Our 2015 White Sox Preview
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Apr 7, 2015 8:45PM
Hard to believe it, but it's already been a decade since the White Sox won their latest World Series title, and there have been very few times where they looked like they could contend yet again. But the buzz with this year's team is perhaps the highest it's been since 2006, the year after their title.
Last season was another failure for the White Sox, finishing 73-89. While a 10 game improvement from 2013, it was still well below what Sox fans wanted to see— and they stayed away in droves as a result. The Sox were 13th in the AL in attendance, even as the team made the season a 6-month long going away party for Paul Konerko.
This winter, owner Jerry Reinsdorf opened the wallet and GM Rick Hahn went to work. By the time the dust settled the White Sox had perhaps the best winter of any team in baseball— increasing their opening day payroll by over $25 million. The White Sox added a top of the rotation starting pitcher in Jeff Samardzija, slugger Adam LaRoche to hit behind Jose Abreu and addressed the woeful bullpen by adding closer David Robertson plus Zack Duke and Dan Jennings. The team also replaced the disappointing Dayan Viciedo in left field with Melky Cabrera. Manager Robin Ventura has received a pass so far despite the sub-par play, but with his revamped roster the team will be expected to perform or he could find himself on the hot seat.
Paul Konerko - 1B/DH
Adam Dunn - 1B/DH
Dayan Viciedo - LF
Marcus Semien - 2B
Jeff Samardzija - SP
David Robertson - Closer
Adam LaRoche - 1B/DH
Melky Cabrera - LF
Zack Duke - RP
Dan Jennings - RP
Geovany Soto - C
The most glaring weakness for the White Sox in 2014 was their bullpen, which cost the team countless wins over the course of the season and helped limit ace Chris Sale to just 12 victories despite a stellar 2.17 ERA. With the departure of Addison Reed before last season, the team ended up trying just about everybody in the closer role, with little success by anybody. Jake Petricka led the team with 14 saves, while Ronald Belisario, Matt Lindstrom and Zach Putnam each notched a few. Enter David Robertson, who was the most coveted closer on the free agent market this winter. For a number of years, Robertson was the Yankees' set-up man ahead of legend Mariano Rivera. Once Rivera retired, Robertson became the New York closer, notching 39 saves in 2014. To fill out the bullpen, the team also signed Zack Duke and Dan Jennings to help round out a staff that carried over some younger pitchers with potential.
The team also upgraded the starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija was acquired from the Oakland A's for Marcus Semien and some other prospects over the winter, giving the team a right handed ace to counter lefty ace Chris Sale. The victim of lots of bad luck, Shark was just 7-13 last season despite a 2.99 ERA for the Cubs and Oakland. Behind the tandem aces, the Sox have the underrated Jose Quintana, John Danks and Hector Noesi. There is also much speculation that last year's top pick, Carlos Rodon might pitch himself a call up to the Show and into the rotation at some point this year. Particularly with their top three starters, the Sox have a strong rotation that should keep them in many games and would set up well in the post season, should they get that far.
With the trade deadline departure of Adam Dunn and retirement of Paul Konerko, the team was in need of a slugger to provide some protection for Jose Abreu. Adam LaRoche was brought on, hitting 26 dingers for Washington last year. While a former Gold Glove winner at first base, expect him to play mostly DH. Melky Cabrera was also added to provide more offense in 2015. Cabrera hit .301 for Toronto last season, along with hitting 16 home runs and driving in 73 runs.
Adam Eaton - CF
Melky Cabrera - LF
Jose Abreu - 1B
Adam LaRoche - DH
Avisail Garcia - RF
Alexei Ramirez - SS
Conor Gillaspie - 3B
Tyler Flowers - C
Micah Johnson - 2B
Projected Starting Rotation:
In all, the team turned over nearly half its roster from last season with 12 new players on the team. Many of those who returned were new additions a year ago, including Jose Abreu, center fielder and lead off hitter Adam Eaton as well as right fielder Avisail Garcia.
These younger players are the core of a revamped line-up. Jose Abreu exceeded even the most optimistic expectations following his high profile signing, winning the American League Rookie of the Year in 2014 and finishing 4th in the MVP voting after hitting 36 home runs and batting .317. Last year, his power numbers dipped late in the season, although his batting average climbed down the stretch. If he can keep his hitting consistent all year, he'll surely climb higher in the MVP voting. Eaton was an upgrade in the leadoff spot for the team, while Garcia got to show only a little of his potential before an injury sidelined him for most of the year. Adding veterans Cabrera and LaRoche will only solidify the line-up top to bottom.
Rounding out the lineup and filling the infield are Conor Gillaspie, All-Star shortstop Alexei Ramirez and rookie Micah Johnson at second base. He beat out Carlos Sanchez and Gordon Beckham, who returned to the Sox after being traded mid-season.
Perhaps the position most in need of an upgrade is catcher, where Tyler Flowers remains the starter. Some believe he turned a corner late in 2014 and may begin living up to his potential. To back him up, the Sox signed Geovany Soto, who won Rookie of the Year with the Cubs in 2008. Never the player with Texas that he was with the Cubs, he should be an upgrade as reserve catcher.
While the Sox didn't address all their weaknesses this off-season, team management did a masterful job of scratching positions of need off the list. Combined with their additions of a year ago, and the continued development of Chris Sale, the Sox have the potential to be an exciting team in 2015. Will they have enough to compete in the tough AL Central though? They must face AL champions Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers 17 times each. And Cleveland is also improving, which should make for a fun divisional race in 2015. We'd like to believe the Sox have improved enough to chase 90 wins and a chance at the post season, but we'll have to wait until the fall to find out.