The Chicago White Sox are a fascinating team because they possess two superstars—Chris Sale and Jose Abreu—yet remained decidedly poor. They won 73 games and do not project to contend in the American League Central in 2015, barring some unexpected steps forward and/or a crazy offseason. Some intriguing young talent exists in the everyday lineup; however, the back end of the starting rotation could a shambles once again, and the hell if anyone knows what their bullpen is going to offer fantasy owners.
Again, despite a pessimistic outlook for the team as we head into the upcoming campaign, numerous useful fantasy options should be available. In a few cases, it could present an opportunity for some owners to capitalize on a down-and-out team to which opposing owners have stopped paying attention. And, of course, we’ll all be paying attention to the White Sox during spring training in an attempt to decipher their plans regarding Carlos Rodon because he could be an immediate fantasy weapon.
Fair warning: I’m going to have to write about Hector Noesi in this article, and it’s only polite that I prepare you ahead of time.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
Chris Sale – SP
Sale has long been a fantasy stalwart; however, the southpaw took another step forward in 2014. The improvement largely coincided with an increased swinging-strike rate on his fastball. It jumped from 8.65 percent to a career-high 11.49 percent, which is borderline unfair given his ruthless slider and changeup. If his dominant fastball carries over to 2015, fantasy owners can yet again expect a top-10 starter—perhaps he can challenge for the no. 1 slot if his offense can give him some consistent run support.
Jose Abreu – 1B
Abreu needs a friend behind him in the batting order. Opposing pitchers eventually learned to stop challenging him in the second half, which resulted in a massive jump in a walk rate (6.3 percent in first half, 10.7 percent in second half) and decreased power production. Abreu was plenty productive in the second half. He hit .350/.435/.513 after the All-Star Break; however, fantasy owners need the prestigious power production he showed in the first half — because they’re going to have to pay for it on draft day. A mere .162 ISO isn’t going to cut it from the first base position.
Alexei Ramirez – SS
Don’t get distracted by the miniscule walk rate or the on-base percentage that struggles to eclipse .300. Ramirez was the fourth-best fantasy shortstop in 2014 with a power/speed combination that didn’t sacrifice batting average. I’m not banking on his reaching the 15-home-run plateau this upcoming year because he’s 33 years old and had posted back-to-back single-digit totals, but that doesn’t project to matter much. After all, he only launched six homers in 2013 and still was the sixth-best fantasy shortstop.
Scott Carroll – SP
While preparing to write this article, I literally forgot that Scott Carroll existed. He struck out 4.45 batters per nine innings and walked 3.13 per nine, which equates to a nauseating 1.42 K:BB. That’s worse than any other qualified starter. As it turns out, it’s probably best to forget about him on draft day, anyway.
Hector Noesi – SP
Soon to turn 28 years old, Noesi is a fly-ball pitcher with home-run issues and proven low strikeout numbers. I hate everything about that profile. I absolutely hate it. He’s the definition of replacement level and should have nothing but a tenuous (at best) hold on a rotation spot. I have strong feelings about this.
Ronald Belisario – RP
Some fantasy owners may be coaxed into drafting Belisario because no one possesses a firm hold on the closer’s role in Chicago and he saved eight games. The problem, though, is that Belisario isn’t very good at baseball. The ground-ball rate consistently hovers around 60 percent and the fastball touches the mid 90s—both of which are good things—but he lacks consistency and has no out-pitch against lefties, who tagged him for a .310/.394/.423 slash line in 2014. The right-hander leads the league in #face though, which is important in fantasy leagues that account for #face.
What You See Is What You Get
Jose Quintana – SP
Placing the left-hander under this category is not meant to be a slight on his abilities. He simply is what he’s shown the past couple seasons. He’s a steady fantasy starter, a guy who can sit comfortably with an ERA between 3.25 and 3.50 throughout the year and who can offer slightly above-average strikeouts. In fact, he is one of the few pitchers who posted better-than-average numbers in strikeout rate, walk rate, and ground-ball rate. I am a bit worried the strikeout rate can remain above average with only an 8.3 percent swinging-strike rate, but even if it drops a bit (like in 2013), he’ll still roughly be a top-50 starter. The low win totals have been the only thing holding him back in terms of fantasy ranking. By the way, he was only owned in 38 percent of ESPN leagues, which is unconscionable.
Dayan Viciedo – OFFor only being 25 years old, Viciedo has a remarkably consistent history of production. He’ll hover around .240-.260 with the batting average, hit roughly 20 homers, steal no bases, and compile mediocre run totals. The power is nice, but that’s about it. Considering his putrid defensive abilities in left field, one can’t help but wonder if his playing time will eventually be curtailed, which then makes him relatively useless. This has been the book on Viciedo for the past couple years though. Y’all know the drill.
Chris Bassitt – SP
Bassitt jumped from Double-A to the majors, but I don’t see much fluctuation in his projected performance from his brief five-start debut in 2014. He throws in the low 90s, doesn’t miss bats, and surrenders plenty of fly balls. However, he’s been able to make it work throughout his minor-league career with a four-pitch mix. Perhaps Bassitt can survive as a fifth starter. That’s a lovely return for the White Sox on a 16th-round draft pick. For fantasy owners, though, it is what it is… which is largely irrelevant.
