Under the blue skies at Camelback Ranch in Arizona the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are getting ready to toss the first pitches in the 2015 spring training season for both teams.
Jose Quintana will take the mound for the north side against the stout Dodgers lineup that features Jimmy Rollins and Carl Crawford at the top of the lineup and a healthy mix of lefties and righties throughout the lineup. The mix in the lineup will give Quintana an excellent chance to work on whatever he needs to for hitters on both sides.
A couple players to keep an eye on during the game would be how Gordon Beckham does at third base and Carlos Sanchez at second base, Both players are looking to make a statement this spring, going forward it’ll be interesting to see how both positions play out in the next month.
Another thing to watch out for is the lineup in general for the White Sox. Throughout the offsesason it was expected that the lineup would feature Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche, Avisail Garcia, and Alexei Ramirez as the order of the top six. It’ll be interesting to see if this lineup will prosper as is or how Manager Robin Ventura might tweak the lineup throughout the spring to see what different combinations are the most successful since a majority of the positions are already set.
The rest of the week will see the south side ball club take on the Dodgers again tomorrow, then will go to the Padres at , come back to Camelback Ranch to take on the Mariners Saturday and will go to the Athletics on Sunday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s games are at 2:05 Central Time and Sunday’s game will be at 3:05 Central Time.
The 2014 season wasn’t exactly kind to Adam Eaton as he spent 32 days total on the disabled list. The same can be said about Avisail Garcia and his 2014 season. Although Eaton was only on the disabled list for two stints totaling 32 days, Garcia was stuck on the list for a majority of four months with a torn labrum in his left shoulder that happened 8 games into the season.
Eaton was exactly what the White Sox needed a lead-off man to be. While he didn’t steal a lot of bases, 15 in 24 attempts, but he had a .362 on base percentage hitting the entire time out of the top spot. He gave the White Sox something they’d been lacking using Alejandro DeAza, a lead-off hitter who’d set the stage for the middle of the batting order. Instead, when DeAza was in the top spot in previous seasons, he would try to strike out attempting to hit home runs and as a result would leave no one on base for Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, or anyone else who’d hit in the heart of the lineup.
The biggest problem Eaton ran into, other than trying to stay healthy by not letting walls beat him up is having the second hitter in the lineup hit a double play eliminating the chance to get the offense rolling. The hitters who spent some time in the second spot combined for a total of 57 double plays throughout the season. That plus the countless number of fielder’s choices supplied throughout the lineup kept the offense sputtering at times when they would finally get runners on base.
However with a 5.2 wins above replacement number and a .338 average with runners on base, Eaton was able to come away with last season knowing he’d done his job. It also showed he’d taken the step forward the Sox had hoped he would after they had acquired him in the trade with Arizona. He’ll look to keep his foot forward this season and hopefully he’ll keep his body away from the outfield fences that had him seeing time on the disabled list last season.
Last season was supposed to be the breakout season for Avisail Garcia. He was supposed to take a leap towards becoming the player everyone has projected the 24-year old to be. However one play in April changed the route Garcia’s season would take. He would spend the next four months recovering and rehabbing from a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He finally returned later in August from the DL quicker than some expected and was able to get work in at the major league level in the outfield and at the plate. He would go on to hit just .244 last season in a total of 46 games, but that wasn’t as important as him taking advantage of the playing time on a team that wasn’t going anywhere.
The obvious hope for the White Sox is to get to see Garcia the whole season, especially after he’s lost the extra weight he gained at the end of 2014. Garcia’s been dieting and working out trying to get his speed back to make him once again a projected five-tool player. If the Sox intend to be successful this season and compete for the division and the World Series, it’ll take Garcia being successful from wherever in the lineup Robin Ventura sees him fitting. The most likely spot in that lineup will probably be at number five hitting behind either Adam LaRoche or Jose Abreu.
