Chicago White Sox
Last Year: 88-74, Second in AL Central
Manager: Ozzie Guillen
C—AJ Pierzynski (L)
1B—Paul Konerko (R)
2B—Gordon Beckham (R)
3B—Brent Morel (R)
SS—Alexi Ramirez (R)
LF—Juan Pierre (L)
CF—Alex Rios (R)
RF—Carlos Quentin (R)
DH—Adam Dunn (L)
This offseason, the White Sox signed Adam Dunn to give them the left-handed power the lineup was lacking for all of 2010. Last year, the White Sox offense was very inconsistent, and they relied heavily on Paul Konerko and Alex Rios for most of their offensive production.
Even with that pressure, Konerko may have had his best season last year, but if history provides us a guide, he has had trouble putting up those kind of productive years back to back. Personally, I think he will still be effective, but don't expect much more than 30 home runs and a .360 OBP.
Gordan Beckham, on the other hand, really struggled last year, but I think he has too much talent to have a repeat of his dismal 2010. I might be stretching, but I think he will hit 20 home runs this year and add an OBP north of .350 as well.
Alexi Ramirez has remained consistent during his three years in the bigs. Chicago fans should expect more of the 15-21 home runs and a .280/.320/.420 stat line would not be a surprise.
Brent Morel will start the season as the third baseman and Chicago will hope that the youngster can continue the progress shown last year when he split time between the AA and AAA levels.
As for their backstop, the Sox shouldn't expect too much out of AJ Pierzynski, but he isn't a bad No. 8 hitter and should hit 10 home runs.
Their marquee acquisition, Adam Dunn, will provide plenty of power, but his OBP percentage did decline in 2010. I would expect that number to return back to the .390 range, especially now that there is less pressure on Dunn to produce in this lineup.
GM Kenny Williams' gamble on Alex Rios paid off in 2010, as Rios produced one of his best seasons in a major league uniform. Rios will never be the power hitter that many envisioned, but he should thrive in the No. 2 hole.
Juan Pierre simply knows who he is and does it well. Pierre brings speed to the White Sox team, and expect him to combine with Rios to steal over 90 bases. Carlos Quentin still presents a dangerous power threat in the No. 6 hole and will hit up to 30 home runs.
Overall, the White Sox have a diverse and potent offense.
Defensively, the White Sox had a tough year in 2010. The left side of the infield should be somewhat better if Brent Morel takes over as expected at 3B. I haven't seen him play, but FanGraphs.com says he is above-average defensively, so we will see. In addition, Alexi Ramirez was the best defensive SS in 2010.
The right side isn't as strong. Beckham is average at 2B, and Konerko has lost a lot of range at 1B. Adam Dunn might play some first, but no one should let him near a glove. AJ Pierzynski is a good receiver who calls a good game and throws an average number of runners out on the bases.
Both Juan Pierre and Alex Rios cover a lot of ground in the OF, but Carlos Quentin had some of the worst defensive metrics in the game and will need to be compensated for.
C—Ramon Castro (R)
IF—Omar Vizquel (S)
UT—Mark Teahen (L)
OF—Lastings Milledge or IF/OF—Brent Lillibridge (R)
RHP—Jake Peavy (Slated to be on DL beginning of season)
The White Sox rotation struggled last year and was eighth in the AL in terms of ERA.
Jake Peavy didn't pitch well during the first half, and was eventually lost for the rest of the year when he tore a lat muscle. As a result, the White Sox find themselves without a true ace of the staff, but instead have a multitude of No. 2 and No. 3 starters. That said, they are a very consistent group who should deliver the same numbers as last year.
Buehrle will probably start on Opening Day. He is a dependable starter who will give 200 innings and post a high 3.00 to low 4.00 ERA, under five K/9 with two BB/9.
I really like what Gavin Floyd brings to the table. He mixes up four pitches: a low-90s fastball, two very good breaking balls and a decent changeup. I was encouraged by the increased number of grounders he induced and I think he might end up having the best year of any starter on the team.
Who Should Close for the White Sox?
John Danks had the best year of any starter in 2010 on the team and many consider him the best starter the White Sox have. Danks also uses a four-pitch repertoire, employing a low-90s fastball, an 88-mph cutter, a very good changeup and a curveball. Watch for him to put up his typical numbers this season.
Edwin Jackson, acquired at the deadline, pitched very well for the White Sox after a shaky first half with the D'Backs. Jackson should have had a better year considering he had the highest K/9 and groundball rate as a starter for his career. Jackson seems to thrive in AL Central, and I expect him to have a better year in 2011.
Jake Peavy is the wild card. We know what Peavy has done in the past, but I don't know how Peavy will respond to tearing that lat muscle in his shoulder. Peavy was showing some signs of decline, as his velocity has decreased in each of the last four years.
If he is healthy, I think he will put up decent numbers—possibly a high 3.80 ERA and almost eight K/9. The White Sox should be happy if they get more than 20 starts out of him.
Finally, Phillip Humber will get the first few starts as the No. 5 starter in the rotation.
LHP—Matt Thornton (Closer)
The White Sox bullpen is a definite strength for this club, with everyone except Will Ohman able to get their fastball up into the mid-90s.
While Bobby Jenks has been the closer for the last six years, many believe that Matt Thornton was the best pitcher in the pen during his tenure. Thornton should have no problem assuming the closer's role with his 96-mph fastball, which he featured over 90 percent of the time in 2010.
The Sox also picked up Jesse Crain from free agency to fill the void left by Jenks. Personally, I've never loved Crain. He certainly throws hard (94.8-mph on fastball), but I thought he fell in love with his slider too much last year and doesn't have great command.
Top prospect and No. 1 pick in 2010 Chris Sale will be in the bullpen taking over Thornton's old role. He is destined to be a starter, but will pitch in the pen this year and might take over eventually as closer. He throws a nasty slider and can reach triple digits with his fastball. He could make a transition to the rotation this year, but my feeling is he stays in the bullpen.
Sergio Santos is another hard thrower who throws a good slider and changeup to complement his mid-90s fastball. Santos was much better against left-handed hitters and struggled versus right-handers.
Will Ohman is a solid left-handed specialist and will allow Guillen to use Sale anywhere he wants. Lastly, Tony Pena and Jeffrey Marquez will be the long men in the group.
Notable Non-Roster Invitees
Breakout Player: Gordon Beckham
Prospect To Watch: Brent Morrel
Morel is above average defensively and is supposed to have great gap-to-gap power that should equate to a lot of extra-base hits. He won't have much pressure batting last in a talented lineup and his defense will bring immediate value to the club.
Projected Finish: First in AL Central
This is the year for the White Sox.
Buehrle and Edwin Jackson are free agents and Paul Konerko isn't getting any younger. If the starting pitching is consistent, I believe the Sox will win this close division race against the Twins and Tigers. I love the power arms they have coming out of the bullpen, and I think their lineup has the perfect mix of power and speed.