2007 was a year of turmoil in the White Sox organization, and it took its toll on the production of normally reliable fantasy players. The Sox retooled during the off-season, however, and seem to be in much better shape than they were just one year ago. The pitching staff has a similar look, but the lineup will welcome some high impact new additions. There could be comeback seasons abound in Chicago, so it will be interesting to see who returns to prominence and who falls deeper into the abyss of inconsistent play.
The White Sox currently have no top tier producers. Bounce back years by ex-MVP caliber players such as Paul Konerko or Jermaine Dye could change that.
Bobby Jenks (RP): A spectacular 2007 season placed Bobby Jenks on the brink of elite closers in Major League Baseball. Jenks went nearly a month without allowing a single walk or hit, tying Jim Barr’s Major League record by retiring 41 straight batters. This streak was a huge catalyst to many a fantasy team in ‘07. Jenks saved 40 games for the second straight season in ‘08 and markedly improved his ERA to 2.77. While his strikeouts were down (He K’ed 56 in 65 innings), he walked just 13 batters, so it isn’t something to worry about. With an improved squad, I’d expect Jenks to get plenty of save opportunities, making hi one of the top closers to target in ‘08.
Paul Konerko (1B): While many considered 2007 to be a down year for Paul Konerko, he still managed to tie for 5th in the AL in homeruns. The fact remains, however, that it was a disappointing season compared to the huge numbers Konerko had put up the previous three seasons. He averaged a .285 average, 38 HR’s, and 110 RBI from 2004-2006. In ‘07 his average dropped considerably to .259, his HR’s were down to 31, and his RBI count was down to 90. Usually it’s easy to pinpoint where somebody’s season went wrong, but Konerko is a different case. He didn’t suffer any substantial injuries and he should be firmly in the prime of his career. I think it may have been a compilation of ppor play around him and a lost season that caused Konerko’s slide. He’s much too talented for it to happen again, though. Expect a nice rebound in ‘08.
Javier Vazquez (SP): After a three year hiatus, Javier Vazquez returned to prominence in his second year with the White Sox. He was a bright spot on a team that saw very few all season long. It may have been a matter of finally settling in as he had played on 4 different teams over the 4 previous seasons. Vazquez posted a 15-8 record, 3.74 ERA, and struck out a cool 213 in 216.2 innings; all on a mediocre team. It’s still a gamble to invest a high pick on Vazquez, though, since he was so average in the three years previous. If he has officially returned to his Montreal Expo form, then he has a chance to become an elite pitcher. Proceed with caution, and hope for a repeat of ‘07.
Jim Thome (DH): Even though he missed 30 games to injury in 2007, Jim Thome still put up big numbers in a struggling offense. A line of .275-35-96 was right on par with his numbers the previous two years he was healthy. While his skills don’t seem to be diminishing at all, his durability could be considered an issue. He’s missed over 150 games the last 3 seasons, and without any positional eligibility, Thome’s value is lower than those who put up similar numbers. Regardless of all this, Thome is a relatively cheap source of power with a tolerable average. I would take him in the middle stages of the draft and expect at least 30 HR’s.
A.J. Pierzynski ( C ): You pretty know what you’re going to get out of A.J. Pierzynski. He’s not a guy that you target in your draft, but he’s one you can live with if you miss out on the top catchers. He put up a .263 average, 14 HR’s, and 50 RBI in 136 games in ‘07. These numbers are the norm for Pierzynski, solid but unspectacular. The main concern with Pierzynski is that he misses more games than most starting catchers. Also, his average fluctuates from year to year, so it’s tough to gauge what it will be. Draft Pierzynski in the latter stages of the draft and hope for his average to be on the upswing.
Orlando Cabrera (SS): Cabrera put up a surprisingly good season in ‘07, and hopes to continue his momentum in Chicago. With so many excellent young shortstops in the game right now, Cabrera is only a third tier option. His power has been basically non-existent over the last 4-5 years (8 HR’s in ‘07), but the rest of his numbers looked very solid in 2007. He hit .301, knocked in 86 runs, scored 101 of his own, and swiped 20 bags for the Angels in ‘07. Cabrera should fit nicely into the top of the lineup for the Sox, and should be the beneficiary of a powerful lineup below him. I’d expect similar numbers in ‘08, making him a nice middle round option.
