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American League Two-a-Days: Chicago White Sox

LiveBall Sports previews the American League this week.

Team Synopsis: Chicago White Sox

2013 record: 63-99
2013 runs scored: 598
2013 runs against: 723
2013 pythag. record: 67-95

In 2013, the Kansas City Royals led the AL in runs against with 601.  The Chicago White Sox did not score 600 runs in what can only be considered a total offensive collapse.

Who is having a good spring?

CF Jordan Danks, the team’s reserve outfielder, and LF Alejandro De Aza, who is leading Dayan Viciedo in the battle for the team’s starting LF job.  RHP Andre Rienzo has done well in five relief innings.  LHP Charlie Leesman has done well in his 4+ innings.

Reasons to be optimistic about the 2014 White Sox

First of all, there’s no risk of the team being contracted.  The starting pitching has a chance to be very good.  The rotation is strong at the front, with LHP Chris Sale as the team’s ace, and at the back, where RHPs Felipe Paulino and Erik Johnson replace Rienzo and LHP Hector Santiago, who was traded to the Angels in the offseason.  The outfield defense will be much improved in 2014, as the White Sox have improved their speed and athleticism across the board.  The White Sox acquired a bevy of young infielders to play this year, which should help define their direction for the future.

Reasons to be realistic about the 2014 White Sox

The team’s bullpen, it’s strength for the past decade, was gutted by trades last year and is very unsettled.  Closer Nate Jones is the one reliable arm in the pen, and the unit as a whole has a figure-it-out as you go feel.  The offense can’t be as bad as last season, but it really isn’t a lot better talent-wise.  It’s hard to put expectations on Cuban 1B Jose Abreu, who will need to adjust to facing major league pitching this year.  Veteran DHs Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn remind you what happens to your roster when 20% of your major league lineup walks up to Metallica.  Every offseason acquisition by the White Sox comes with the same caveat: we don’t know if they can hit at all.  No upgrade at catcher means more of the Josh Phegley/Tyler Flowers experience in 2014.  Everybody in this lineup except Dunn/Konerko is a hacker.

2B Gordon Beckham will never not be a reminder of why you need to be realistic about a team’s chances.

The projections

The Fangraphs projected team WAR for the 2014 White Sox is 27.0, 13th in the American League.  Their 14.4 Batters WAR projection is 14th in the AL. Their 12.6 Pitchers WAR projection is 13th in the AL.  Cool Standings projects the 2014 White Sox to win 74 games, an 11 win improvement over last season.  Chris Sale is the White Sox with the best 2014 projection with an average WAR projection of 4.7.  Jose Abreu is the position player with the best average projection at 3.3 WAR.

The White Sox vs the rest of the AL Central

The AL Central is an above average division this year.  The Tigers enter the season with one of the best statistical profiles of any team.  The Royals and Indians are above average opponents with some downside potential.  The Twins should be improved, and have the consensus best farm system, which should help avoid a repeat of the end of last year when they were running a sub-MLB lineup out.  The White Sox and Twins are neck and neck for the fourth best team in the division.

LiveBall Sports projection for the 2014 White Sox Season

I am expecting the White Sox to fall a bit short of their statistical projections for the season.  There are a lot of moving parts on this roster, and the Sox are at an abnormally high risk for sub-replacement performance across the roster.  This leads me to take them to finish 70-92.

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