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.
Aug 28, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT
Herrera, who was acquired from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd deal last August, was batting .340/.406/.560 with 10 homers and 48 RBI over 61 games in Double-A this season.
Aug 28, 2014, 10:21 PM EDT
Outman had a 3.28 ERA and 24/16 K/BB ratio over 24 2/3 innings with the Indians this season.
Aug 28, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT
Every time Alex Gordon steps to the plate at Kauffman Stadium these days, fans chant, “M-V-P, M-V-P,” which is fascinating on so many levels.
Aug 28, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT
Vic Black has emerged as an effective late-inning bridge for the Mets this season, but now he’s headed to the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck.
Aug 28, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT
The expectation is that Castillo will get some major league experience in September.
Aug 28, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT
Gomes suffered the concussion last Thursday when he was hit in the catcher’s mask by a deflected ball.
Aug 28, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT
The struggling Wright hasn’t played since leaving Sunday’s game with neck spasms.
Aug 28, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Nolan Reimold has been claimed off waivers for the second time in a month, going from the Orioles to the Blue Jays and now to the Diamondbacks.
Aug 28, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
This is just sad.
Aug 28, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
It’s five o’clock. Let’s end the work day with a big bunch of arguing, ok?
Aug 28, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT
There was no perfect game involved and in fact the 46 batters stretched over the course of eight appearances. Mark Buehrle held the previous record of 45 back in 2009.
Aug 28, 2014, 3:43 PM EDT
It’s not been a good week for Phillies brass.
Aug 28, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Soria made just six appearances for the Tigers after being acquired from the Rangers in July.
Aug 28, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
Not many rookies in recent MLB history have done as much running as The Fastest Man In Baseball.
Aug 28, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Umpire to Perez: “You smell good, Salvy!” I am not making that up.
Aug 28, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
With a load of great hitting prospects and the dough to go get pitching, things may soon be looking up on the north side of Chicago
Aug 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Sorry. There’s no joke there. Just a cool picture. Including Vedder with a sweet 70s-80s Tigers road uni.
Aug 28, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT
Last night after the Brewers lost to the Padres in extra innings manager Ron Roenicke tore into home plate umpire Mark Ripperger, who ejected Roenicke from the game in the ninth inning.
Aug 28, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
Four players (Cole Hamels, Domonic Brown, David Buchanan, and Kyle Kendrick) have publicly criticized and/or disrespected Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg this month, but the rookie skipper insists it’s “not a big deal.”
Aug 28, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
MLB.com strung together video of all nine hits, which is weirdly mesmerizing to watch.
- Alex Gordon and the M-V-P chants 23
- Could women play major league baseball? Sure. Right now, though, the deck is stacked against them. 205
- And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights 63
- David Price surrenders nine consecutive hits to the Yankees in the worst start of his career 29
- Video: Jorge Soler homers in his first major league at-bat 30
- Adam Wainwright has a “dead arm” 40
- HBT Daily: Alex Gordon and the Royals keep on rolling 12
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 43
- The Cubs grounds crew was short staffed because the Cubs were trying to avoid Obamacare (247)
- Could women play major league baseball? Sure. Right now, though, the deck is stacked against them. (205)
- Forgiveness for Pete Rose? Not in this lifetime (145)
- Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card (102)
- Great Moments in Drug Testing and Punishment: The NFL Edition (101)