Other than Emilio Bonifacio who is listed as a back up to all the outfielders, Leury Garcia is also among the list to back up Eaton in centerfield. As a utility fielder in 2014, Garcia only hit .166 in 74 games playing a multitude of positions including one inning in relief during an extra inning game. The 23-year old Garcia needs to come out firing on all cylinders come the February 24th when the Sox position players report and spring training gets going. He’s going to have competition for utility player with the acquisitions of Gordon Beckham, J.B. Shuck, and Emilio Bonifacio. If he does have a mediocre spring, it could be his versatility that keeps him on the 25-man roster coming out of Camelback Ranch.
Non-roster invitee and former Chicago Cub Tony Campana was supposed to be in the mix for a bench role but on February 10th the White Sox twitter account reported that Campana had torn his ACL while training recent to the announcement and would most likely be out for the entire 2015 season.
While the Sox tried to set their roster up with defensive depth in all three positions, it may have come at the cost of offensive depth. The starters shouldn’t have an issue producing runs, but we’ll have to see what combination of bench players Sox management gives themselves heading into the regular season. However, for what we as Sox fans have dealt with over the recent seasons, we’ll take the starting three as is and deal with the lack of offensive depth when it becomes an issue.
While the Chicago Cubs are getting a ton of attention for the way they’ve been rebuilding their roster over the past three seasons, the Chicago White Sox have been forced to use different tactics as they try to become competitive again in the AL Central.
The Cubs had to completely tear down and rebuild their MLB roster and farm system over the course of the past three years, and while their attendance and revenues have suffered as a result (not to mention the gallons of ink spilled by local scribes who simply refuse to believe that the process was necessary), they still are able to do this because they are a big-market team in a big-market town.
The White Sox, on the other hand, are forced to go about things differently. Instead of being able to just deal away high priced assets for younger talent, the Sox have to put up a façade every year that they are going to compete for a division title. Even with that statement being made every year by Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, the Sox are still about to go through their fifth straight season of not making the playoffs.
Despite that obstacle of having to straddle the line between competing and rebuilding, the White Sox are still capable of making some shrewd moves. They signed Jose Abreu to a free agent contract in the offseason, and even though it was a gamble to give a Cuban player that kind of money, he has rewarded the team for their faith, slugging the ball and wowing fans with his explosive skillset.
The Sox also acquired Adam Eaton in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even though the loss of Addison Reed had a cataclysmic effect on their bullpen (a large part of the reason they aren’t competitive this season), having a speed guy at the top of the lineup who can play solid defense is a good building block for a team looking to turn things around.
Those moves were really good, but a couple of moves that the Sox made over the past few days are further indication that Hahn is gearing up to make another big splash in the 2014 offseason. That’s because the team unloaded Alejandro De Aza to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas on Saturday, and then followed that up on Sunday by trading Adam Dunn to the Oakland Athletics for Nolan Sanburn.
The pitchers the White Sox got back in these trades are decent prospects, and while none of them are likely to have the kind of impact on the team’s future that experts predict Avisail Garcia (acquired in the Jake Peavy trade last season) will, the fact that the team was able to clear nearly $10 million off of their books for next season, while clearing roster space for youngsters to come up for MLB auditions this season, is a coup by Hahn.
For all of the attention that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have gotten for their rebuild of the Cubs, the amount of fortitude and intelligence it takes to work within the constraints that Hahn finds himself limited by has to be commended. No the Sox aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, and no they don’t exactly have a farm system flush with talent, but when push comes to shove, Hahn is playing his cards right no matter what hand he is dealt.
Opening day is one of the most beloved days of the year on the calendar. It is the time of the year where every Major League team and fan base have hope of making it to the World Series.
The White Sox entered the game Monday with the hope that the retooling effort they put in during the offseason will pay off throughout the 2014 campaign and beyond.
