the bullpen before general manager Rick Hahn signed free-agent reliever Scott Downs. Now, it looks like Donnie Veal will open the season as the second lefty because of his peripherals.
According to FanGraphs, for example, Veal had a 3.82 xFIP (expected fielder independent pitching) this past season, while Leesman checked in at 5.48. Veal also struck out 23 percent of the batters he faced in 2013. Leesman, on the other hand, only got 16.9 percent of opposing hitters on strikes.
To be sure, Veal will have to get the ball over the plate to stay on the active roster, but the spot appears to be his to lose.
Leesman continues to be projected by MLBDepthCharts to open the season on the active roster, but don’t be surprised to see that spot go to Jake Petricka. Petricka was impressive after getting called up last season, has better velocity and keeps the ball on the ground more than Leesman does, per FanGraphs.
Expect Leesman to rejoin the starting rotation at Triple-A.
Jordan Danks has delivered a couple of very memorable moments on the South Side.
For the moment, Jordan Danks is out of a job.
With the acquisition of Adam Eaton, it stands to reason that the other three outfield spots will go to Avisail Garcia, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo.
I am going to hold out hope that general manager Rick Hahn finds a way to move De Aza before the season begins. He is, after all, an anchor in the field and on the basepaths, but the reality is that unless Hahn is presented with an offer he can’t refuse, the White Sox will open the season with De Aza sharing time with Viciedo in left field, while also giving Eaton and Garcia a rest in center and right, respectively.
Either way, Danks will open the season with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights if De Aza or Viciedo are not moved.
After impressing most of last season, Marcus Semien will likely start the season down on the farm.
It’s unlikely that Marcus Semien will open the season on the 25-man roster.
Consider that Jose Abreu, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Jeff Keppinger, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham are all but assured roster spots. Assuming that the White Sox only carry seven infielders, that means the final spot will go to Conor Gillaspie, Leury Garcia, Matt Davidson or Semien.
Gillaspie bats left-handed, Garcia is a burner on the basepaths and can plan three positions, and Davidson has a chance to seize the job as the everyday third baseman. That makes the odds stacked against Semien being with the team on Opening Day.
That may not be a bad thing, though. Semien is probably best served playing every day, and that is the opportunity he will get at Triple-A. To be sure, Beckham or Ramirez could end up getting traded, but as things stand, the young middle infielder looks like the odd man out.
Go. Go. White Sox.
White Sox fans are the biggest winners thus far.
That is not written because the team will miraculously win 95 games and take the AL Central. Rather, it feels like the team has a legitimate sense of direction after years of wandering aimlessly through a forest of overpriced veterans and recycled position players in hopes of winning the season.
Hahn has taken this team and overhauled it in an image that stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, Kenny Williams. It is both refreshing and overdue.
One offseason will not fix what ails the White Sox, and Hahn did sign three pitchers—Downs, Ronald Belisario and Felipe Paulino—who are likely not part of the team’s long-term vision, so the work is not done.
Hahn is off to a fantastic start, though, and this offseason just feels different than in years past.
Frankly, feeling is a good thing nowadays.