Greetings! Everyone always forgets the White Sox...
Projected Starters - Tyler Flowers (C), Paul Konerko (1B), Gordon Beckham (2B), Alexei Ramirez (SS), Jeff Keppinger (3B), Dayan Viciedo (LF), Alejandro De Aza (CF), Alex Rios (RF), Adam Dunn (DH)
Raise your hand if you have any idea what Alex Rios is going to do this season.... waiting.... waiting.... no one?... Ok. Rios is one of the most hit-or-miss players in all of MLB, and I have no idea what to expect. Don't believe me? Check out these numbers. In 2011, he hit .227/.265/.348 with 13 homers, 11 steals, and 64 runs. In 2012, he hit .304/.334/.516 with 25 homers, 23 steals, and 93 runs. In the last four seasons, he has two seasons with a WAR of 3.6 or better, and two seasons of a 0.3 WAR or worse. I have no idea! Let's keep going. With the exception of Rios, the key to the middle of the Chicago batting order is what they get out of Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. Konerko has been tremendous for a long, long time, but he is now 37 years old, and fell off a cliff (.771 OPS) after the All-Star break after a stellar (.932 OPS) first half. I think he'll be solid (at worst), but the upside is probably gone at this point. In Dunn's case, he rebounded quite well from the utter disaster that happened in 2011 (.159 batting average, -3.0 WAR!) with a Dunn-like season of 41 homers and .468 slugging percentage last season. All Chicago needs is that level of production from Dunn, and suddenly that is a different offense. After those three players, nothing stands out in a big way. Ramirez has shed his "high upside" tag in favor of a guy who will hit between 10-18 homers, steal 15-20 bases, and hit for a mediocre average every year. Beckham has never come close to fulfilling his huge hype, and while I liked the Keppinger acquisition (Parkview High graduate), hitting for average and never striking out isn't "exciting".
Projected - Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana
Peavy and Sale were one of the best 1-2 combinations in all of baseball last season, and they feel great about those two guys. Sale struck out 192 batters in 192 innings last season, and finished with a 3.05 ERA in 192 innings. There is big concern over his mechanics, but he's avoided injury (so far) and if he can replicate that with his electric stuff, he's a #1 starter. Peavy is back from his long, long injury road, and he arrived last season with 219 innings of 3.37 ERA baseball. After that, the questions arrive in a hurry. John Danks was an abject disaster in his 9 starts last season, and while he had a fairly long track record of solid performance, it's been 18 months (at least) since he's been effective. Gavin Floyd has settled into a middle-of-the-road starter who doesn't impress but won't kill you, and Quintana simply can't strike anyway out (5.35 K/9 last year).
Projected - Addison Reed (closer), Matt Lindstrom, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, Dylan Axelrod, Donnie Veal, Nate Jones
I'm all-in on Addison Reed. His peripherals show that he was wildly unlucky last year (68% strand rate last year, FIP over a full run under his ERA), and he's a strikeout guy. I think he saves 30-35 games and is never challenged for the job. They have two former "closers" in Lindstrom and Thornton, and Jesse Crain was great (2.47 ERA) last year. This could be a strength if everything comes together.
In the AL Central, things get ugly in a hurry after the Tigers. Chicago is flying under the radar in a big way while people tout Cleveland and Kansas City, but I think the White Sox are the safest bet for a .500-type season. If Rios has an "up" year in his roller coaster, they could be better than this, but I'm settling for 81 wins.
81-81, 2nd in AL Central