The Sox fell just short of a playoff berth in 2012 and have opted to go younger in 2013. They allowed A.J. Pierzynski, and mid-season acquisitions Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers to walk away while adding only Jeff Keppinger in the free agent market. Without much competition outside of the Tigers, the Sox have a shot to improve on their 85 win total last season. Can the younger guys give the squad what the vets didn’t in 2012? Let’s take a look at what we can expect to see in Chicago’s South Side in 2013.
2012 Team Rankings:
Runs: seventh Overall
Batting Average: 14th Overall
ERA: 19th Overall
WHIP: 18th Overall
A.J. Pierzynski gave the White Sox a lot of production out of the catcher spot but the ChiSox are looking to move on to former top prospect Tyler Flowers. So far Flowers has 273 at-bats under his belt, batting .205 with 12 HR, 29 RBI, and a .695 OPS. His 23 AB/HR is pretty solid but he never hit more than 17 HR in the minors. Depending on how he develops, he projects as a .250-.270 hitter with 15 HR, 60 RBI, 30+ 2B, and .800+ OPS player.
Gimenez is a career minor leaguer who has a .264 minor league batting average over 10 seasons and just 20 MLB plate appearances over that time. He has shown decent pop, hitting double-digit home runs in limited games over his last three minor league seasons but he really isn’t a major league caliber player.
Konerko batted .298 in 2012 but saw his 31 homers in 2011 drop to 26 while his 105 RBI dropped to just 75. The 37-year-old first baseman is still a very solid player but has seen declines in just about every category over the past three seasons. His home runs have dropped from 39 in 2010 to 26, his OPS has dropped from .977 in 2010 and .906 in 2011 to just .857, his run totals have dropped from 89 in 2010 to 66 last season, and his doubles have dropped from 30 in 2010 to 22 last year. He is definitely a player on the decline but still a guy who will likely hit .280+ with 20+ HR, 70+ RBI, and put up an OPS close to .900. At least for now.
Dunn will be Chicago’s DH once again after bouncing back pretty well from a miserable 2011 season. In 2012 he batted .204 but hit 41 homers, drove in 96, and scored 87 runs. He struck out a league-leading 222 times but walked a league-leading 105 times pushing his OPS up to exactly .800. Assuming he stays healthy, there is no reason he can’t put up another 35+ homers and 90+ RBI while striking out close to 200 times and batting around .200 once again.
Anderson is a former top-20 prospect whose value has dropped after struggling in the minors and the White Sox were able to snag him up off of waivers this offseason. The positives are that he walks a lot (as many as 82 times in a season) and has a lot of extra-base hits (as many as 18 homers and 37 doubles in a season). The negatives are that he has a .272 minor league batting average and his slugging has been under .400 the last few years. All in all, if a top prospect has to play 750 games in the minors it should send up some red flags.
Beckham has really struggled to hit his former top prospect potential, batting just .234 last season and .245 over his first four seasons. In 2012, the 26-year-old put up 16 HR, 60 RBI and 62 R which are solid for a second baseman but far from what he was supposed to be. His .668 OPS last year and .694 OPS in his career would suggest he isn’t quite worthy of being a major league starter and I would expect the same low .200+ average and low-double digit homers in 2013.
Sanchez was drafted away from the Angels in the Rule 5 draft which means he has to stay on the roster all season or be sold back. Sanchez has played nearly 1,000 minor league games and has been impressive in none of them so I’m not sure the Sox will be willing to keep him all season. He can hit doubles, he had as many as 33 in a season, and he can steal some, as many as 16 in a season, but there is a reason no one ever wanted this guy 10 minor league seasons into his career.
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez, Angel Sanchez – Grade: B-
Ramirez had an interesting year in 2012, batting a career-low .265 (.276 career), hitting a career-low nine home runs (averages 17 per season), and putting up a career-low .651 OPS (.725 career). That’s to be expected when your walk total drop from 51 in 2011 to just 16 in 2012. At the same time he stole a career-high 20 bases, drove in 73 runs, and dropped his error total to 12 after putting up 16 in 2011 and 20 in 2010 and 2009. Overall he has been pretty consistent in his career so unless the 31-year-old is really on the decline after just five MLB seasons I’d expect him to bat .260-.270 with 10+ HR, 65-70 RBI, 15 SB, and 60+ R. Hopefully he can get his OPS back over .700—but that would entail taking a pitch or two.
Third Base: Jeff Keppinger, Brent Morel, Angel Sanchez – Grade: C+
Keppinger is an interesting player and I’m curious to see how he handles a starting job rather than spot starting all around the infield. He looked very good in 385 at-bats for the Rays last season, batting .325 with nine HR, 40 RBI, 46 R, and a .806 OPS. For his career, if Jeff Keppinger played 162 games a year he would put up a .290 AVG, nine HR, 60 RBI, 66 R, and a .733 OPS – none of which are stellar but it beats another season of Brent Morel batting under .250.
Morel is a former top prospect who got to start in 2011 which subsequently led him to play most of 2012 in the minors. In 591 major league at-bats, Morel is batting .230 with 13 HR, 53 RBI, 67 R, and a measly .612 OPS which you can only get when you walk 33 times in 640 plate appearances. In the minors, Morel has a career batting average of .293 but batted .199 last season after he was sent down. It’s unclear how much he will play this season but if I were the Sox I would make it very little unless he shows any signs that he isn’t a poor man’s Adam Dunn anymore.
