The Second City's second team threatened to win baseball's weakest division last year before an utter collapse in the final days allowed the Tigers to sneak in and leave the White Sox out in the cold. Still, it was a successful first year for rookie manager Robin Ventura, who had never previously managed any team. You could be forgiven for asking, "Who are these fuckin' guys?"; years of poor drafting and development have left the Pale Hose with a system nearly bereft of young stars and a major league team relying on a couple of older recognizable names to carry them. Let's take a look:
CF Alejandro De Aza (L): .295/.357/.438, 12 HR, 28 SB, 3.6 WAR
3B Jeff Keppinger (R): .290/.342/.392, 7 HR, 1.7 WAR
DH Adam Dunn (L): .207/.341/.442, 33 HR, 2.4 WAR
1B Paul Konerko (R): .281/.367/.486, 30 HR, 2.8 WAR
RF Alex Rios (R): .273/.318/.443, 20 HR, 20 SB, 2.5 WAR
LF Dayan Viciedo (R): .271/.316/.445, 24 HR, 1.8 WAR
SS Alexei Ramirez (R): .269/.309/.389, 14 HR, 15 SB, 3.2 WAR
C Tyler Flowers (R): .236/.338/.453, 13 HR, 3.0 WAR
2B Gordon Beckham (R): .246/.314/.398, 15 HR, 1.8 WAR
De Aza played capably in his first full season after an excellent 2011 cameo performance, and he will be counted on to hold down the leadoff role because, well, someone has to, and there aren't really any other options. Keppinger was signed away from the Rays more for his glove than his bat; he won't give the team any power, but can rack up some singles and get on base at an adequate rate. The fact that Dunn, with his near-guaranteed 200 strikeouts and matching Mendoza Line batting average, is likely slated to hit third tells you just how untrustworthy most of these hitters are. The Big Donkey still has power and can take a walk, but won't get on base any other way. Konerko is still plugging along entering his fifteenth (and maybe last) season at Comiskey; even at 37 he remains an effective hitter with power and on-base skills. After that, however, the lineup takes a real dive, with none of the five remaining players able to get on base at any kind of reasonable rate. All of them have some power potential thanks to Comiskey's rather small dimensions, but they will also pad opposing staffs' strikeout totals. Viciedo (24), Beckham (26), and Flowers (27) are at least young, although Beckham has been a major disappointment since his successful rookie campaign in 2009.
When the bats go quiet, the Sox will need to win games with their defense, which fortunately for them they have the ability to do. Ramirez has range and a cannon arm at short, and Beckham is a plus defender at second. Really the only poor fielder, especially in their small home park, is Konerko, although he's still worlds better than the immobile Dunn. Flowers has the difficult task of replacing A.J. Pierzynski, who despite being probably the most loathed player in the league (well, except maybe A-Rod) was a terrific catcher for the White Sox who helped to get the most out of their pitching staff.
LHP Chris Sale: 198.0 IP, 214 K, 57 BB, 3.09 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 4.3 WAR
RHP Jake Peavy: 211.0 IP, 200 K, 47 BB, 3.20 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.3 WAR
LHP John Danks: 173.0 IP, 133 K, 57 BB, 3.90 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 1.3 WAR
RHP Gavin Floyd: 162.0 IP, 127 K, 52 BB, 4.06 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 2.3 WAR
LHP Jose Quintana: 137.0 IP, 91 K, 52 BB, 4.19 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 1.1 WAR
Sale moved to the rotation last year and was outstanding, striking out exactly a batter an inning and posting a 3.05 ERA. At just 24, his best years should still be ahead of him, although his delivery is an injury concern. Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young winner, seems like he has been around forever, but in fact is just 32; he seemed to be fully recovered from arm troubles last year and should provide borderline All-Star work as the durable second guy in this rotation. Danks and Floyd will give you five or six half-decent innings and not much else; neither one strikes out enough batters or walks few enough to do more than that. Quintana, the probable fifth starter, needs to work on his control in his second season after walking almost three batters per nine a year ago.
Addison Reed was underwhelming as the closer last year, with a 4.75 ERA, and so the team brought in Matt Lindstrom on a one-year deal to compete for the role. Nate Jones, Hector Santiago, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain make up the rest of a decent if relatively uninspiring bullpen. While the White Sox generally find a way to contend, I feel that this year they may need to rely on a Detroit collapse to make the playoffs. Even though Kansas City and Cleveland have gotten noticeably better this winter, the AL Central remains the worst division in baseball, and I doubt that Chicago has enough juice to push them past the Tigers.