The White Sox have made wholesale changes over the course of the last twelve months, acquiring RHP Jake Peavy, 3B Mark Teahen, and OFs Alex Rios, Juan Pierre, and Andruw Jones, while introducing 2B Gordon Beckham to his first big league action.
While the organization traded a couple of its better prospects in the Peavy deal, they managed to obtain a staff ace without gutting the minor league system.
The division is up for grabs. All of the teams have question marks, but it says here that Chicago’s starting pitching will combine with a potent offense to accumulate 90 wins—and that should be enough to win the Central Division.
Key Additions: C Ramon Castro, OF Andruw Jones, OF Juan Pierre, OF J J Putz, 3B Mark Teahen
Key Subtractions: P Octavio Dotel, OF Jermaine Dye, 3B Josh Fields, 2B Chris Getz, OF Scott Podsednik
Key Performer, 2010: Carlos Quentin
Last year at this time we were talking about Aaron Poreda and Bartolo Colon filling out the back end of the White Sox rotation…this year, the only real question is how good Freddy Garcia will prove to be.
Peavy (9-6, 3.45 in 101.2 IP) will find pitching at US Cellular Field to be less hospitable than Petco and pitching in the American League to be more stressful than pitching in the senior circuit; thus, I expect some digression in his numbers.
Still, he will be one of the dozen best starters in the league. Southpaw Mark Buehrle will slide into the No. 2 slot in the rotation.
While the tandem isn’t quite Hernandez/Lee or Beckett/Lester, it should prove to be the best 1-2 punch in the division...although Tigers Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello would assuredly beg to differ.
But the quality doesn’t stop there. Righty Gavin Floyd struggled out of the gate last year, but he came back strong in the second half, posting a 3.49 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 12 starts.
Lefty John Danks (13-11, 3.77) took a baby step backwards last year, but his performance was solid and the metrics show solid skills.
RHP Freddy Garcia (3-4, 4.34) returns to the scene of prior glory (he won 31 games for the Pale Hose in 2005 and 2006). After missing time with a shoulder injury he returned to the field late last year to provide some solid work.
If he proves unable to build on what he did lat year, it’s possible they club will turn to prospect Dan Hudson at the back end of the rotation.
Bobby Jenks (3-4, 3.71, 29 S) has recorded 140 saves over the last four years, but because of his girth he will always be subject to criticism. Of course, the four losses and six blown saves last year didn’t help matters.
Thus, there will continue to be speculation that newcomer Putz or Matt Thornton (6-3, 2.74) will displace him as the closer. Scott Linebrink (3-7, 4.66 in an off year), Tony Pena (1-2, 3.75) and (maybe) Hudson provide depth and quality to the relief corps.
SS Alexi Ramirez (.277, 15 HR, 68 RBI) and 2B Gordon Beckham (.270/14/63 in 103 games) will hit atop the lineup and set the stage for a once-potent heart-of-the order that has struggled in the last few years.
RF Carlos Quentin (.236/21/56 in 99 games) needs to stay healthy and get 500+ at-bats. The metrics for 1B Paul Konerko (.277/28/88) are solid and show no signs of declining.
CF Alex Rios (.247/17/71) was supposed to be one of the game’s next BIG stars, but peaked in 2006 and 2007 and has backslid since.
DH Andruw Jones (.214/17/43) was one of the most feared hitters in the game when he started in Atlanta, but hasn’t performed to those standards since 2006.
The bottom of the order will consist of C A.J. Pierzynski (.300/13/49), 3B Mark Teahen (.271/12/50) and speedster Juan Pierre in left field (.308/0/31/30 SB).
It is not the most fearsome lineup in the league, but it should do enough to help the club improve on its 12th place finish in runs scored (724) in the American League last season.
Improved starting pitching and a marginal improvement in offensive production should be enough to vault the White Sox into the post-season.
A lot will depend on health, especially Peavy and Quentin, but in a division as wide open as the AL Central, that can be said for any of the top three clubs (CWS, DET and MINN).
SOX1Forecast: 90-72, 1st place
Chicago White Sox — Top Five Prospects
1. P Dan Hudson
2. C Tyler Flowers
3. OF Jared Mitchell
4. 3B Dayan Viciedo
5. 3B Brent Morel