As the early predictions begin to trickle in, it’s not out of the question to think the White Sox can compete in 2016.
The acquisitions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie have once again raised expectations. ZiPS projects 84-85 wins for the White Sox while USA Today called for 90 victories and a first-place finish in the American League Central in a Monday article.
[SHOP: Get your White Sox gear here]
Whether or not the White Sox have a successful season is bound to hinge on a number of factors.
Here’s a look at five key players who could impact the White Sox season:
1. Carlos Rodon
After he struggled with command over the first four months of the season, Rodon made critical adjustments over his final eight starts, which resulted in a reduction in walks. The left-hander trimmed his walks per nine innings from 5.31 to 3.46 and excelled. Rodon went 5-2 with a 1.81 ERA in his final eight starts.
With Jeff Samardzija gone, the White Sox need Rodon to perform as he did late in the season. If he continues to throw strikes as he did in August and September, there’s no reason to think Rodon can’t improve upon last season’s performance.
2. Avisail Garcia
The young outfielder’s overall 2015 offensive numbers left plenty to be desired. What Garcia needs is to find middle ground and eliminate much of the inconsistency that dominated his season. Last month, he and hitting coach Todd Steverson worked for three days on Garcia’s stance in hopes it allows him to better see the ball. The White Sox see spring training as a critical period as it will allow Garcia to get comfortable with his new stance.
3. Adam LaRoche
For the offense to rebound from its dismal performance last season, the White Sox need either Garcia or LaRoche to step up. LaRoche, 36, is coming off the worst full season of his career. But he has the potential to be one true left-handed power bat in the lineup and the White Sox need him to rebound. At SoxFest, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said LaRoche — who has at least 20 home runs in 10 seasons — would be given an opportunity but also has to prove he’s deserving of playing time.
4. Mat Latos
Could be a bargain. That’s how the White Sox view their latest free-agent signee, who inked a one-year deal for $3 million last week. Latos has been dogged by knee injuries for the past two seasons. Before that, he was a top-50 pitcher. The increase in Latos’ velocity last season from 2014 could be an indication his health has improved. The White Sox have a good history with maintaining the health of their players, too. Were Latos to bounce back, an already strong rotation would get much better.
5 Tim Anderson
Ian Desmond interest aside, Tyler Saladino appears to have a lock on the starting job as the White Sox head into camp. The club loves Saladino’s glove, but could use more from his bat. If Saladino doesn’t hit enough, Anderson could make himself a viable candidate to aide the major league club by forcing the issue at Triple-A. Anderson had a fantastic season at Double-A but the club would like to give him more time to refine his game.