2014 White Sox preview: Work cut out for Ventura’s crew
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Offense: Consider that the White Sox ranked last in the AL in scoring and second to last in on-base percentage last season, and it’s easy to see why the team fell so flat after a promising 2012. The pitching was there, but the offense was absent. Adam Dunn had 86 RBI and 34 home runs but continued his feast-or-famine ways, and only two White Sox — Alex Rios and Alejandro De Aza — ranked in the top 50 for on-base percentage among AL hitters. Eaton, the new center fielder and leadoff man, could create a lot more scoring chances, while fellow newcomers Abreu and Davidson have potential to add power to the lineup, but the White Sox will need much more up and down the batting order.
Rotation: The White Sox resisted trade overtures for staff ace Chris Sale, hanging on to the 24-year-old lefty after he finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting last year. With 28 wins and a 3.06 ERA over the past two seasons, Sale remains on an upward trajectory. Jose Quintana, 25, gives the White Sox a solid young No. 2 starter who could be in for another step up in his third big-league season, but after that there are question marks. John Danks, 4-14 last year, starts the season healthy after missing time in 2012 and 2013 because of a shoulder injury. Prospect Erik Johnson, 24, is slotted for the No. 4 spot but has just five big-league starts to his name.
Bullpen: Relief pitching was a strength in 2013, but this season’s bullpen will look significantly different. Gone since the start of the 2013 are Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and the closer Reed. Newcomers include Bellisario, Scott Downs and Boggs, who’s trying to get his career back on track after a hard fall from grace last season. Likely new closer Nate Jones faces the task of replacing Reed, who saved 40 games last season.
Player to watch: Abreu. The White Sox took their latest international gamble on Abreu, a 27-year-old Cuban first baseman. As one of the best hitters in Cuba’s top league the past few seasons, he replaces longtime fixture Paul Konerko as the everyday first baseman and has the potential to provide some much-needed pop to a lineup that finished 12th in the AL in home runs last season.
Why they will win: The projected Opening Day lineup should be much improved if a number of players perform to expectations. Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez both posted career worst RBI and home run totals last season and could be key factors if they return to form. Eaton, Abreu and third baseman Davidson are intriguing additions, and if the young pitchers continue to improve, the White Sox should do likewise.
Why they will lose: Any starting rotation with question marks like the White Sox’s can trend in the wrong direction quickly. Danks’ return to form is no sure thing, and a lack of experience could catch up to the back end of the rotation. While the everyday lineup appears to have been upgraded, none of the newcomers have a history of major-league success.
Jon Paul Morosi’s outlook: The White Sox arrived at spring training with an uncommon level of optimism after losing 99 games last year – if not about their chances to win the division in 2014, then certainly the franchise’s overall direction. The immensely respected Konerko returned for one more year as a mentor to Abreu, his replacement at first base. Regardless of their record, the White Sox will declare 2014 a success if Davidson and Eaton establish themselves as long-term everyday players after arriving in separate trades with the Diamondbacks. A winning record is possible if young starters Johnson and Andre Rienzo continue to mature.