Monday’s season opener saw the Chris Sale and the Sox take on Ricky Nolasco and the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale was wildly effective during the first couple innings. No matter whether it was nerves, the chill, or something else he looked tight. He faced the minimum through two innings despite giving up a hit in the top of the second.
The Twins would get to Sale for two Runs in the third starting with a lead-off base on balls to Twins right fielder Oswaldo Arcia. That would be followed by a single to left field by Aaron Hicks, then they were moved into scoring position by shortstop Pedro Florimon on a bunt back to Sale. Two hitters later, Kurt Suzuki roped a two out single to left, scoring both Arcia and Hicks.
Sale would give up one more run in the eighth after being taken out of the game with one out and having already a given up a double by Hicks to left field. Reliever Ronald Belisario would come into the game and give up a rope single to left off of the bat of Suzuki, scoring Hicks. Sale closed the day with 7.1 innings pitched, three runs on five hits, and had eight strike outs to go with one walk.
The offense showed signs of how good it could be this year if every thing falls their way.
Sox center fielder Adam Eaton tried making sure the season got off to a good start with a shot right back up the middle to start off the season for the new look offense. Unfortunately, last year’s issue showed up in the next batter when Marcus Semien grounded into a five, four, three double play.
The Sox offense got started again in the second when Jose Abreu smashed a fastball that was on the edge of the left hand batters box to right field. The ball one hopped the fence so fast that all Arcia could do was jump and hope he could get it some how. The ball would bounce away from Arcia allowing Abreu to turn the hit into a double. Adam Dunn would follow with a full count walk in a solid at-bat, but he would be erased by a Avisail Garcia double play. Alejandro DeAza would come up next, and would start his season off with a bang. DeAza turned around a slider that hung in inner half for a two run home run that would score Abreu.
The Sox would add two more runs in the third on a RBI single to left by Jose Abreu, and an RBI sacrifice fly by Adam Dunn. Dunn’s sacrifice fly started out a normal pop out to the shortstop but drift all the way to the tarp in foul territory due to the strong winds blowing across the field. Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon drifted with the ball and made a sliding catch going away from home plate which allowed Sox third baseman Connor Gillaspie to score from third.
The Sox would add one more in the sixth on another DeAza line drive home run to the right field bullpen.
Matt Lindstrom, who was named the closer on opening day by manager Robin Ventura and called upon in the ninth to shut the door on the Twins. Even though he did give up a one out double to designated hitter Chris Colabello, Lindstrom was able to close out the Twins and preserve the 5-3 victory.
After a day off on Tuesday, the White Sox will return for another matinee on Wednesday against the Twins. The Sox will send right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino against fellow right-hander Kevin Correia for the Twins. The game is a 1:10pm start in Chicago.
Saturday saw the White Sox play in their last two split squad games before the conclusion of spring training. The White Sox sent one squad to the San Diego Padres camp, while the other squad welcomed the San Francisco Giants to Camelback Ranch.
In the first matchup versus the San Diego Padres, the White Sox managed to put up a little offense for Chris Beck, their rookie right-handed starting pitcher. Avisail Garcia started the scoring out in the most unfortunate way: by a double play to second base which scored Micah Johnson in the top of the third inning to tie it up 1-1.
Garcia came back up in the top of the eighth inning and hit a single to right field off of Padres’ first baseman Yonder Alonso to score Micah Johnson. Adam Dunn then added a run with a ground out to first base which scored right fielder Denis Phipps, making it 3-1. The White Sox offense failed to add any more runs in the ninth.
Second baseman Micah Johnson, third baseman Connor Gillaspie, and left fielder Dayan Viciedo went two for four each in the game. Adam Dunn also went one for two with a pair of walks.
Starter Chris Beck and the White Sox relievers turned their performances around a little bit as compared to the previous couple games. Beck turned in a decent five innings in which he gave up five hits and one earned run. He also gave up a walk while striking out five batters. The bottom of the first was Beck’s only blemish in the run category. He gave up a line drive double to left field center which scored Alexi Amarista.
