Feb 27, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.
The Big Question: Can the White Sox rebuild the league’s worst lineup on the fly?
Chicago went from 85 wins in 2012 to 63 wins last year for the White Sox’s worst season since 1970. Their pitching got worse, but it was nothing compared to the offense falling off a cliff by going from fourth in the league with 748 runs to dead last with 598 runs. It was ugly.
Instead of stocking up on prospects with an eye toward several years down the road general manager Rick Hahn has instead tried to rebuild the lineup in the short and long term, acquiring MLB-ready young talent in Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, and Avisail Garcia. In doing so he traded away a young closer in Addison Reed and a young mid-rotation starter in Hector Santiago, and the White Sox previously parted with Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Jesse Crain, and Matt Thornton in the middle of last season. Toss in Paul Konerko fading into a part-time role and this is a very different lineup than the .680 OPS crew, but will the results be much different?
Not so long ago Eaton looked like one of the best leadoff prospects in baseball, Abreu has immense upside after putting up monster numbers as a slugger in Cuba, and both Davidson and Garcia have the potential to be solid contributors offensively. But for the White Sox’s lineup to go from horrible to respectable immediately they need just about everything to click and holdover bats Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, and Tyler Flowers have disappointed after once showing promise as youngsters themselves.
Chicago’s offense can’t help but be better in 2014, but the White Sox don’t look capable of making the leap into contention and the success or failure of the season depends largely on Abreu living up to the hype and 2-3 other young bats emerging as long-term regulars (plus Chris Sale staying healthy and remaining one of the elite starters in the league, of course). If they can accomplish those things and win 70-something games Hahn and company should be pretty happy with the offseason moves.
What else is going on?
- Thanks to a misleadingly poor win-loss record last season it’s possible that a lot of people don’t realize just how amazing Sale has been as a starter. Among all MLB starting pitchers since 2012–when he moved into the rotation–Sale ranks ninth in ERA and third in ERA+, which adjusts for ballparks and leagues. He’s also fifth in strikeout rate, fourth in K/BB ratio, and ninth in opponents’ OPS. He’s one of the best 5-10 pitchers in baseball and he’s still just 25 years old.
- Much is being made about the decision to trade away a 24-year-old closer coming off a 40-save season, but Reed wasn’t all that great once you get past the save total. He has a 4.17 career ERA, is more fly-ball prone that is ideal in the ninth-inning role, and has mediocre control. And while he’s piled up plenty of saves his actual save conversion rate of 85 percent is nothing special. The wisdom of the trade obviously depends on whether Davidson proves to be a valuable regular, but the idea of cashing in Reed was a smart one. Closers are made, not born, and Nate Jones or Matt Lindstrom likely can handle the job without much dropoff.
- Exactly how good can Abreu be? Projecting foreign players is always tough, but Fan Graphs’ reliable ZiPS system pegs Abreu as a .273 hitter with 26 homers and an .858 OPS as a rookie. To put that in some context, an .858 OPS would have ranked sixth among MLB first basemen last season, one spot behind Freddie Freeman. If the White Sox get that, they should be thrilled with their $68 million investment. (The bad news? Abreu is the only White Sox hitter projected by ZiPS to be above average.)
- Overshadowed by the young, MLB-ready bats brought into the mix is that the White Sox also already had a very good infield prospect in Marcus Semien. Last season between Double-A and Triple-A he hit .284 with 19 homers, 24 steals, more walks (98) than strikeouts (90), and an .880 OPS, including a studly .401 on-base percentage at age 22. Semien getting on base and Abreu knocking him in could be a very nice combo for a long time, perhaps as soon as midseason.
Prediction: Better–and a whole lot more interesting–but still nowhere near good. Fifth place, AL Central.
Apr 20, 2014, 11:35 PM EDT
J.J. Hardy thought extension talks with the Orioles would have already been underway, but the club has been silent on the matter.
