Welcome to the start of the 2014 season! This season has several offensive story lines to keep an eye on, and most of them will have an impact on whether the Chicago White Sox can climb out of the basement of the American League Central.
One of the story lines that’s been hovering over the team this off-season is the pending retirement of Paul Konerko. Konerko, coming off one of his overall worst seasons, announced this off-season that he will retire at the end of the year. He also is going to have his role on the team reduced with the signing of Jose Abreu.
Almost every year that Konerko has had a rough season, he’s managed to recover and have solid seasons. In 2003, he hit .234 and turned his fortunes around the following year for a .277 average. Again in 2008, he could only manage a .240 average but spun it around the next year for another .277 average. He has shown the ability in the past to fight back the next year for a decent season.
What will the story lines read for Paul Konerko at the end of 2014? Did a cut in playing time affect his chances of bouncing back, and did the decision to publicize the fact that he’ll retire at the end of the season be a distraction?
Another story line walking into spring training is, “Will the in-season and off-season acquisitions help to bring the White Sox back to October?” Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson all have the ability to make an impact on this year’s roster.
Avisail Garcia came on via trade at the end of July last season, and tried to create a spark in the team when he was called up a week and a half later. He hit a .304 average last season and had 4 doubles, 2 triples, and 5 home runs in the 42 games he played in for the Sox. He has yet to play in more than the 42 games in a season.
The “Next Miggy” (as people have named him, comparing him to Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers), Garcia will get the chance to prove the nickname true as he heads into his first full season. The 22-year-old will roam the field in right for the White Sox in 2014, and bring his solid defense with him (having only committed 3 errors in the 92 games he’s play in the majors). If he is still a beast defensively, can maintain the .300 average, and be a major extra base threat at the plate, he’ll be a major asset for the Sox as the season and his career go along.
The White Sox went on and signed Jose Abreu in October. The 6 foot, 3 inch, first baseman was sought after as the heir to Paul Konerko’s first base position. He is projected to be a .290 hitter with 30 plus home runs a season. The Sox are hoping that those projections start with his rookie season. The 27-year-old first baseman may have an adjustment period coming in to this season- especially being in a rotation at first base and designated hitter with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.
The first player traded for in December was Adam Eaton. The Sox were looking for a young center fielder that could be productive and under their control for a while. With Eaton, they receive a center fielder that’s hard-nosed like former Sox player, Aaron Rowand. He also gives them a 25-year-old that isn’t up for arbitration till 2016, and the earliest he can reach free agency is 2019.
In the 88 games he’s seen as a pro, Eaton has put up a .254 average, 24 extra base hits, and 31 walks. The White Sox are hoping that he brings with him some of his abilities in the minors. He probably won’t hit the .348 average like in the minors, but closer to a .280 avg. with a mid .300’s OBP (On Base Percentage). The Sox are going to be looking at the former Arizona Diamondback to get on base and cause some havoc.
The final acquisition from the Diamondbacks was third baseman, Matt Davidson. The 23-year-old, rookie was traded for less than a week after Eaton. He will compete with Jeff Keppinger and Connor Gillaspie, who combined for around a .230 average last season for the starter’s role at third base. Davidson’s projected as a 30 home run hitter but comes with a high strike out rate. If he can hit even .240 with 25-30 home runs in his first couple seasons, he’ll be a big improvement on offense compared to his competitors at third base.
These are the major story lines on the offensive side for the White Sox heading into a 2014 with unknown potential ahead of them. Could all these story lines mesh together to have a magical season, we’ll find out as the season moves along!