Zach Putnam – RP
Jake Petricka – RP
Matt Lindstrom – RP
These three relievers don’t possess the repertoire that’s traditionally associated with the closer’s role, but each of them grabbed a handful of saves. Maybe they will grab 10-15 saves, maybe they will suddenly become tire fires. They’re fungible middle relievers who the White Sox are trying to shoehorn into the ninth inning. Fantasy owners are familiar with that dance.
Adam Eaton – OF
His .300/.362/.401 slash line flew under the radar due, but Eaton is one of my favorite x-factors for the 2015 season. The 25-year-old speedster struggled with injuries, which limited his stolen base numbers. It’s conceivable to see Eaton putting together a .300-plus batting average yet again with 25-plus stolen bases and tons of runs. The power should remain negligible; however, that would still look strikingly similar to Denard Span’s 2014 season. Span was the 15th-ranked fantasy outfielder. Don’t overlook Adam Eaton.
Carlos Rodon – SP
The White Sox disappointed fantasy owners when they opted to not promote Rodon to the majors in September. That leaves the lefty’s potential impact rather obfuscated; however, it could lead to a supreme “value play” on draft day. Rodon struck out 38 batters in his first 24 2/3 professional innings. He’s a potential top-of-the-rotation starter. And because he has thrown so few innings, the lefty may not figure prominently in opposing owners’ draft-day plans. Though one should always expect rookies to suffer growing pains, Rodon offers perhaps one of the best chances at a Matt Harvey or Jose Fernandez type impact as a rookie.
Avisail Garcia – OF
Garcia has hit for average throughout his professional career, but he showed his power potential last season (split around extensive time on the disabled list) with seven homers in only 190 plate appearances. In some ways, Garcia could be what fantasy owners have wanted Dayan Viciedo to be—that is to say, perhaps Garcia can hit 15-20 homers with a high average and a handful of stolen bases. He may need a couple years to reach that ceiling; however, he has already flashed that potential in the big leagues. Perhaps he can put it together a bit earlier than expected.
Tyler Flowers – C
Perhaps Flowers is more than just an AL-only option in two-catcher leagues, but for the vast majority of owners, the 28-year-old catcher won’t sniff any playing time. He strikes out far too much to be relevant. The best illustration of that is that his 16.4 percent swinging-strike rate was actually a bit better than it was in 2013. The modest power production is attractive, I guess, but the remainder of his profile is unpalatable outside AL-onlies.
Conor Gillaspie – 3B
Gillaspie received some attention in 2014 due to his lofty batting average, but even then, he was barely a top-20 third baseman — and that was with a career-high .325 BABIP. The power projection is uninspiring and he won’t steal any basis. He’s a poor man’s Chris Johnson. So, yeah.
Marcus Semien – 2B/3B
Little power, middling batting average, and few stolen bases. The only thing that makes Semien even worth monitoring in AL-only leagues is his second-base eligibility. Then again, as we’ll see in the prospects section, Semien has ample competition for playing time.
Prospects for 2015
Tim Anderson — SS
Last offseason, our own Bret Sayre mentioned that Anderson could offer a Ian Desmond type package at shortstop if everything coalesces. The power/speed tools continue to make fantasy owners drool, and he projects to begin the season in Double-A. There’s an outside shot he makes his major-league debut at some point in 2015 if he rakes during the first half, even if a position change could be in his future to make that happen.
Carlos Sanchez – 2B
Sanchez played 27 games at second base after the White Sox finally moved on from Gordon Beckham. It’s not a sexy profile—as it’s wholly dependent upon batting average and 15-to-20 stolen bases—but second base is a weak fantasy position and regular at-bats carry value.
Micah Johnson – 2B
Another potential fit at second base for the White Sox, Johnson offers a tantalizing fantasy package—he steals bases. A lot of them. Significant questions surround his hit tool and we already know he won’t hit for average, but he has 106 stolen bases in the past two seasons. That’ll grab your attention rather swiftly.
Matt Davidson – 3B
Gillaspie isn’t the answer at third base. The White Sox want it to be Davidson; however, he couldn’t reach the Mendoza Line last year in Triple-A. The 23-year-old slugger could offer 20-plus homers if everything clicks, but things aren’t exactly trending upwards for Davidson at the moment.
Trayce Thompson – OF
He has launched at least 15 homers and swiped at least 20 bags in each of the past two seasons. It comes with a long swing and a poor hit tool, but that’s an attractive power/speed combination if you’re willing to dream. Dayan Viciedo can only be replacement level for so long. If Thompson can put it together in Triple-A to begin the year, he may have a shot to crack the big-league roster and see some playing time. I don’t think it’s going to work in the majors, but if it does, it’s going to be rosterable in all fantasy formats.
Erik Johnson – SP
Johnson was a popular sleeper in 2014, but he posted a 6.46 ERA in five starts before spending the remainder of the season in the minors. While the White Sox hope he bounces back and develops into a solid number-four starter, a myriad of warning flags exist—mainly around his 2.5-mph velocity drop from 2013 to 2014 and his late-season stint on the DL with shoulder fatigue.
Chris Beck – SP
My first thoughts concerning Beck compared his potential impact to that of Chris Bassitt or Scott Carroll. I’m not sure that’s fair, but it would just leave fantasy owners singing, “I’m a loser, baby.” The ground-ball potential is nice. Without the strikeouts, though, his fantasy relevance is miniscule—especially given the fact that he hasn’t even thrown a big-league pitch to this point.