In a division that was handed to the Tigers and Indians before the season, it was the White Sox and the Twins who went more than the regular 162 games distance to determine the AL Central division champion. The White Sox won the one game playoff to advance to the ALDS, where they were dispatched in four games by the Tampa Bay Rays. The White Sox made some noise this offseason, but mostly by trading away some bigger names. Does the team have enough talent left to stay in the race for the division again?
Finish: 89-74, first in AL Central, lost ALDS to Tampa Bay Rays
U.S. Cellular Field at game night.
Home Park: U.S. Cellular Field
Pulling up the Pale Hose
INF Wilson Betemit (Acquired from Yankees)
SP Bartolo Colon (Signed from Red Sox)
C Tyler Flowers (Acquired from Atlanta)
INF Brent Lillibridge (Acquired from Atlanta)
SP Jeff Marquez (Acquired from Yankees)
INF Jayson Nix (Signed from Rockies)
INF Dayan Viciedo (Signed as free agent)
Hanging up their Cell Phones
SS Orlando Cabrera (Signed with Oakland)
3B Joe Crede (Signed with Minnesota)
OF Ken Griffey Jr. (Signed with Seattle)
OF Nick Swisher (Traded to Yankees)
RP Boone Logan (Traded to Atlanta)
SP Horacio Ramirez (Signed with Kansas City)
SP Javier Vazquez (Traded to Atlanta)
The White Sox won the American League Central in 2008, surprising many in the baseball world. A big reason for their unexpected success -- after all, they beat out the piranha-like Minnesota Twins and the more highly regarded Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers -- was youth.
Alexei Ramirez started 2008 slowly, but the comparisons to Alfonso Soriano began to look good as the season continued. Ramirez didn’t wow any sabermetric geeks -- his .317 on-base percentage certainly didn’t help his team too much -- but he slugged .475 at the defense-first position of second base. Ramirez’s defense should carry over well to shortstop, and if his offense continues to develop, he could go in the fourth or fifth round in 2010. Keep your eye on this one.
Carlos Quentin’s 2008 developed differently than Ramirez’s. Quentin began the season with a torrid hot streak but settled down after late-season injuries. His .288/.394/.571 line with 36 homers and 100 RBI scream future superstar, but let’s not crown him just yet.
Both of these players, along with Chris Getz at second and Josh Fields at third, give the White Sox a solid core to build upon. Tyler Flowers, a catcher acquired in the Javier Vazquez trade, should be ready in 2010. The White Sox are retooling quickly, especially with young aces John Danks and Gavin Floyd.
Last season’s championship aside, it’s hard to imagine the White Sox taking the central once again. The offense took two blows in Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher, while Vazquez provided plenty of quality innings. Bartolo Colon or Jeff Marquez will be asked to take Vazquez’s spot. Needless to say, that’s a big decline.
Chicago doesn’t have a true centerfielder patrolling, while Jermaine Dye is likely to be traded sometime this season. One of Paul Konerko or Jim Thome is likely heading out, as well. The White Sox are trying to cut salary, which should make these veterans available.
CF Jerry Owens
SS Alexei Ramirez
LF Carlos Quentin
DH Jim Thome
RF Jermaine Dye
1B Paul Konerko
3B Josh Fields
C AJ Pierzynski
2B Chris Getz
Bartolo Colon / Jeff Marquez
CL Bobby Jenks
RP Octavio Dotel
RP Matt Thornton
Can the young guys continue to improve? Ramirez and Quentin are trending toward middle of the order pieces on a contending ballclub, but they need to continue developing for that to happen.
The same goes for John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Both surprised the baseball world by taking huge steps last season. They need to shake off last season’s increase in innings pitched and keep throwing quality starts. Mark Buehrle’s health is in question this spring, while Jose Contreras and the fifth starter are unknown quantities going forward.
The White Sox will be hard pressed to win the central once again. They will be facing more solid competition in Detroit and Cleveland, while some baseball people are saying they won’t be surprised if Kansas City snuck up and won the division. Don’t give them the division, but pencil the White Sox for a good season of retooling.
What do you think of the White Sox’s chances this year? Let us hear your comments below.