Both relievers, Scott Carroll and Dylan Axelrod, followed up Beck’s performance with two hit-one run performances themselves. Carroll did it while locking down the sixth through eighth innings, while Axelrod was given the blown save in the ninth.
The game ended after the ninth inning as a 3-3 tie.
In the second matchup of the day, the White Sox took on the Tim Hudson and the San Francisco Giants.
The Sox sent Felipe Paulino to the hill in his fifth start of the spring. Much like his last start, Paulino created his own trouble. The second inning started off with a base on balls to Brandon Hicks and the inning just got worse from there. After a double play to Juan Perez, Paulino walked Giants first baseman Mark Minicozzi, and gave up a back to back singles to Ehire Adrianza and Tim Hudson to load the bases. Center fielder Gregor Blanco then walked giving the Giants their first run of the game.
From the third through fifth innings, Paulino calmed down and went the minimum faced even though he gave up a walk to Juan Perez in the forth. The sixth inning is where things fell apart.
Buster Posey, who went three for four on the day, led off with a single then stole second base. After a single that moved Posey to third and a stolen base by Brandon Hicks, Juan Perez hit a three-run homer to left field off of Paulino making it 4-1. Minicozzi would chase Paulino with his single to center.
As for the Sox, Alejandro DeAza got the offense going with his first home run to right field in the second inning. The Sox offense finally came to life in the seventh inning with a double by back-up catcher to right field. Right fielder Blake Tekotte and center fielder Adam Eaton followed the double up with singles of their own scoring Nieto.
After a pitching change by the Giants, pitch hitter Grant Buckner doubled to left field which scored Semien and Black making it seven to five.
The Giants would add one in the ninth, but the Sox would go out in order in the eighth. In the ninth the Sox would get a single by Dan Black and had Grant Buckner reach on a catcher’s interference call. Unfortunately for the Sox neither player would score. The White Sox would fall by the eight to five score.
On a day where the White Sox had their game against the Cleveland Indians was washed out, they got back to the negotiating table with 24 of their players. With these signings the Sox now have all their players on the 40-man roster locked in for the 2014 season.
The players were given one year deals with the largest deal going to Jose Quintana which brings him up to $550,000 and possible closer Nate Jones at $545,000.
Others amongst the 25-man active roster that were able to reach a deal include Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, Josh Phegley and top prospect Erick Johnson.
Notable minor leaguers who received a deal today also include Leury Garica, Carlos Sanchez, Marcus Semien, Jared Mitchell and Trayce Thompson.
All these players are in their pre-arbitration part of their careers. Next season Nate Jones, Donnie Veal, and Jose Quintana reach their first year of arbitration. The best news for the Sox is most of the young talent they have on the current roster still has at least one year of arbitration left such as Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, and Erik Johnson.
There are always people who talk about how long spring training for Major League Baseball is. Most of the people I’ve heard lean the way of spring training being far too long. It is days like today and how the training has started for the White Sox that give examples as to why the preseason for baseball is so long.
Injuries and fatigue play a major part in why spring training is as long as it is. So far the White Sox have had Nate Jones go down with a shoulder ailment last week. Yesterday it was Avisail Garcia that was held out due to an ingrown toenail and Jeff Keppinger with a sore right shoulder. Remember spring training for the pitches is just two weeks old, and position players reported last week- yet we’ve already got players out with different complaints.
Garcia isn’t expected to miss much more than the weekend, but according to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com, “Keppinger dealt with shoulder soreness all last season and ended up having a clean-out procedure in September.”
Jeff Keppinger was signed prior to last season from the Tampa Bay Rays as a get on base guy. He was coming off a season in which he had a .367 OBP (On Base Percentage), coupled with his .325 average. For his career Keppinger is a .282 hitter with a .329 OBP, but the White Sox just hoped he’d bring his ability to make consistent contact to the team.
