White Sox

Breaking it Down with WAR: White Sox vs. Twins

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Breaking it Down with WAR: White Sox vs. Twins

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Posted 2:45 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO Everywhere you look, theres talk of the AL Central Division race being a three-way thriller, surely undecided until late September. The defending champion Minnesota Twins appear weakened, but rarely pull their dogs from the fight until the last day of the season. Motown went loco, spending even more crazily than the Chicago White Sox, who appear to have the best balance in the division.

But no offense to the Bengals, this division will come down to the Chisox and Twinkies, as it has in two of the last three seasons.

So, how weakened are the Twins, and is the retooled White Sox offense and bullpen enough to make up the six games the team trailed Minnesota by in 2010? What follows is by no means a definitive outlook, but an educated projection, position by position, on how the two clubs stack up. (Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is the standardized figure Im using to compare players and teams.)
Catcher

A.J. Pierzynski is unlikely to have as poor a year as he did in 2010, but then, he did little this spring to inspire confidence, so lets chalk him up with the same 1.8 WAR performance as a year ago. Joe Mauer is all-world, of course, and with his knee woes likely behind him, its safe to predict a few more games played in 2011 and thus an uptick in WAR to 5.5.
Advantage: Twins (3.7)

First Base

Its still a question mark for Minny, as Justin Morneau continues his tentative return from the concussion that knocked him out of the second half of 2010. He may play more games this year, but his production is likely to take a dip (4.9 WAR). Still, Paul Konerkos gilded 2010 season is unlikely to be duplicated, so chalk him up for an even bigger WAR drop (to 3.1).
Advantage: Twins (1.8)

Second Base

The Twins bring another question mark to the season, with Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka manning the position full time. How his game will translate to the majors is hard to determine, but his skill set obviously fits the pesky Twinkies tendencies, so Ill project him a notch above Akinori Iwamuras strong debut in Tampa (2.9). On the Sox side, Gordon Beckham is poised for a breakoutdefensively settled at second, renewed confidence on the basepaths and seeing a steady diet of fastballs hitting in front of Adam Dunn means Bacon is due for a large jump in his production (to 3.1 WAR).
Advantage: White Sox (0.2)

Shortstop

Without a significant uptick in on-base percentage, its going to be hard for Alexei Ramirez to substantially add to his WAR numbers, but with continued stellar defense and perhaps a stronger running game, lets nudge him to 3.9 this season. Minnesotas similarly-monickered shortstop, Alexi Casilla, has little of Ramirezs ability or breakout potential (1.1 WAR).
Advantage: White Sox (2.8)

Third Base

Brent Morel is an X-factor for the Chisox this season, figuring to be a plus-WAR player based on defense alone, so with regular time on the diamond as anticipated, he earns a 1.3 projected WAR. Danny Valencia was a 2010 surprise for Minnesota, playing at a 2.7 WAR clip. In a sophomore season, expect a modest step back for Valencia, to 2.4.
Advantage: Twins (1.1)

Left Field
Juan Pierre just keeps on ticking for the White Sox. Its easy to expect some sort of stumble from the 68 stolen bags and a .341 on-base percentage, so his WAR will drop to 1.5. On the Minnesota side, Delmon Youngs defense alone could see him drop in WAR as well, an equal amount as Pierre (to 1.6).
Advantage: Twins (0.1)

Center Field

Alex Rios had an incredible comeback year in 2010 (to 3.7 WAR), and the White Soxs success this season is predicated on him coming close to matching that strong campaign. With all the tools in his box, dont expect much of a fall-off from him (3.6). Denard Span just keeps getting better for the Twins, so another jump in WAR (from 2.9) is far from guaranteed, but to be on the safe side, lets pencil him at 3.8.
Advantage: Twins (0.2)

Right Field

Two plodding players populate right for these two teams, Carlos Quentin on the South Side and Michael Cuddyer in Minny. Quentins durability and defensive weaknesses keep him from ever being an elite WAR player, but hes a safe bet to jump to 1.0 this season, and Cuddyer could easily match that.
Advantage: None

Designated Hitter

This ones tricky, as Jim Thome was dominant (3.6) a season ago, largely subbing for Morneau, but hes not only due for fewer at-bats, but has been supplanted at DH by Jason Kubel, who will be lucky to double his WAR in 2011 (to 0.6). The White Sox have imported Dunn, who will find it almost impossible not to duplicate his National League WAR of 3.9 in the bandboxy U.S. Cellular Field.
Advantage: White Sox (3.3)

Lineup Advantage: Twins (0.5)

Core Four on Bench

White Sox: Ramon Castro (0.6), Omar Vizquel (0.0), Mark Teahen (0.2), Lastings Milledge (1.2). Total: 2.0 WAR
Twins: Thome (1.8), Jason Repko (1.0), Drew Butera (0.5), Matt Tolbert (0.5). Total: 3.8 WAR

Bench Advantage: Twins (1.8)

Starting Rotation

The White Sox run out a strong first five, with the only real potential limitation being Jake Peavys injury, which earns him an overly conservative 2.8 WAR for 2011. John Danks should emulate 2010 (4.2), Mark Buehrle will take a slight hit (3.4), and Gavin Floyds predicted drop to 3.4 is well offset by what Edwin Jackson will bring to the rotation for a full year (3.5). Total Rotation: 17.3 WAR

Minnesota is more riddled with question marks, although many pundits dont seem to note it. It will be nearly impossible for Francisco Liriano to match 2010s 6.0 WAR, so he bumps down to 5.5, still the best on either team. I have doubts about Carl Pavanos ability to duplicate his 3.2 of last season, but well hold him steady there. Brian Duensing should benefit from a full season of starts, so he hops to 2.4, while Nick Blackburn also will benefit from a full season of starting and bump to 1.4. It may be overly generous, but Scott Baker should also see a WAR hop, to 3.2. Total Rotation: 15.7 WAR

