Projected starting rotation: Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Freddy Garcia
Projected 2010 starting lineup:
C: A.J. Pierzynski
1B: Paul Konerko
2B: Gordon Beckham
3B: Mark Teahen
SS: Alexei Ramírez
LF: Juan Pierre
CF: Alex Ríos
RF: Carlos Quentin
DH: Andruw Jones
Another season, another six months of Ozzie Guillen sound bites. The 2009 season for the White Sox was one of ups (Mark Buehrle’s perfect game) and downs (the entire month of September), that ultimately led to a disappointing 3rd-place finish in the mediocre AL Central. The offense was a major contributing factor to the letdown. Only two regular players—Pierzynski and Scott Podsednik—finished with a .300 or better average, and Paul Konerko led the team with 88 RBI. And Podsednik is no longer with the team. This year’s team looks very different than 2009’s, as the team went out and signed numerous veterans—namely a lot of veteran outfielders. Whether any of them pan out is a mystery wrapped in a riddle burrito. I’m leaning towards “they won’t”, though. CF Alex Rios was a monumental disappointment in Toronto and didn’t show any signs of changing when he was traded to Chicago late last year (.199 average with the Sox). Juan Pierre and his terrible arm will man leftfield and leadoff in the lineup in 2010. The X-factor is rightfielder Carlos Quentin. He’s an early Comeback Player of the Year candidate, after losing much of 2009 to injuries. If he can get over his mental anxiety as relates to his mechanics and can come back and give them anything like his MVP-caliber 2008 season, the Sox will stay in competition with the Twins, who look to be the clear favorites to win arguably the worst division in baseball. The White Sox, if nothing else, got a huge boost with the emergence of Gordon Beckham, the AL Rookie of the Year. He will shift to second base to make room for incoming Mark Teahen, who will obviously play third base. He seems to have a good idea of the strike zone already and he should only get better with experience.
As a whole the White Sox’ pitching staff was second in the AL in ERA last year and they will still trot out an above-average rotation, and, assuming Jake Peavy is at 100% in spring as he claims to be, they will have a very good one. Mark Buehrle is no longer the workhorse he used to be, as the club has limited his innings per appearance the last couple of seasons, but he is as crafty a pitcher as there is in the game. Still, excluding the perfect game, his second half was a horror show last year and there will be obvious concern that he is wearing down. Gavin Floyd and John Danks are cemented in the 3rd and 4th spots, respectively, and the fifth spot will likely be up for grabs between the returning Freddy Garcia and Daniel Hudson. Garcia will probably wind up with the final spot because Hudson likely isn’t quite ready yet. The bullpen is a huge question mark. If the club decides to move Bobby Jenks at the trade deadline, strikeout-machine Matt Thornton is the obvious choice to step into the closer’s role. The only problem with that is Jenks and Thornton are the only truly reliable (and proven) pitchers left in the bullpen. D.J. Carrasco, who led all their relievers in innings, is gone. Octavio Dotel, their second-leading man in holds, is also gone. Scott Linebrink is still there, but his ERA and WHIP skyrocketed in his second year with the team. He also averaged giving up a home run nearly every seven innings he pitched. But hey, the team went out and signed J.J. Putz for some reason. (I’m not sure what they saw from his injury-plagued disaster of a stay with the Mets that made them want to offer him a contract, but hey, just wait until I get to the Astros. Talk about horrible signings.) I’m guessing that Ozzie will need a case of Pepto Bismol while watching his middle relievers this season.
Prediction: 77-85 (3rd in AL Central): This is a terrible division, but the White Sox won’t be nearly as bad as the Royals and Indians will be. Their starting pitching is strong enough to keep them in contention for a while, but I’m expecting Minnesota to run away with the division. I just don’t think Chicago has enough offense or quality relievers to win it.