2011 MLB Team Preview: Chicago White Sox
Hard to believe, as many of us watch the snow fall outside, that the Boys of Summer are almost back. But it’s true; teams have started reporting to 2011 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year.
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White Sox Calender
FEB. 1-18, 2011 – Salary arbitration hearings
FEB. 14, 2011 – Voluntary Spring Training reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players
FEB. 19, 2011 – Voluntary Spring Training reporting date for non-pitchers and catchers
FEB. 26, 2011 – Mandatory Spring Training reporting date for all players
Between the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins, it seems like every one of those teams expects to win the American League Central every year. The White Sox haven’t done it since 2008 but may have made the biggest offseason splash of all three teams when they added Adam Dunn. Will that move be enough to vault the Pale Hose back into first this season?
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
World Series odds: +2500
Whatever you think about the Chicago White Sox, you can’t deny that this team (a) plays at a launching pad in U.S. Cellular Field and (b) has the power bats to maximize that setting. Newly acquired Dunn has been as consistent as any home-run hitter in the game since he joined the big leagues, hitting at least 38 taters for seven straight seasons. He even slugged 38 in each of his seasons at a pitcher’s park with the lowly Washington Nationals. Now, he has as much protection as he’s ever had around him. A 45 or 50-homer campaign isn’t out of the question.
Dunn’s arrival takes some heat off Paul Konerko, who will be hard pressed to repeat his career-year 2010 line (.312, 39 HR, 111 RBI). And this is by no means a two-man team. Carlos Quentin is oh-so injury prone but still has elite power; Alex Rios is a perennial threat to go 25-25; Alexei Ramirez is one of the heaviest-swinging shortstops out there; and Gordon Beckham still has time to turn the corner and become a star at second base. Homers should arrive by the bushel in the South Side.
And it’s not like the White Sox are one-dimensional. They may lack a true ace but every man in their pitching rotation is a No. 2 or at least a No. 3-caliber starter. Mark Buehrle is boring but posts double-digit win totals in his sleep every year. John Danks has matured into a very effective lefty; Edwin Jackson is inconsistent but, as his no-hitter last season suggests, he’s very talented. Gavin Floyd looks like an absolute ace for months at a time. All that and we haven’t even touched on Jake Peavy.
That highlights one misconception about the White Sox. They don’t need Peavy to be their savior. All they need is for him to be reasonably healthy and give some quality middle-of-the-rotation innings. If he can do that as a “fifth” starter, Chicago will be laughin’.
The bullpen looks to be in reasonably good hands, too. Chicago didn’t need Bobby Jenks anymore because Matt Thornton was just better. This guy is really good and not many people know about him. I’d expect him to be Chicago’s ninth-inning man all year. Also, Chicago’s top pitching prospect (and darkhorse closer), Chris Sale, looks like he’ll pitch out of the pen this season. That’s a pretty effective relief weapon to have.
I was bullish on the White Sox last year and was wrong but I’m sticking to my guns. I just think this is a much deeper and more talented team than Detroit or Minnesota. Sure, the Tigers and Twins have the bigger stars in Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Francisco Liriano. But I still think Chicago’s tremendous pitching depth and well-distributed power on offense will make it the class of the AL Central this season.
Prediction: 1st, American League Central