Jermaine Dye (OF): After an MVP-like season in ‘06, Jermaine Dye fell off considerably in 2007. His .254 average, 28 HR’s, and 78 RBI are hard to explain. It’s entirely possible that his .315-44-120 campaign in ‘06 was an aberration, but his 2007 debacle was surprising to pretty much everybody. I still think he’s closer to his 2006 performance than his one 2007, but he’ll have to prove himself all over again. I think his performance was a product of a miserable season for the White Sox, and I fully expect him to improve in ‘08. I think he should be a great value pick as he scared plenty of owners away in 2007.
Nick Swisher (OF/1B): Part of yet another one of Billy Beane’s purges, Nick Swisher has landed in a pretty favorable situation in Chicago. After a 35 HR, 95 RBI campaign in ‘06, Swisher failed to build upon his career year in ‘07. Swisher was only able to put up a .262 average, 22 HR’s, and 78 RBI in 2007 on a disappointing Oakland squad. The move to Chicago is very advantageous to him though, as he’ll no longer have to play have his games at the spacious McAfee Coliseum. Swisher will also slide into a pretty talented lineup, laden with plenty of protection. I’d look for Swisher to bounce back and hit at least 30 homeruns. At his best think Adam Dunn, but at his worst think a struggling Pat Burrell. He’s definitely worth a later pick as he could pay high dividends.
Jose Contreras (SP): Contreras has teased fantasy owners with his promised potential ever since his entry into the league in 2003. He’s had average seasons, he’s had excellent seasons, and he’s had awful seasons. 2007 was certainly the latter for Contreras. After a nice start, Contreras ended up with an unimpressive 10-17 record, a bloated 5.57 ERA, and just 113 K’s in 189 innings. Contreras failed to follow up two solid seasons with another, and it appears as though his best days may be behind him. I refuse to pull the plug on him too quickly, however, because he looked dead in the water after a miserable 2004 season which he split between New York and Chicago. He won’t be a top flight starter, far from it actually, but there’s a chance he could still be a serviceable arm. He’s worth nothing more than a late round flier in mixed leagues, but could be a better option in AL only leagues.
Mark Buehrle (SP): Buehrle followed up an uncharacteristically terrible 2006 season with a puzzling 2007 season. He improved his ERA considerably from 4.99 to a more Buehrle-like 3.63, but the wins just didn’t come. He actually won more games in ‘06 even though he pitched much worse than in ‘07. It would seem as though his 10-9 record was a product of inconsistent run support and inconsistent play from the team as a whole. Buehrle’s season wasn’t without any success, however. He did record the 16th no-hitter in franchise history in 2007. While expect Buehrle to rebound fully in 2008, there is a slight possibility that he’ll never regain his form of 2005 and earlier. He’s pitched at least 200 innings in 7 straight seasons, so it could be wearing greatly on his body. I think Buehrle is a legitimate workhorse though, and I think he should return to form fully.
Josh Fields (3B/OF): In his first year of significant action, Josh Fields showcased an excellent power stroke as he moved from third base to left field, and back again. Fields will have to beat out a now healthy Joe Crede to earn a starting spot this season. With his power potential, I see no reason why he won’t receive regualr playing time. In ‘07 he put up 23 HR’s and 67 RBI, along with a .244 average, all in just 100 games. If Fields is in fact able to win a starting job, he has the ability to hit 30 HR’s in ‘08. I would also expect him to improve his average. He’s worth a long look in all league formats and will be especially valuable in keepers.
Danny Richar (2B): In a late season audition for the White Sox in ‘07, Danny Richar displayed an uncommon power stroke for a second baseman. His .230 average is something that must be improved, but his 6 HR’s and 15 RBI in 56 games translate to very solid power numbers. I don’t think Richar will have a huge season in ‘08, but he should win a starting job and continue to improve. Richar will be worth a selection in AL only leagues, but I’d wait until ‘09 to grab him in mixed leagues.
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