Written by Robert Democh
Published: 26 March 2009
Since capturing the World Series in 2006, Chicago has struggled to rekindle their winning swagger. It’s not for lack of trying. Last year, they became the first team ever to win three consecutive elimination games against three different clubs (Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota) before being eliminated by Tampa Bay. The Pale Hose got there by clobbering opponents into submission with a ML-leading 235 homers.
The off-season witnessed the defection of free agents Joe Crede and Orlando Cabrera while resident head case Javier Vazquez was traded to Atlanta. It’s hard construing that in a positive light, as Chicago lacks quality replacements. In particular, the subtraction of Vazquez’ 200 innings and 200 strike outs will place added pressure on the rotation. Their fate this season will rise or fall on the ability of the core of the lineup to reach the seats often and generate runs. The south side of Chicago features a plethora of fantasy talent worth considering.
Carlos Quentin (OF):
Carlos Quentin hits one of his 36 home runs
Escaping an outfield logjam in Arizona, Quentin arrived in Chicago with high hopes but a short resume. Much to the Sox’ delight, he became the major breakout story of 2008. Enjoying improved health for much of the season, Quentin delivered on the power potential merely hinted at with the D-backs, crushing 36 homers with 100 RBI. His inability to go the distance (he broke his left wrist in September) doomed Chicago’s chance for a deep postseason run. Quentin’s all-out style of play contributes to injuries but he’s an amazing masher when healthy. He has shown no residual effects of the broken wrist this spring and if he somehow survives the season unscathed, he might exceed last year’s totals. Second TierAlexei Ramirez (SS):
Can he really be that good? The 27-year-old Ramirez had an extraordinary 2008 season and enters 2009 ranked among fantasy’s top middle infielders. That’s predictable when you belt 21 homers, steal 13 bases, bat .290 and establish a ML rookie record with four grand slams. Intermingled with those highlights were some disturbing trends. He recorded a lowly .317 OBP and was successful on less than 60% of stolen base attempts. Most will ignore the warning signs and focus instead on his invigorating blend of speed and power. Ramirez will be a highly coveted and overpriced option this season. Jermaine Dye (OF):
While Dye has successfully maintained stable walk and strikeout rates in recent years, his batting average has proven more erratic than March weather, swinging by 40 or more points annually the past three seasons. Fantasy gamers take note because as the average declines, so typically do the run and RBI totals. Combine that with the fact Dye is 35 and no longer steals much and it appears the inevitable erosion of skills is underway. His value would diminish further were he traded, given the hitter friendly confines of U.S. Cellular Field and the quality lineup surrounding him. Dye should have one more 30 homer, 90 RBI season left in him. Bobby Jenks (RP):
Jenks has morphed into a sleight-of-hand artist, getting people out through guile, not dominance. In the dog-eat-dog world of closers, that’s no recipe for survival. Jenks has cobbled together three straight 30-save seasons and has preserved his job through minimizing walks and long balls allowed. A closer’s strikeout rate is generally a strong predictor of future performance. In Jenks case, the outlook is lousy given his 5.5 K/9 rate last season. He’s OK to roster but don’t bite before the ninth round in mixed leagues. It won’t be pretty, but Jenks should achieve 30 saves. Octavio Dotel is the heir apparent in case Jenks falters or is traded.
Third TierJohn Danks (SP):
Danks can attribute his impressive 2008 season to the addition of a cut fastball to his pitching repertoire. Harnessing that pitch allowed him to be more aggressive against right-handers and reduce his home runs allowed. The result was 12 wins and a better than 2:1 K:BB rate. Danks was also a model of consistency, permitting two earned runs or fewer in 22 of 33 starts. That will be hard to duplicate, suggesting limited upside. Fourteen wins and an ERA around 4 are reasonable expectations this season.
Mark Buehrle (SP):
Buehrle has fashioned a career by successfully retiring hitters with offerings seldom exceeding 85 mph. Discounting a homer prone 2006 season, the crafty southpaw ranks among the AL’s most reliable starters, averaging 14 wins over the past five years. He’ll continue posting an elevated ERA given his fly ball tendencies in a hitter’s park and the 225 IP he has averaged the past eight seasons suggest breakdown dead ahead. Buehrle is a decent late round acquisition for his capacity to notch victories but offers little else. Jim Thome (DH):
Thome turns 39 this year and his BA has plummeted (.288-.275-.245 the last three seasons). Despite that, he remains a dangerous hitter who benefits from sitting in the middle of the Sox potent batting order. Health is a persistent worry and he is only DH eligible, but one could do worse than acquiring 30 homers and 90 RBI in the later rounds.
Question MarkPaul Konerko (1B):
Fantasy pundits hold widely divergent views about Konerko’s 2009 prospects. Some believe last year was an anomaly and that Paulie should regain his 30 homer stroke. Others argue just as passionately that the bat has slowed and Konerko is already in the grip of a steady downward spiral. Who’s right? Thumb and (more troubling from a batting perspective) hip problems conspired to limit him to just 22 round trippers last year, his fewest since 2003 (one vote no). A return to health, guaranteed at bats and home games in a hitter’s haven all suggest rebound (one vote yes). I’m mildly optimistic about Konerko and wouldn’t be surprised if he smacks 25 homers this season with 75 RBI provided his hips oblige. He should be available in the late rounds if you want to gamble there’s additional upside. Great Debate Josh Fields (3B):
With Joe Crede migrating to the Twins, the Sox are desperately hoping Fields can become his full-time replacement. He performed miserably last season during a lengthy audition when Crede was injured, striking out in roughly half of his plate appearances and eventually deferring to Juan Uribe, who has also departed. The job is Fields’ to lose and a return to his 2007 rookie form (23 home runs in 100 games) would certainly solidify his grasp. Unfortunately, knee and hip problems have reduced his limited fielding skills to marginal levels. Untouchable in mixed leagues, he’s worth a flier in AL-only setups given his power potential. Prospect Watch
Aaron Poreda (SP):
Poreda is among the few pitching prospects the Sox have cultivated in recent years that has actually sparked interest from other clubs. He reminds some of 70’s Sox knuckleballer Wilbur Wood, likewise a big, burly customer with the strength and endurance to last deep into games. Poreda possesses a Grade A heater but has been slow to develop complementary pitches, making him a major work in progress. The Sox always seems to be short of arms, a factor that could hasten Poreda reaching the majors by next season.
Have you been steering clear or buying high on White Sox players in your fantasy drafts?