Ace: Chris Sale
Does this even need to be said? Sale is the second-best left-handed pitcher in the game (credit must be given to Clayton Kershaw who I have determined may not even be human) and arguably the best pitcher in the junior circuit, but has yet to prove it by staying healthy an entire season. After setting the single season franchise record for strikeouts in a season last year with 274, Sale can only improve with a full spring training, and the month of April.
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If he stays healthy 300 punch-outs is a realistic expectation, he is just that good. If his defense steps it up behind him, his earned run average will plummet, and his win total will likely increase. With the addition ofTodd Frazier
, slidingTyler Saladino
to shortstop, and puttingBrett Lawrie
at second base, the defense in the infield has already improved significantly on the southside. The advanced metrics agree that Sale should have been even better in 2015, withFanGraphs
the lanky lefty had an ERA of 3.41, but a FIP of 2.73 and an even better xFIP which was calculated at 2.60, eight-tenths of a run better than his actual earned run average which is absurd. The front office took steps to improve the club, and the defense behind the bump looks to be a part of that. The only thing holding Sale back in 2016 other than injury, is how he will mesh with new catchersAlex Avila
was non-tendered, and signed with the Atlanta Braves. A better defense coupled with a potentially improved offense that should put runs on the board, should put Sale in the thick of the American LeagueCy Young
Award race at season’s end. Undoubtedly the leader of this staff, the former 13th pick in the draft should easily make another All-Star team when this year’s Midsummer’s Classic is played in our nation’s capital on July 12th.
2016 predictions: 17-8, 2.68 ERA, 286 K’s – American League Cy Young Award Winner.