Season Preview: White Sox newfound swagger, will elevate their play in 2016.

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Mar 10, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier (21) throws out a Texas Rangers runner at first base during the first inning at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 10, 2016; Surprise, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier (21) throws out a Texas Rangers runner at first base during the first inning at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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I remember this time last year, talking with my father like we do almost daily, about how excited we were about the moves that the Chicago White Sox made during the offseason. A busy offseason, that saw the White Sox acquire the services of starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, closer David Robertson, designated hitter Adam LaRoche, and left-fielder Melky Cabrera via a trade with the Oakland Athletics, and free agent signings. Compile those moves, with the existing core in place, and the potential of then rookie starting pitcher Carlos Rodon, and the White Sox fans had something to be excited about.

Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Unfortunately, those hopes fizzled out very quickly in 2015, as the White Sox struggled early and often. In a season where seemingly everyone besides Jose Abreu, and Chris Sale severely underachieved, the White Sox finished up the 2015 season with a record of 76-86, good enough for just a fourth place finish in the American League Central.

Fast forward to the current Spring, and we’re having a similar conversation about the busy White Sox winter. This winter they acquired even more pieces, and established that they are in a “win now” mode in 2016. Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Alex Avila, Dioner Navarro, Mat Latos, Jimmy Rollins, and Austin Jackson round out the new faces on the south side of Chicago in 2016.

First off, I am willing to bet a whole lot that new White Sox third-baseman Todd Frazier will turn out to be the steal of the year. The White Sox gave up a trio of prospects including Trayce Thompson, Micah Johnson, and Frankie Montas.

Originally I was skeptical, but as time went on, and rational set it I realized that, that was a steal for what the White Sox are getting back. The Brett Lawrie move, ended Micah Johnson‘s time in Chicago ultimately. Johnson was behind both Carlos Sanchez, Tyler Saladino, and Tim Anderson when it comes to White Sox internal options in the middle of the infield. Frankie Montas, was a solid pitching prospect, but if the Sox had anything to spare in their thin farm, it was pitching. Trayce Thompson played excellent in his time late in 2015, but he is largely unproven.

Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

What the White Sox got in return was far greater, they not only received an All-Star, slugging, third-baseman… They received a leader. Todd Frazier is a leader, and a clubhouse asset, not to mention a gravitating personality that the Chicago White Sox fans will fall in love with. I assure you of that, If you’d like to hear more on Todd, and everything he brings the White Sox check out my upcoming conversation with Todd Frazier, and his older brothers Jeff, and Charlie Frazier.

Rick Hahn upgraded the third base position, the catcher position, the middle infield depth, the back-end of the pitching rotation, as well as the outfield depth this winter. What else can we ask for? I’m sure plenty, but let’s lay that to rest for a little bit and take in what we actually have, It’s pretty darn good.

While we all are a little hesitant to get on board with the excitement heading into 2016 after a busy winter, much like in 2015, there is most certainly a different energy around the clubhouse this Spring. I know, if you walk down an alley, and you get mugged, you would be hesitant to walk down that alley again in the future. Natural human instinct tells us, not to jump on board the buzz train with this year’s White Sox team, after the major let down that we experienced just last season.

If you have not been paying attention to the White Sox spring training camp, or the Cactus League games these past couple weeks, you have surely been missing out. Aside from the fact that the White Sox players, likely to break camp on the 25 man roster are playing exceptionally well, the role players, and prospects are as well showing that the White Sox may have a little more depth than originally thought.

Cactus League statistics aside, the energy, and the feeling around the clubhouse has been described by many as nothing short of electrifying, and special. Chris Sale told CBS’s Bruce Levine this week;

"“You guys might not see it, There’s something different about this spring. There’s a lot more positivity. There is just something just something different, It is showing, it is definitely showing. What did we score yesterday – 10 or 12? With that, you can’t help but build confidence and momentum going forward.”"

The players feel like this season is going to be something special, and they feel comfortable. Being comfortable in the clubhouse breeds success, and allows players to perform up to their potential. That’s good news, because if this group of players plays up to potential, something special could be in the making.

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So what will the 2016 White Sox look like when they break camp in a few weeks? Here is my take on the way the 25 man roster will break down come Opening Day.

 Rotation

  1. Chris Sale – LHP                                      
  2. Jose Quintana – LHP
  3. Carlos Rodon – LHP
  4. Mat Latos – RHP
  5. John Danks – LHP 

Lineup

  1. Adam Eaton – RF
  2. Brett Lawrie – 2B
  3. Jose Abreu – 1B
  4. Todd Frazier – 3B
  5. Melky Cabrera – LF
  6. Avisail Garcia – DH
  7. Dioner Navarro – C
  8. Austin Jackson – CF
  9. Jimmy Rollins – SS

I believe that if Avisail Garcia continues to produce, the way he has thus far in spring training, that he will overtake the designated hitter role from veteran Adam LaRoche. Adam LaRoche, Alex Avila, Carlos Sanchez, and J.B. Shuck, will round out the bench for the White Sox in terms of positional players. Saladino is yet to impress anyone with his bat this spring, Carlos Sanchez has been doing the exact opposite. If it came down to one or the other for the last roster spot, I would give Sanchez the nod thus far.

Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The bullpen will probably include Jacob Turner, who is out of minor league options, to assume the long reliever/spot starter role for the White Sox. David Robertson, Nate Jones, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam, Zach Duke, and Matt Albers will round out the bullpen, with Dan Jennings on the bubble much like Tyler Saladino. Would come down to whether Robin Ventura wanted an extra position player, or arm in the bullpen as far as who would get the last spot.

The American League Central is one of the more difficult divisions in baseball to get a read on heading into the 2016 season. The White Sox have a talented roster, an improved roster, and a healthy dose of “swagger” heading into 2016. I beleive that new clubhouse leader Todd Frazier (Yes, he is already taking the lead with a few other guys of course), will continue to energize this group of players, and carry this production all the way through the regular season.

I spoke with Todd Frazier’s older brother Jeff Frazier last week, he told me that when he was at White Sox camp in Glendale visiting Todd, the vibe in that clubhouse is amazing. He has this to say:

"They are all excited, man they are just excited. We all had a blast, everyone is getting along very well. Talking to Todd, and some of the other guys…they’re a team, there’s no individuals. Todd said; “Listen we show up in the morning, we have our breakfast, and as soon as we hit the field, we’re like… Let’s get better today!” And that’s excellent, when you have a team, rather than individuals…special things can happen."

It’s tough to put a number on wins/losses, for arguments sake I feel like 87 wins is a solid expectation for the 2016 White Sox at this point. I firmly believe in the feeling surrounding this ball club that Chris Sale spoke of, and I expect the White Sox to be competitive all season long in 2016.

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