Every team has one or two players that they absolutely cannot afford to get hurt. Recently the Twins saw one of their “must have” players go down in closer Joe Nathan. That got me thinking about the White Sox and who is absolutely vital to their season. I’ve come up with four guys that must stay healthy for the Sox to contend in the AL Central.
The first is Jake Peavy. Now I understand that their rotation was fine last year and Jake Peavy wasn't a part of it. However he's more than just a top of the rotation guy. From the things Mark Buehrle has said during the offseason as well as spring training, having Peavy in the rotation is giving the other members of the rotation the reassurance that even if they're not perfect, theres a bonafide "stopper" every five days.
Having Peavy healthy and in the roation also keeps the Sox from having to really rely heavily on a guy like Freddy Garcia. Sure, Sweaty Freddy still has something in the tank. However there's a huge difference between having him as a No. 5 starter who can be skipped over during important series, and a No. 4 starter who is an important cog in the rotation.
If Peavy were to go down, the resulting pressure on the other starters as well as the let-down of having an ace get injured might be too much for a White Sox rotation that already is under the pressure of having to possibly make up for a possible decline in production from the offense.
The second guy that must stay healthy for the Sox is Carlos Quentin. So far in Quentin's White Sox career he's had his fair share of injury problems. In the past the Sox were more prepared to withstand those injuries because they had other sluggers in the lineup. That's not the case anymore.
Quentin is now being depended on as, at worst, the No. 2 power guy in the lineup. If he were to have his injury from last year flare up again the Sox lineup would go from "abover average" to "Worse than the Royals" in a hurry.
Quentin's health is one of the reasons Ozzie Guillen is so eager to have a rotating DH spot, so that a guy like Carlos won't have to open himself up to too much wear and tear by playing the field everyday (I know that thought pains fans of NL teams.)
Last but certainly not least, two guys that the Sox can't afford to have get hurt are Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton. The major concern here is that if either of these two were to get hurt, the other could become much less effective. If Thornton goes down, the bridge to Jenks becomes very unstable. Now a lead that Thornton would normally protect in the 8th gets blown by a guy like Scott Linebrink, and Jenks never even gets to pick the sunflower seeds out of his goatee and come in.
The same goes the other way if Jenks gets down. Thornton has been much more effective as a set-up guy than a closer. And if he's thrust into that role because of an injury to Jenks, then not only is his effectiveness diminished, but that set-up role becomes a problem as well.
The health of Peavy, Quentin, Jenks and Thornton is imperative to the White Sox season. As the Twins struggle with a solution to the loss of one of their best players, as a Sox fan all I can do is hope that one of our big four doesn't suffer the same fate.