Whatever Rios did in 2012, he should continue doing it. In 2012, Rios batted a career-high .304 and saw career-highs in home runs (25), RBI (91), and slugging (.516). He also stole 23 bases and put up a .850 OPS. If he can keep it up, he should be a .285-.295 hitter with home runs in the low 20s, 75+ RBI, 90 R, and 20+ SB but a more reasonable OPS below .800.
De Aza played his first full major league year in 2012 and looked pretty solid as he batted .281 with nine HR, 50 RBI, 81 R, 29 2B, 26 SB, and a .760 OPS. The numbers are right in line with what limited play he got before and his minor league totals and I expect about the same in 2013.
Viciendo is a former top prospect who spent less than three seasons in the minors before coming up for an impressive rookie campaign. The 23-year-old batted .255 but hit 25 HR, drove in 78 RBI, and scored 64 runs. He walked just 28 times in 543 plate appearances while striking out 120 times so his .744 OPS is to be expected but he has a ton of pop and could be a great power hitter if he can lower his strike out totals and avoid hitting into 18 double plays again.
Wise has played on six different teams since 2000 and never quite stuck but he looked as good as ever for the Sox (and Yankees) in 2012 as he saw career-highs in game played (101), average (.259), homers (8), and steals (19). I don’t see him playing as much in 2013 but it’s good to have a speedster coming off the bench.
Jordan Danks is the younger brother of Sox starter John Danks. I won’t judge him on his poor showing in 67 at-bats last year—but he never looked great in the minors either. He batted .266 in 429 minor league games and while his .776 OPS is pretty solid the only promising year he really had was 2011 when he hit 14 homers and stole 18 bases. He will likely be the fourth outfielder this season but he can’t strike out as much as he’s used to (150+ time per season his last two full minor league seasons).
After two rough injury-addled seasons in 2010 and 2011, Peavy came back strong last season going 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a 4:1 K:BB ratio. Peavy has always been an All-Star when healthy so if he can play all season I expect him to put up those numbers again—but most injury-prone 31-year-old pitchers don’t gain durability.
Sale looked phenomenal in his first year as a starter after putting up a 2.58 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in two years our of the pen. In 2012, Sale went 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9 SO/9, and nearly a 4:1 K:BB ratio, earning sixth-place in AL Cy Young voting. I think he can put up those numbers again this year and maybe even get the ERA below 3.00.
Floyd is your typical middle of the rotation guy who has essentially put up the same year every season since 2008 so points for consistency. Since 2008 he is averaging 12-11 with a 4.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 7.2 SO/9. I expect another .500 season with a low-4.00s ERA. He hit a league-leading 14 batters last season though (plus 11 the year before), and should really cut that out before someone takes offense.
Danks was banged up last season and awful when he played, putting up a 5.70 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in nine starts. In the four previous seasons, however, Danks averaged 12-11 with a 3.77 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 7 SO/9 which is right where you’d like your third or fourth starter to be. If he is healthy I expect double-digit wins with a high-3s ERA and a WHIP around 1.25.
Quintana is a former Mets and Yankees prospect who has always done well in the minors and I’m surprised it took him this long to reach the major league level. Sure, he’s only 24 but he’s a 24-year-old seven-year vet. In 50 minor league starts and 41 relief appearances, Quinatana is 19-11 with a 2.76 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10 SO/9. In his first major league action, he started 22 games and went 6-6 with a 3.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and just 5 SO/9 so it didn’t quite translate immediately. I think he has the potential to win double-digit games this year with a mid-3s ERA and a more reasonable WHIP in the 1.20s. I don’t think there’s any way he strikes out just five batters per nine innings again with his off-speed stuff improving.
Santiago will have a chance to get a rotation spot in spring training but more likely he is simply next in line once a spot opens up. He’s only pitched 357 innings in the minors and owns a fairly mediocre 3.50 ERA and 1.33 WHIP while his K:BB ratio is just 2:1. He looked solid in his first big league action in 2012 though, going 4-1 with a 3.33 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 10 SO/9 in four starts and 38 relief appearances but did walk 40 batters in 70 innings. I expect him to be in the bullpen again this year and start in case someone goes down.
Reed didn’t always make it look pretty, owning a 4.75 ERA and 1.36 WHIP but he converted 29 of 33 save opportunities. The former top prospect put up a ridiculous 1.41 ERA and 0.74 WHIP in 108 minor league innings however so he could develop into a pretty beastly pitcher if he could keep the baserunners down and keep the ball in the park (six homers allowed in 55 innings).
Thornton, Crain, and Lindstrom are all excellent relievers with ERAs in the mid-2.00s most seasons, it’s hard to do better than veteran arms like that.
Jones and Veal both looked excellent in their first real White Sox action last season as Jones went 8-0 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.38 WHIP and Veal allowed just two earned runs and nine baserunners in 13 IP while striking out 19.
Team Grade: B-
Fearless Prediction: 82-80, 2nd in AL Central