A lot of his issues last year may have been contributed to his ailing shoulder, but only a healthy Keppinger can show us if it was a fluke or not. Unfortunately, it appears he’s on the short list of players who are going to need the whole spring training to get healthy for now.
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!
In order to start anew, we have to take a look back at the past.
The 2013 season didn’t go exactly as the White Sox had planned. Ninety-nine losses and last place in the division was a hard fall from competing for a Central Division title in 2012. To quote Yogi Berra, “We made too many wrong mistakes.” What went wrong?
The biggest issue was with the way the White Sox built their team. They simply couldn’t figure out a way to get on base consistently. Alex Rios held the highest on base percentage at .328 before he was traded. The next highest was Avisail Garcia whom the Sox acquired in a three way trade with Detroit and Boston. His OBP after the trade ended at .327. The team was simply too impatient and lacked contact.
The team was filled with players who swing and miss far too regularly. Adam Dunn’s obviously first on the list. It’s getting to the point that his strikeouts are starting to outweigh his power numbers. While he still put up 34 home runs (tied for 6th in the league), his strikeout numbers on a team with so many free swingers hurts. The fact that five of the nine positions in the lineup had players that struck out over 20 percent of the time is outrageous. So what have Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn done to fix the situation?
The addition of Adam Eaton could be an answer to the solution. In the minors, he’s been solid at getting on base. He’s carried a .367 OBP or higher every year in the minors. The flip side to that coin is last year he only averaged .252 with a .314 on base percentage in the pros. It’s the expectations that the White Sox are relying on. Hoping that what he’s done in the minors will coordinate to the majors giving the Sox a possible lead off or second hitter.
Other than Eaton, who could the Sox use on the roster that could succeed at getting on base? Unfortunately there’s a lot of “if’s” and “hopes” that go into it.
First, the team is also relying on the time Garcia spent with the team. The hope is that his experience in the pro’s since August will make this season a breakout for him. He had a very good end of 2013, batting .304 in 161 at bats. He also solidified the right field position where Rios left off. He’s got great plate coverage, and he was willing to go the opposite direction. Only a few players on the Sox seem to do this.
There’s also a hope Gordon Beckham also could be a spark if he is able to repeat the success he had when he first came back from his injury. For about half of his time he was batting near or above .300. He ended up the season with a .267 average. Call it whatever you might, but I still think Beckham could have a solid career. Not just as the excellent defender he is but with averages around .275-.280. To have a fully healthy complete season, I believe his new stance has helped him at the plate with coverage and being able to recognize pitches.
The Sox are putting all of their eggs in one basket with Jose Abreu. There’s been talk amongst those who project prospects that Abreu could reach a .290 avg. and 30 plus home run level. The team has talked about doing a rotation of Abreu, Konerko and Dunn between first base and designated hitter. It’ll be interesting to see what effect it’ll have on any of the players’ productions. If Konerko can hit .250 with 15-20 homeruns, it will be a positive.
Dunn still needs to put up the near 35 homeruns while trying to avoid the 175 strikeout total. He did have a stretch where he hit the opposite direction a few times a week last Sept but that only lasted about 2 weeks. Somewhere, somehow, he needs to learn to do it on a more consistent basis which of course has been said for almost every season he’s played in since he’s been in Chicago.
Then there’s Alexei Ramirez. He was supposed to grow into an Alfonso Soriano type player that could hit for some power and a decent average. He’s done a decent job of making contact with average consistently hitting about .270-.285 most of his career. He needs to do a little better job taking walks more frequently. He’s had two seasons of 49 and 51 walks but otherwise has been in the teens and twenties. Unfortunately the latter seems to be the norm.
This is just one issue that led to the collapse of the 2013 Chicago White Sox. The Sox haven’t done much to change the biggest issue that plagued them last season. However, there is a reason why they play the games. To quote Bob Feller, “Everyday is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.” Let’s see if some of the players can start over in this new season!