Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chicago White Sox Season 21 Outlook

Season 20
Won/Loss (place in division) & Playoffs: 93-69 (2nd and wild card), lost to Yankees in Round 1
Offense: 819 runs (3rd)
Pitching: 3.80 ERA (3rd)

Major Changes
FA Departures:
RP Kimera Ellsbury, RP Efrain Yang
FA Signees: RP Francisco Tavarez
Rule V:  SP Rollie Evans (#27)
Promoted:  SP Eswalin Vargas (Sea 17 #56 overall)

Season 21 OutlookChicago has a well-distributed (3 100+ RBI guys, 4 more with 60+) offense that does the big stuff well (.345 OBP - 2nd, .436 Slugging - 2nd).  They're not a big running team, but they also don't throw away many outs trying to steal bases (67/19 stolen bases).

RF Louie Young (.295/31/107), 1B Bernard Evert (.286/41/121), and DH Manuel Johnson (.287/36/114) do the power work.  Evert and Johnson had better-than-normal years, but not by much.  Best guess for this group is just a slight dropoff.

Jim Chamberlain is the Grade A catcher you don't know about.  Good power, contact, eye, pitch-calling and arm all in one package.  He's under-the-radar because he's a little short on DUR (doesn't roll up big counting stats), and he's had a series of knee injuries that have cut into parts of 3 seasons.
He's a big key to this team - if he's healthy for the playoffs, the Sox are much more dangerous team (he was available but invisible in last year's Round 1 loss).

There are a couple of viable options to lead off.  Willy Mo Hennessey has the best batting eye in the game.  His 113 walks last year may not have lead the league, but it had to be near the top.  But he's also a potent power source (36 HR's), so management may want that facet in the middle of the order.  CF Albert Espinosa is the team's best base-stealer (39/1), but isn't the on-base threat (.329).

Chicago's pitching got a big boost from budget FA signee Samuel Hyzdu.  He battled wildness but posted a 17-9, 3.85 ERA in an impressive 220 innings.  Any team would like to have him at $4.4MM, but he's a wild card. Gary Brinkley has maintained ace-level performance even as his ratings have declined; he's reached the point where he's really a #2 starter who's ratings will probably fall pretty hard over the season.  Matt Clemens is a solid #2, and Jesse Rivera is a 4.22 ERA guy who can give you the occasional breakout year (Season 15: 20-8, 3.41).  Vargas, Evans and Kirby Nolasco (16 starts last year).

The bullpen is getting up in years but is still very good.  Roberto Jacquez (3.31 ERA, 8 wins, 18 saves) has excelled in his sometimes-closer, sometimes middleman role.  At 35, Hugh Taylor is still one of the top short relievers in the game (2.56 career ERA).  Scott Sonnanstine and B.J. Lowell were both excellent in minimal innings - I'm not sure they can hold up to more exposure.  Finally, Francisco Tavarez becomes the feel-good story of the Spring by getting his shot after 14 minor-league seasons.

Chicago's offense is solid and should perform close to last year's levels.  The staff has some vulnerability, both in the rotation and the bullpen.  Barring further moves, expect a little falloff in the intensely competitive AL North.

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