Answering White Sox questions from others
By James Fegan
Spring is springing. // Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
This is a detestably lazy post, but not the laziest post ever. I’m going to aggregate questions I answered for other blogs here.
In my defense, I have to think of new ideas for White Sox posts every day, even though they have not played a game in…/checks watch…eight years! Every post that so much mentions potential White Sox playoff games feels like it belongs on Info Wars. So when other writers actually contact me for insight on the White Sox during those brief moments once per year where they acknowledge this team’s tortured existence, I feel it prudent to share the information with all of you.
Let’s start with the questions from Daniel Shoptaw of Cardinal 70.
1. How would you grade the offseason?
Something positive but non-commital like a B+ or an A-. Hahn didn’t change the White Sox from scrubs to contenders (a transition commonly referred to as ‘ashy to classy’) overnight, but he took a team with a league-worst offense and a bottom-10 farm system, and turned over four of the position slots with potentially permanent solutions.
He sorta cheated because he started working turning over the roster during the middle of 2013, but try telling anyone who watched the White Sox second half that it wasn’t “the offseason.” You can do it, and they wouldn’t hurt you. It would just be really mean.
2. What are people expecting out of Jose Abreu?
I think we’re afraid to ask for much more than a competent first base bat. There’s awesome raw power that should be fun to watch, but there are enough issues and adjustments he needs to make to MLB pitching that anything beyond league average would be gravy. Adam Dunn and End Stage Paul Konerko have really lowered our collective standards anyway.
3. Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during Spring Training?
Matt Davidson is probably the most interesting player involved in any position battle, but I’ll take Marcus Semien trying to push his way onto the major league roster. The 2013 Southern League MVP doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but has a professional plate approach and a lot of polish and could easily make Gordon Beckham or Alexei Ramirez–two guys not dripping with much upside themselves–expendable for trade, which could add a little something more to the stockpile the Sox need to build.
On the flip side, Matt Davidson can only make Conor Gillaspie and Jeff Keppinger men without regular playing time sooner than expected.
4. What rookie, if any, will have the most impact on the team in 2014?
Erik Johnson still has rookie status and is a full-fledged member of the starting rotation, so it will be pretty easy for him to be the most important young person around. Moreover, Johnson will likely be the difference between the White Sox rotation being top-heavy and middling or finishing in the top-five in ERA+ again. He does exciting things like throw 88 mph power sliders that play well against hitters on both sides of the plate, but he also spent a lot of his MLB time getting tagged and struggling to find whiffs. It could go either way with him.
5. What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
75-87, 4th place and WE WILL ALL BE THANKFUL.
6. Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?
Any non-Chris Sale answer is trying to be far too cute, or evidence of very tangible self-loathing. So, uh, yeah…Chris Sale, I guess.
This is a recent picture. // Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s move on seamlessly to Brian Heise from Wahoo’s on First
1. Alright, let’s just get to the giant elephant in the room. Jose Abreu. How excited are you to see what he can do? Did the White Sox make the right decision to sign him?
Very excited, provided what he can do is “a lot,” and not saddled with qualifications like “against pitchers who top out at 88 mph.” The White Sox did not so much as make the right decision as the only decision in acquiring Abreu. Unless you count a 25 year-old who just reached Triple-A and has platoon issues, their prospect cupboard is bare for cornerstone bats, and they haven’t drafted and developed a hitter of any consequence since they won the World Series. (This sounds like an exaggeration but it is not)
The risk of Abreu not panning out just doesn’t carry the weight it does for other team, because they are bereft for alternatives. Perhaps it’s better to invest in proven major leaguers, to which I’ll counter “Adam Dunn.”
2. This is supposed to be Paul Konerko’s final season. As an Indians fan I’ll be happy to not have to worry about him anymore after this season. How do White Sox fans feel about his approaching retirement?
If we look at the numbers, you haven’t really haven’t had to worry about him since the 2012 All-Star Break.
White Sox fans feel put in an odd position. Konerko’s been bad for a while now, so 2013 felt like his farewell tour throughout. It would have been a sad one since the team was breaking down alongside his body, but there’s not much to be done about that.
As much as everyone likes him, this big front office push that he deserves a roster spot no matter what is an awkward fit. There’s not much chance of him being anything other than bad, and even smaller chance of him being a good use of a roster spot. This sort of mascot role they’re forcing him into is heavily predicated on his clubhouse presence, which starts a conversation that I don’t think anyone wants to have. White Sox teams have mostly been shrinking violets under Konerko’s captainship and he’s been the first to admit that he hasn’t been the most active leader until now.
Maybe playing here and there and talking with the kiddies will suit him, but after a decade and a half of watching him brood and mash, it sure as hell doesn’t sound like a natural transition.
3. The White Sox are clearly in a transition period. From the outside, it seems like they’ve done a good job in acquiring young talent the past couple of seasons. Do you feel like they are headed in the right direction?
Maybe the only mitigating factor is their refusal to ever fully acknowledge being in a transition period. The Sox have stopped drafting stupid, they’re moving beyond the Dave Wilder scandal internationally, and they’ve stopped trying to reload with 30-somethings. Someone might rank their farm system in the top half of the league sometime before the President’s kids are out of college.
It’s all progress, but the White Sox are still the White Sox. All the prospects they’re trying to acquire are more or less MLB-ready, and their pitchers still move through the system at light speed. Given what a disaster their development of offense has been, perhaps this approach is understandable.
4. What concerns you most about the 2014 White Sox?
There’s a reason all the kiddies the Sox picked up were available; they all have significant red flags. Avisail Garcia has trouble pulling the ball and his swinging strike rate would have paced the league over a full season last year. Adam Eaton was a fairly bad player last season when he was actually in the field and semi-healthy. Matt Davidson has big contact issues that could keep him from being much more than slightly above-average at the plate. Jose Abreu has similar bat speed concerns. Hahn gets praised for coming up with four long-term possibilities in his offense, but there’s plenty of reason he could miss on all four.
5. What’s going on with Adam Dunn? He made it very clear how unhappy he was at the end of last season and still the White Sox refused to trade him. Do you see him being a distraction? Do you think there is any chance he gets moved?
I didn’t interpret his unhappiness being directed toward management or how he’s used. He’s miserable–I would assume–because he’s played terribly and the team that he signed with to get a shot at the playoffs, has been hopelessly hampered because of it.
He’s claimed to be on board with reduced playing time as he share at-bats with Konerko, so I don’t anticipate problems. I think the issues with him being traded rest more in being paid $15 million per year while providing no value besides a ~.780 OPS against right-handed pitching. He’s on his last year, so maybe that’s enough to intrigue someone this year, but I can’t imagine why.
He’s tried very hard and made a lot of adjustments but he’s just not a good player anymore.
As someone who follows a another team in the AL Central, what do you make of the Indians heading into 2014?
It’s a pretty boffo offense that relies primarily on young pieces, so that’s nice and plenty of reason to expect the Tribe to be a piece or two away from the playoffs at any given moment for the next few years. I am kind of curious where the innings that Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir soaked up last year are going now. Even if the kid gloves come off Danny Salazar, Justin Masterson will need to string two above-average seasons together for the first time for this rotation to hold up. Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister will need to play big roles as well.
That said, a two-team race with Cleveland and Detroit seems likely, and what more can you ask for?
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan