Chicago White Sox- 2014 (73-89 4th place) – 2015 Prediction (87-75 2nd place tie):
The White Sox had a tough year in 2014. Their starting rotation was below average, they suffered a number of key injuries on offense, and whoever attempted to close out games for them failed. This offseason many additions were made in all of their areas of need. I believe the additions that I will detail below will help the Sox compete for the AL Central crown, or at least one of the 2 American League Wild Card spots. The bullpen is improved with the acquisitions of closer David Robertson and lefty reliever Zach Duke. The Sox acquired SP Jeff Samardzija from the A’s to deepen the starting rotation, slotting into the 2nd spot between Sale and Quintana. They hit the free agent market for some much needed offense signing outfielder Melky Cabrera and 1B/DH Adam Laroche. Both players will immediately have a positive effect on the lineup. Cabrera is a very talented switch hitter who is a top of the order bat and Laroche provides much needed left handed power behind right handed slugger Jose Abreu.
Impact Offensive Players:
1B- Jose Abreu: This guy has MVP caliber hitter written all over him. He is a slugger who also hits for a high BA. He put up super star numbers last season as a rookie on a 4th place team with little support around him. This season I expect even bigger things. 2015 Prediction: 40 HR, .303 BA, 115 RBI, 95 R, .380 OBP. Those are definitely MVP caliber numbers. Unfortunately, he has to compete with Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera to win those honors.
SS- Alexei Ramirez: With Paul Konerko retiring, Ramirez is the longest tenured White Sox player. He is a very talented player both offensively and defensively. Entering a contract year, look for him to put up the best offensive numbers of his career. He has always been above average as a fantasy SS, but since he added the speed element to his game he has become far more valuable. 2015 Prediction: 17 HR, .282 BA, 77 RBI, 90 R, 24 SB.
OF: Melky Cabrera/Adam Eaton/Avisail Garcia: All 3 of these players bring a different element to the Sox, as well as fantasy rosters.
Garcia has a nice balance of power and speed and was hampered by a very unfortunate injury last year. He was never able to really get himself going in the way that most fans would have hoped for. He was compared to Miguel Cabrera as a hitter when he first came up with the Tigers. That’s about as good of a compassion as anyone could hope for. He will finally get full time at bats at the MLB level and the consistency in playing time will translate to a very productive season. 2015 Prediction: 20 HR, .290 BA, 72 RBI, 83 R, 22 SB
Eaton by far had the best season of his career in 2014. It was also his first year with the White Sox. He has the ability to hit for a high average and OBP while stealing 15-20 bases. He plays great defense in center field and will likely bat in the lead off spot, which will lead to him scoring a lot of runs. 2015 Prediction: 5 HR, .286 BA, 50 RBI, 95 R, 18 SB, .365 OBP.
Cabrera has the most fantasy upside among the 3 starting outfielders. Being a switch hitter, he is the perfect guy to hit in the number 2 hole in the Sox lineup. He hits LHP and RHP very well, has pop, drives in runs, and is known for being clutch in key situations. He is basically the only player on this team offensively that has any post season experience and he has 2 World Series rings. 2015 Prediction: 17 HR, .309 BA, 87 R, 80 RBI, .358 OBP.
DH: Adam Laroche: He is the perfect fit for the White Sox lineup. He can give Abreu the occasional day off at 1B and provides much needed power in the lineup. He has 30 HR potential, drives in a ton of runs and usually has a high OBP as well. His former team, the Nationals, were good offensively but not great. I believe he will excel with the Sox, especially considering most of his AB’s will come as a DH. 2015 Prediction: 28 HR, .256 BA, 77 R, 97 RBI, .361 OBP.
Impact Starting Pitchers:
Chris Sale: He is one of the best SP in all of baseball. Innings eater, high strike out totals, low WHIP, everything that makes a pitcher the bona fide ace that he is. Sale is the anchor of the staff. He is a tone setter who believes he can win every time he takes the mound. Fantasy owners (dynasty or one year) want him and the Sox need him if they plan on making noise this season. 2015 Prediction: 19 W, 210 IP, 2.65 ERA 228 K, 1.10 WHIP.
Jeff Samardzija: He is entering a contract year and this seasons performance will dictate how much money he receives on the open market. Next offseason is possibly the best FA pitching market ever. If he wants the big bucks, he needs to perform. I like that he has already experienced what it is like to pitch in the AL after being in the NL for his entire career. For many pitchers that can be a difficult adjustment, one that he will not have to endure in 2015. He provides the Sox with the number 2 SP that all contending teams need and should be available in the mid rounds of fantasy drafts. 2015 Prediction: 16 W, 207 IP, 3.23 ERA, 201 K, 1.15 WHIP.
Jose Quintana: He has thrown 200 innings in each of the last 2 seasons and continues to improve each year. His career 3.50 ERA would be significantly lower if his rookie season was taken out of the equation. He is certainly not a super star, but is very consistent, giving fans and fantasy owners confidence every time he takes the mound. I expect him to improve again this season with the improved team around him. 2015 Prediction: 13 W, 200 IP, 3.31 ERA, 184 K, 1.20 WHIP.
Impact Relief Pitchers:
David Robertson: He has everything you want in an elite closer and the White Sox recognized that when they paid him the big bucks this offseason. He has playoff experience. He’s a World Series champion and he learned from the greatest closer of all time; Mariano Rivera. The biggest asset Robertson has is his ability to strike anybody out, at any given time. That ability not only makes him as solid as they come in the 9th inning, it also allows him to come in during the 8th for the final out when the team is in a jam. The Sox had a very difficult time closing out games last year and Robertson should help turn that around.
2015 Prediction: 36 SV, 65 IP, 90 K, 2.50 ERA, 1.12 WHIP.
Zach Duke: After a very impressive 2014 with the Brewers, the Sox are hoping that Duke continues his success. Every team needs a shut down LHP and he will be exactly that. He will be called upon to pitch to 2-3 hitters max in each outing, usually doing so in the 7th or 8th with men on base. He will have more than a strikeout per inning and rack up holds and leave inherited runners stranded. Look for him to get SV opportunities as well if Robertson needs a day off, hits the DL, or the batters due up are primarily left handed.
2015 Prediction: 4 SV, 55 IP, 65 K, 2.73 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 22 Holds.
Jake Petricka: He is the only player who wasn’t awful when he was given SV opportunities last season for the Sox. His experience closing out games in 2014 will certainly help him this year as he will be expected to get the ball to Robertson with a lead. His WHIP was a little high and he doesn’t strike out many hitters, yet I expect him to be better this year. Having Robertson with him in the pen should rub off on him. Like Duke, Petricka will be in line for saves if Robertson is not able to pitch. He will need to improve his WHIP to be considered over Duke.
2015 Prediction: 3 SV, 67 IP, 56 K, 2.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 24 Holds.
The signing of Abreu (pictured above) prior to the 2014 season completely changed the face of the franchise and if all of the new additions perform to their capabilities, the White Sox should be one of the most improved teams in all of baseball. They no longer have any clear weaknesses and because of that they should be competitive all season long.
Next week I will be finishing up my AL Central previews with the Minnesota Twins. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any MLB or fantasy related questions.
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