Spring training has ended and Opening Day is tomorrow afternoon! While I do not expect the Chicago White Sox to compete for a playoff spot, I do believe this team will take a big step forward in 2014. In 2013, the White Sox finished 63-99, but one could argue they played even worse than their record would indicate. Basic fundamentals like base running and routine fielding were as bad as I can remember, so improving on those areas alone should make for a better record. Also, with the new additions to the lineup, I expect the offense to be a lot better and the team should finish in the middle of the American League in runs scored. The starting rotation has some question marks behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but the White Sox have usually been able to produce a competent pitching staff behind pitching coach Don Cooper’s guidance. Lastly, the closing situation has yet to be determined, but the bullpen is looking surprisingly better than I anticipated a few months ago with a good mix of veterans and young power arms.
With that being said, it is time to look at the Chicago White Sox roster and how the team will perform this season. I have included bold predictions for some of the players. Again, these are bold predictions and are meant to be fun.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
1. Adam Eaton, CF: Eaton finishes the season with an OBP over .400, 30 SBs, and 100 runs scored. Because of his style of play, Eaton becomes a fan favorite and secures the leadoff spot for years to come.
2. Marcus Semien, 2B: Semien is starting in-place of the injured Gordon Beckham, but he should get at-bats all year with his versatility to play all over the infield. Whether by trade or injuries, Semien reaches 400 at-bats and has double digits in homers and steals.
3. Jose Abreu, 1B: All reports indicate that Abreu will prove to be a good signing for the White Sox, and I think he has a big year. Abreu ends the year with 30-plus home runs and wins Rookie of the Year.
4. Adam Dunn, DH: Thankfully, Dunn is entering the final year of his contract and hopefully he plays well enough early to entice a team to trade for his services. However, if Dunn gets off to a terrible start, it will be another long year for him and he’ll likely lose at-bats to Paul Konerko. Either way, I don’t see Dunn reaching 400 at-bats in a White Sox uniform.
5. Avisail Garcia, RF: The potential for a 20/20 season is there, but I don’t think he quite gets there this season (15/15 is more likely). However, Garcia will lock up right field for the future with a nice season offensively and defensively.
6. Alejandro De Aza, LF: De Aza will likely get the call with a righty on the mound, but he is in a platoon with Dayan Viciedo. I expect either De Aza or Viciedo to be traded at some point this season, and I’d personally rather trade De Aza. Although De Aza offers some nice speed and left-handed pop, his defense and base running was atrocious last season. I don’t see him as a fit going forward.
7. Alexei Ramirez, SS: Ramirez is signed through 2015 with a team option in 2016, but the White Sox will likely try to move him at some point. The White Sox have depth at the middle infield positions in the organization, so trading Ramirez makes sense. Alexei had a down year defensively and in the power department, but I expect some improvement in both areas making him an interesting trade chip. My gut feeling says Alexei is gone before the trade deadline.
8. Conor Gillaspie, 3B: Gillaspie had a good year in 2013 and impressed this spring to win the third baseman job for the time being. With Matt Davidson pegged as the future third baseman, Gillaspie is just keeping the spot warm. Davidson will likely be up by July, but Gillaspie will be a valuable player this season with his versatility and left-handed bat.
9. Tyler Flowers, C: Flowers had a miserable season in 2013, but he wasn’t healthy either. Flowers claims that he is at full strength and won the catching job due to his defense and game-calling ability, but there wasn’t a lot of competition. Flowers should hit 15-plus homers, but his average will likely hover around .200.
1. Chris Sale, LHP: The White Sox ace will lead the team in every major pitching category, giving him another All-star selection. With a little luck, Sale could win the Cy Young Award if he gets enough wins.
2. Felipe Paulino, RHP: Paulino is slotted between Sale and Quintana because the White Sox are unsure about how many innings he can handle while attempting to pitch his first full season after Tommy John surgery. Provided he stays healthy, Paulino will finish with the second most strikeouts on the staff behind Sale.
3. Jose Quintana, LHP: Quintana had a tremendous season in 2013, and he was probably the White Sox most consistent starter last year. Due to a lack of run support, Quintana only won nine games last season, but he probably deserved about 15 wins. As long as Quintana performs like he did last season, he’ll reach that win total this year.
4. Erik Johnson, RHP: The White Sox best pitching prospect will get a chance to show what he has for a full season. There will be some ups and downs for Johnson in 2014 so his ERA will likely be around 4.50, but I say he makes 30-plus starts and secures a rotation spot going forward.
5. John Danks, LHP: Danks has had a long road to recovery since undergoing shoulder surgery in August of 2012, but he says he is fully healthy. Experts say that it usually takes 18 months to fully recover from the procedure, so Danks should be ready to go in 2014. If that is true, Danks will eclipse 180 innings pitched and finish with an ERA around 4.00.
Nate Jones, RHP: We don’t know who the closer is yet, but Jones is the most likely choice. As I have mentioned, Jones has the stuff to handle the role, but I’m concerned about his control at times. While I’m not 100% convinced Jones is the answer going forward, I do think he will lead the team in saves in 2014.
Daniel Webb, RHP: The White Sox are high on Daniel Webb’s future, and I’m right with them. After struggling as a starter in the minors, the White Sox converted Webb to a reliever and he took off in 2013. In 2013, Webb had a 1.87 ERA while striking out 78 batters in 62.2 innings at two minor league levels. I can’t see the White Sox going with Webb as the closer out of the gate, but he is certainly in the discussion. Given that, he could be the closer by the end of the year.
Matt Lindstrom, RHP: Lindstrom is the veteran option to close and he does have some closing experience (45 career saves), but I’d be surprised if he started the year as closer. If he does, either Jones or Webb would eventually take over during the year.
Ronald Belisario, RHP
Maikel Cleto, RHP
Scott Downs, LHP
Donnie Veal, LHP
Paul Konerko, 1B/DH: This will be Konerko’s final season and he is expected to play a part-time role. However, I think Paulie will see more at-bats than anticipated. Given that I don’t think Dunn will reach 400 at-bats in a White Sox uniform, Konerko will get at least 300 at-bats and crank out 15-plus homers during his farewell tour.
Dayan Viciedo, OF: As mentioned above, Viciedo is on the other side of the platoon with De Aza. I think Viciedo has more potential than De Aza, so I’d like to see him get a chance to play every day. The power is there, and the White Sox will have an opening at DH next season to get his glove off the field.
Adrian Nieto, C: Nieto was a Rule 5 draft pick from the Washington Nationals and will be the back-up catcher. Nieto hasn’t played above high-A ball as of yet, so I don’t know what to expect from him this season. I don’t believe Nieto will get enough at-bats this season to determine if he is a long-term answer, but he is a player worth considering moving forward.
Leury Garcia, INF
Gordon Beckham, 2B: This is a big year for Beckham, but unfortunately it will begin with him on the disabled list with an oblique strain. He should be back by mid-April, but Beckham will have to perform offensively if he wants to be the second baseman moving forward. I’d love to see Beckham turn it around, but even if he does, he will probably get dealt by the trade deadline.
Jeff Keppinger, INF
After all of that, I firmly believe the White Sox are on the right track heading into the future. They should be drastically better in 2014 than they were in 2013, but it won’t be nearly enough to make a playoff push. I have the White Sox going 78-84 this season, which would be a 15-win improvement. If that happens, then the White Sox should be in a position to contend for a division title starting in 2015.