Oh, the White Sox. 2011 was pretty much a lost year for the team, highlighted by struggles nearly everywhere on the team. Despite all of the downslides, the Sox only finished four games under .500. GM Kenny Williams responded by pretty much blowing up the team, which leaves Chicago with a brand spanking new White Sox team for 2012…well, not totally new. Some guys just couldn’t be moved.
Depth Chart (as of 3/19)
C: AJ Pierzynski
1B: Paul Konerko
2B: Gordon Beckham
SS: Alexei Ramirez
3B: Brent Morel
LF: Dayan Viciedo
CF: Alejandro De Aza
RF: Alex Rios
DH: Adam Dunn
SP: John Danks
SP: Gavin Floyd
SP: Jake Peavy
SP: Phil Humber
SP: Chris Sale
CL: Matt Thornton
Most of Chicago’s new faces are essentially old faces, being pushed into new roles. The major new face on the team is prospect Dayan Viciedo, who will slide into the left field slot once occupied by Juan Pierre. Alejandro de Aza will be the every day starter in center field, while former center fielder Alex Rios moves over to right with the trade of Carlos Quentin opening up that slot. But they did sign one free agent: former crosstown rival Kosuke Fukudome, who will play a fourth outfielder’s role. The White Sox new manager is also a familiar face to Sox fans: former standout third baseman Robin Ventura.
I already mentioned Pierre’s contract expiring, and Quentin being dealt to San Diego. The White Sox also lost long-time starter Mark Buerhle, who went to the Miami Marlins as part of their “sign a ton of marquee players” strategy this offseason. Backup infielder Omar Vizquel was a free agent, and signed with the Blue Jays. Toronto also swung deals for a pair of former White Sox relievers: Jason Frasor, and closer Sergio Santos. Manager Ozzie Guillen also left town right before the end of last season after a tumultous year.
Viciedo doesn’t have rookie eligibility, but the 23 year-old will be playing every day for Chicago. Tyler Flowers will be the team’s backup catcher and looks to be the heir apparent to the aging AJ Pierzynski. Chicago’s bullpen is nearly all rookies, including Addison Reed, Deunte Heath, Jhan Marinez, and Dylan Axelrod. The White Sox also have a bunch of young starting pitching candidates in the event of injury, including Zach Stewart, Nestor Molina, and Simon Castro.
Everything seems locked in with Chicago’s relative youth across the board. Reed could push Matt Thornton for the closer’s job after his struggles last year. Look for Brent Lillibridge to get a chance at an infield position if either Gordon Beckman or Brent Morel continues to struggle with the stick.
Everyone is healthy….for now. Peavy has been made out of glass recently, and Humber has an extensive injury history as well. Aside from them, Chicago seems pretty OK injury-wise right now.
Is Alex Rios a five tool player, or a five cent player?
All the rookies are league average and the offense turns into the juggernaut that it has the potential to be. In a relatively weak AL Central (aside from the Tigers), the White Sox fight tooth and nail for a playoff spot all year.
The rookies play like rookies, and every offensive regular turns in a year like they did last season. Ventura doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing as a major league manager and flops. The White Sox finish in the basement.
This isn’t a very good team by any stretch of the imagination. But if things fall in their favor, the White Sox could conceivably be the second best team in the AL Central.