Apr 20, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT
Ryan Howard is one of the more unlikely candidates to hit for the cycle, but he was one friendly scorer away from the achievement on Sunday against the Rockies.
Apr 20, 2014, 10:05 PM EDT
You’ll be seeing this play at the end of the season when the season’s wackiest plays are reviewed.
Apr 20, 2014, 9:10 PM EDT
Oh, nothing, just Dexter Fowler being coached by arguably the greatest hitter in baseball history.
Apr 20, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT
Ryan Braun likes hitting in the state of Pennsylvania.
Apr 20, 2014, 7:55 PM EDT
Jeff Francoeur is known for his arm, but who knew he’d be useful as a pitcher?
Apr 20, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
The Red Sox and Orioles teamed up for a touching tribute at Fenway Park on Sunday.
Apr 20, 2014, 6:58 PM EDT
40-year-old Bobby Abreu is expected to join the Mets on Monday.
Apr 20, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
Chipper Jones is not a fan of Carlos Gomez.
Apr 20, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw a 51-pitch, three-inning simulated game on Sunday in Los Angeles and could soon be cleared to embark on a minor league rehab assignment.
Apr 20, 2014, 4:12 PM EDT
The Cardinals have decided on a fill-in for starting pitcher Joe Kelly, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained left hamstring that he suffered Wednesday while trying to beat out a groundball. It’ll be 26-year-old lefty Tyler Lyons.
Apr 20, 2014, 3:07 PM EDT
A pretty vicious brawl just went down at PNC Park after Carlos Gomez of the Brewers went into home run celebration mode after slugging a Gerrit Cole pitch to the top of the center field wall …
Apr 20, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT
As first relayed by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Twins have claimed outfielder Sam Fuld off waivers from the A’s. Fuld was designated for assignment by Oakland last Saturday.
Apr 20, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT
MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Cubs top shortstop prospect Javier Baez is back in the lineup Sunday afternoon at Triple-A Iowa after missing a little over a week with soreness in his left ankle. He’ll serve as Iowa’s DH initially.
Apr 20, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT
Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is recovered from his Grade 1 right hamstring strain and is starting Sunday for the first time in over two weeks.
Apr 20, 2014, 12:14 PM EDT
The Tigers acquired Alex Gonzalez from the Orioles in late March after losing Jose Iglesias for the year and the veteran shortstop smacked a walkoff RBI single for Detroit on Opening Day. But he managed just three hits in 28 plate appearances after that and was officially released from the 25-man roster on Sunday.
Apr 20, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Jose Valverde allowed three runs in an inning of work Saturday night against the Braves — the latest in a string of rough outings. So manager Terry Collins decided Sunday morning to make a change …
Apr 20, 2014, 10:49 AM EDT
Yankees starter Ivan Nova has been diagnosed with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow — an injury that almost always leads to Tommy John surgery.
Craig Kimbrel struggles in return from right shoulder issue, apologizes for reaction to being pulled
Apr 20, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
Craig Kimbrel was called on Saturday for the first time since complaining of discomfort in his shoulder last Monday. The appearance did not go smoothly.
Apr 20, 2014, 9:37 AM EDT
Watch as Angels first baseman Albert Pujols moved to within two home runs of the big 500-homer milestone on Saturday afternoon against Tigers closer Joe Nathan …
- Boston Marathon heroes remembered with pregame ceremony at Fenway Park 7
- Benches clear in Pittsburgh after the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez bat flips a third-inning triple 155
- Yankees activate Mark Teixeira from the disabled list 4
- Ivan Nova diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow 30
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 35
- Hank Aaron is getting vile racist hate mail in retaliation for pointing out that racism still exists (248)
- “They Don’t Know Henry” (167)
- Benches clear in Pittsburgh after the Brewers’ Carlos Gomez bat flips a third-inning triple (155)
- Doug Glanville’s story about being racially profiled at his own home (127)
- There is still a racial divide in baseball (112)