Rotation Advantage: White Sox (1.6)

Bullpen
Matt Thornton is as steady as can be, whether as a closer or setup man, so he sticks at 2.2 WAR. Sergio Santos is in line for more responsibility, thus seeing his WAR double to 1.0. Chris Sale will encounter a sophomore slump or two, but his electric arm earns a 1.0. New acquisitions Jesse Crain and Will Ohman should also mostly duplicate past performance, Crain holding steady at 0.8 and Ohman dropping a tick in the AL, to 0.1. Long reliever Tony Pena should have a more productive season with the bullpen better settled, so well jump him to 0.4. Total Bullpen: 5.5 WAR

Joe Nathan had a poor spring but should be relied on to nearly duplicate his last healthy season WAR (1.9, 2009), so hell slot at 1.3. Kevin Slowey has been bounced from the rotation and into a Pena role, so his past WARs (2.2 in 2010) are no measure for his 2011 production (1.0). Matt Capps is taking on a new setup role and should see little room to improve on his poor 2009 WAR, so he hops to just 0.9. Jose Mijares, Jeff Manship and Glen Perkins are all pitchers of little distinction, so I forsee small ticks back for the two former hurlers (0.1 apiece) and a slight uptick for Perkins, also to 0.1. Total Bullpen: 3.5 WAR

Bullpen Advantage: White Sox (2.0)

Final WAR Tally

White Sox 48.1, Twins 46.8

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

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AP

As Cactus League play begins, how many spots are actually up for grabs on the White Sox roster?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Some teams have it easy, with their 25-man rosters seemingly locked into place before spring training games even start.

The White Sox actually have a lot more locked-down spots than you might think for a rebuilding team, but this spring remains pretty important for a few guys.

The starting rotation figures to be set, with James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Miguel Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer the starting five. Carlos Rodon, of course, owns one of those spots once he returns from injury. But the date of that return remains a mystery.

From this observer’s viewpoint, eight of the everyday nine position players seem to be figured out, too: Welington Castillo behind the plate, Jose Abreu at first base, Yoan Moncada at second base, Tim Anderson at shortstop, Yolmer Sanchez at third base, Nicky Delmonico in left field, Avisail Garcia in right field and Matt Davidson as the designated hitter. More on the omission of a starting center fielder in a bit.

Omar Narvaez would be a logical pick to back up Castillo at catcher, and Tyler Saladino is really the lone reserve infielder with big league experience, not to mention he’s a versatile player that can play anywhere on the infield.

Leury Garcia also figures to be a lock for this 25-man roster. But will he be the everyday center fielder, as he was for a spell last season? He played 51 games in center in 2017 but battled injuries throughout the year. I think Leury Garcia will end up the starting center fielder when the season begins because of his bat. His .270/.316/.423 slash line isn’t going to make anyone do cartwheels, but it’s better than the offensive struggles of Adam Engel, who started 91 games in center in 2017 and slashed .166/.235/.282. Engel would still be a solid inclusion on the bench because of his superb defense, but to create that big a hole in the everyday lineup is tough.

How could that position-player group change? Keep your eyes in center field, where there are a couple other guys who could force their way into a roster spot this spring: Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell. Tilson has had a tremendous amount of trouble staying on the field since coming over to the White Sox in a 2016 deadline deal, but that hasn’t dampened the White Sox hopes for him. And Cordell got name-dropped by general manager Rick Hahn during SoxFest, when the GM said he’s received multiple calls about Cordell since acquiring him last summer. Cordell put up good numbers at the Triple-A level prior to a significant injury last year.

But the main battles figure to be in the bullpen. At times this winter, as the White Sox kept adding players to that relief corps mix, that the whole thing seemed wide open. But when you think about it, maybe there are only one or two open spots.

You’d have to think these guys are pretty safe bets to make the team: Juan Minaya, Gregory Infante, Nate Jones, Joakim Soria and Luis Avilan. Though Hector Santiago was just recently acquired on a minor league deal, he’s really the only long man of the group, and he could sub in if there’s an injury to a starting pitcher. That leaves two spots between the group of Aaron Bummer, Danny Farquhar, Jace Fry, Jose Ruiz and Thyago Vieira — not to mention guys signed to minor league deals like Xavier Cedeno, Jeanmar Gomez and Bruce Rondon.

Bummer had a 4.50 ERA in 30 big league games last year. Farquhar had a 4.40 ERA in 15 games. Vieira has gotten attention as a flame-thrower, but he’s got just one big league game under his belt, something that might or might not matter to the rebuilding White Sox. Guys like Gomez, who has 40 career saves including 37 just two years ago, and Rondon, who had multiple shots at the Detroit Tigers’ closing job in the past, could vault themselves into the mix as potential midseason trade candidates.

Then there's the question of which of those guys will be Rick Renteria's closer. Minaya had closing duties after most of the bullpen was traded away last summer. He picked up nine saves and posted a 4.11 ERA in his final 17 appearances of the campaign. Look to Soria, though, a veteran with plenty of closing experience from his days with the Kansas City Royals. If he's given the opportunity to close and succeeds, he could fetch an intriguing return package in a potential deadline deal.

But now it's game time in Arizona.

“The fun part of playing the game of baseball is playing the game of baseball," Renteria said earlier this week. "We prepare. I think they all enjoy what they’re doing in terms of their preparation. They take it seriously, they focus. But ultimately like everything that we do in life, I guess it’s a test. And the games are a test for us on a daily basis. And how we are able to evaluate them and take advantage of the opportunities that we have to see them in a real game situation is certainly helpful for us.”