Mar 10, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox players celebrate a win over the Milwaukee Brewers in a spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park. The Chicago White Sox won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

AL Central Research Part 3: Chicago White Sox


White Sox Stuck in the Middle

The Indians will have their hands full this year in the AL Central. The Tigers look to be contenders once again. The Royals should be in the mix as well after a sensational 2013 season. Even the Twins and White Sox, despite their flaws and current rebuilds, should prove to be a tough opponent on most nights.

With that in mind, I reached out to the editors of the other AL Central team sites here on the Fansided network and asked them some tough questions about their respective teams. I figured, what better way to gauge how well the Indians might do this year than to do a little research on their primary competitors. I asked each of them a series of questions hoping for some honest and insightful answers. I can’t thank each of them enough for their time.

In part one, we previewed the Kansas City Royals. In part two, we went up north with the Minnesota Twins. Today, we hit the south side of Chicago to take an in-depth look at the White Sox. After being stuck in the middle for the past few seasons, unsure of whether or not they are competing or rebuilding, the Sox finally seem less dedicated to their present and more to their future. To find out for sure, I reached out to James Fegan, one of the co-editors of Fansided’s White Sox website, Southside Showdown, to get his take on where they stand in 2014. You can follow James on Twitter @JRFegan.

Chicago White Sox:

chicago white sox

Feb 22, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko (14) poses for a photo during photo day at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Lineup:

  1. Adam Eaton, CF
  2. Alejandro De Aza, LF
  3. Jose Abreu, 1B
  4. Adam Dunn/Paul Konerko, DH
  5. Avisail Garcia, RF
  6. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  7. Matt Davidson, 3B
  8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
  9. Tyler Flowers, C

Projected Starting Rotation:

Closer:

Prospect Likely to Make a Difference:

Wahoo’s on First: Alright, let’s just get to the giant elephant in the room. Jose Abreu. How excited are you to see what he can do? Did the White Sox make the right decision to sign him?

James Fegan: Very excited, provided what he can do is “a lot,” and not saddled with qualifications like “against pitchers who top out at 88 mph.” The White Sox did not so much as make the right decision as the only decision in acquiring Abreu. Unless you count a 25 year-old who just reached Triple-A and has platoon issues, their prospect cupboard is bare for cornerstone bats, and they haven’t drafted and developed a hitter of any consequence since they won the World Series. (This sounds like an exaggeration but it is not)

The risk of Abreu not panning out just doesn’t carry the weight it does for other team, because they are bereft for alternatives. Perhaps it’s better to invest in proven major leaguers, to which I’ll counter “Adam Dunn.”

Wahoo’s on First: This is supposed to be Paul Konerko’s final season. As an Indians fan I’ll be happy to not have to worry about him anymore after this season. How do White Sox fans feel about his approaching retirement?

James Fegan: If we look at the numbers, you haven’t really haven’t had to worry about him since the 2012 All-Star Break.

White Sox fans feel put in an odd position. Konerko’s been bad for a while now, so 2013 felt like his farewell tour throughout. It would have been a sad one since the team was breaking down alongside his body, but there’s not much to be done about that.

chicago white sox

Feb 22, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (79) poses for a photo during photo day at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As much as everyone likes him, this big front office push that he deserves a roster spot no matter what is an awkward fit. There’s not much chance of him being anything other than bad, and even smaller chance of him being a good use of a roster spot. This sort of mascot role they’re forcing him into is heavily predicated on his clubhouse presence, which starts a conversation that I don’t think anyone wants to have. White Sox teams have mostly been shrinking violets under Konerko’s captainship and he’s been the first to admit that he hasn’t been the most active leader until now.

Maybe playing here and there and talking with the kiddies will suit him, but after a decade and a half of watching him brood and mash, it sure as hell doesn’t sound like a natural transition.

Wahoo’s on First: The White Sox are clearly in a transition period. From the outside, it seems like they’ve done a good job in acquiring young talent the past couple of seasons. Do you feel like they are headed in the right direction?

James Fegan: Maybe the only mitigating factor is their refusal to ever fully acknowledge being in a transition period. The Sox have stopped drafting stupid, they’re moving beyond the Dave Wilder scandal internationally, and they’ve stopped trying to reload with 30-somethings. Someone might rank their farm system in the top half of the league sometime before the President’s kids are out of college.

It’s all progress, but the White Sox are still the White Sox. All the prospects they’re trying to acquire are more or less MLB-ready, and their pitchers still move through the system at light speed. Given what a disaster their development of offense has been, perhaps this approach is understandable.

Wahoo’s on First: What concerns you most about the 2014 White Sox?

James Fegan: There’s a reason all the kiddies the Sox picked up were available; they all have significant red flags. Avisail Garcia has trouble pulling the ball and his swinging strike rate would have paced the league over a full season last year. Adam Eaton was a fairly bad player last season when he was actually in the field and semi-healthy. Matt Davidson has big contact issues that could keep him from being much more than slightly above-average at the plate. Jose Abreu has similar bat speed concerns. Hahn gets praised for coming up with four long-term possibilities in his offense, but there’s plenty of reason he could miss on all four.

Wahoo’s on First: What’s going on with Adam Dunn? He made it very clear how unhappy he was at the end of last season and still the White Sox refused to trade him. Do you see him being a distraction? Do you think there is any chance he gets moved?

James Fegan: I didn’t interpret his unhappiness being directed toward management or how he’s used. He’s miserable–I would assume–because he’s played terribly and the team that he signed with to get a shot at the playoffs, has been hopelessly hampered because of it.

He’s claimed to be on board with reduced playing time as he share at-bats with Konerko, so I don’t anticipate problems. I think the issues with him being traded rest more in being paid $15 million per year while providing no value besides a ~.780 OPS against right-handed pitching. He’s on his last year, so maybe that’s enough to intrigue someone this year, but I can’t imagine why.

He’s tried very hard and made a lot of adjustments but he’s just not a good player anymore.

Wahoo’s on First: As someone who follows a another team in the AL Central, what do you make of the Indians heading into 2014?

James Fegan: It’s a pretty boffo offense that relies primarily on young pieces, so that’s nice and plenty of reason to expect the Tribe to be a piece or two away from the playoffs at any given moment for the next few years. I am kind of curious where the innings that Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir soaked up last year are going now. Even if the kid gloves come off Danny Salazar, Justin Masterson will need to string two above-average seasons together for the first time for this rotation to hold up. Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister will need to play big roles as well.

That said, a two-team race with Cleveland and Detroit seems likely, and what more can you ask for?

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