Three reasons to watch the Chicago White Sox in 2015

Have you ever noticed how ancient most of the American League Central is? Only the Royals were added to the league via expansion, and only the Twins were originally in another location. Meanwhile, the White Sox and the Indians and the Tigers have all been in their current cities since the American League established itself as a major league in 1901.

The other divisions? The Red Sox are the only East club that’€™s been in place since 1901, and the West doesn’€™t have one at all. Call me sentimental, but there’€™s a special place in my history-loving heart for franchises that have remained essentially unchanged since the Junior Circuit’€™s first Opening Day. Notwithstanding the Indians’€™ generally unpleasant sartorial choices, I can watch a game between two American League Originals purely for that reason alone. Give me a Red Sox-Tigers game in Fenway Park and I’€™m a Leprechaun in clover.

Point being, I don’€™t need a lot of reasons to watch a White Sox game. Especially when you throw in the soothing, sabermetrical tones of Hawk Harrelson.

1. What will the Rookie of the Year do next?

Well, we just gotta watch Jose Abreu. Can he hit 36 homers again? Slug .581 and drive in 107 runs? We can’€™t assume he’€™ll do those things, because the 28-year-old Cuban might well have peaked in his Rookie of the Year season. Then again, maybe he’€™s just getting started. After all, any projection is essentially working off one year of highly useful data, as Abreu jumped straight from Cuba’€™s short seasons with uneven competition to the majors. Oh, and with a year off between. Any reasonable projection will assume some regression this season, because that’€™s the smart play. Abreu might well hit only 30 home runs this season. But would 40 be that surprising?

2. When will we see Carlos Rodon?

Officially, the third overall pick in last June’s amateur draft has logged only 24 1/3 professional innings. But those were some 24 1/3 innings, as Rodon struck out 38 batters and didn’€™t allow a home run. Granted, he did issue 13 walks. Kid’s gotta work on that, right?

Well, Rodon’s pitched a dozen innings this spring and struck out 19, with just three walks. Wednesday night in Arizona, Rodon K’€™d nine Royals in four innings, which got Twitter all a-twittering.

What’€™s next for Rodon is unknown. Staff ace Chris Sale is opening the season on the disabled list, but is expected to start against Minnesota in Chicago’€™s sixth game, obviating the need for a replacement. Either way, the Sox would likely keep Rodon in the minors for a couple of weeks, just to avoid starting his arbitration clock.

After that, though? Sale spent an entire season in the White Sox bullpen, largely to protect his arm. But Sale’€™s 6-6 and 180 pounds, while Rodon is listed as 6-3 and 234. So maybe he’€™s ready. And considering the relative weakness of the back end of the projected rotation –€“ John Danks and Hector Noesi didn’€™t contribute much last season except innings –€“ Rodon doesn’€™t figure to be on the Sale Protocol. Which might give the White Sox three outstanding starters this summer.

3. Is it (finally) time for Avisail Garcia?

In 2012, Garcia made his major-league debut in late August, with the Tigers, and played a key role down the stretch and into the postseason. He was supposed to become a star in 2013, but of course something funny happened on the way to Cooperstown. Garcia got off to a slow start that spring, and the Tigers first sent him back to the minors, and then to the White Sox in a big three-team trade that netted Jose Iglesias. Garcia performed decently upon joining the Sox, but a shoulder injury limited him to only 46 games in the majors last year.

Now he’€™s supposed to be completely healthy, and once again slated for regular duties in right field. Garcia’€™s projections don’€™t look like much, thanks to his pedestrian career stats in the majors. But he’€™s also got a .366/.411/.522 line in 54 Triple-A games, and at just 23 he’€™s still young enough for a breakout. The White Sox probably need someone besides Abreu to post big numbers, and Garcia might be the best candidate.

Chicago White Sox

2014 record: 73-89

Playoffs: N/A

Projected 2015 record: 78-84*

Key additions: SP Jeff Samardzija, OF Melky Cabrera, RP David Robertson, 1B Adam LaRoche, IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, RP Zach Duke, RP Dan Jennings, IF Gordon Beckham

Key subtractions: OF Dayan Viciedo, OF Moises Sierra, IF Marcus Semien, OF Jordan Danks, RP Matt Lindstrom