White Sox

Fantasy Baseball Preview: 2016 Chicago White Sox

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Fantasy Baseball Preview: 2016 Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are one of the more interesting teams to follow in spring training from a fantasy baseball perspective.

Of course, there's the whole Adam LaRoche drama, but even staying out of the controversy, LaRoche's retirement opens the door for another 450+ at-bats that are going to have to go somewhere.

The veteran slugger probably wasn't being drafted in many leagues after posting a career-worst 2015 campaign. Now that LaRoche is gone, however, the Sox may turn to a different full-time designated hitter (who suddenly may become fantasy relevant) or allow manager Robin Ventura to rotate his star position players into the spot to give them a breather (meaning 3-4 more at-bats instead of just a complete day off).

It also ensures all four outfielders - Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson - are now worth a look in leagues because they should all be playing most of the time with the DH spot wide open.

[RELATED - Fantasy Baseball Preview: 2016 Chicago Cubs]

Let's break down the fantasy prospects for the rest of the 2016 White Sox by position:

Catchers

Catcher is never really a very good fantasy position, but you might as well keep moving when it comes to Sox backstops. Nothing to see here from a fantasy perspective.

Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila are fine real-life catchers, but not guys you want to be on your fantasy roster all season.

Avila is 29 and has a stellar season (19 HR, 33 2B, 82 RBI, .295/.389/.506 slash line in 2011) on his resume, but that's been it. In four years since, Avila's put up a .694 OPS, averaging 16 doubles, nine homers and 39 RBI. He's also an injury risk after missing almost 100 games last season and has failed to reach even 400 at-bats since '11.

Navarro's not much better, despite having a three-homer game on his resume against the White Sox in 2013 as a member of the Cubs. The 32-year-old has an underwhelming .688 career OPS and he has only reached double-digit homers twice in 12 years in the big leagues.

These guys are no more than short-term injury replacements in fantasy leagues where only offensive numbers matter.

Infielders

Of course, Jose Abreu leads off the category here. He's a stud worthy of going in the first five rounds and you could make the case he could even be a third-round pick. Power is in short supply around the game today and Abreu is a 29-year-old slugger in the prime of his career with two 30-homer and 100-RBI seasons on his resume. He's hit no lower than .290 in the big leagues and while he doesn't walk much, all those taters help inflate his career OPS to a .904 mark. With a better lineup around him, Abreu could turn in his best season yet.

Todd Frazier may be hitting behind Abreu much of the season, forming a dynamic 1-2 punch in the middle of the White Sox order. Frazier, 30, has broken out in a big way over the last two seasons with 64 homers and 33 steals. He doesn't walk much either and his average probably won't climb above .280, bringing his overall OPS down. After posting a .922 OPS with 25 homers before the All-Star Break last season, Frazier slumped big-time in the second half (.664 OPS, 10 HR). But there aren't too many guys with his power-speed combo, especially at a surprisingly shallow third base position.

Brett Lawrie is also bringing his talents to the South Side this season. He hasn't put up the monster numbers most projected for him over his first five seasons in the majors, but the former top prospect could hit 20 homers while qualifying for second and third base on your fantasy roster. That's some solid value, even if he posts low AVG and OBP numbers and doesn't steal many bases.

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At age 37, who knows how much Jimmy Rollins has left in the tank. He hit only .224 last season, but still managed 13 homers and 12 stolen bases and he is only a season removed from hitting 17 bombs with 28 steals in 2014. Don't expect much from J-Roll, but you could do worse than rolling the dice with the former MVP in the last couple rounds.

Outfielders

Here's where LaRoche's absence really helps. Instead of having to move four outfielders in and out of the lineup, manager Robin Ventura can now play all four guys just about every day.

Eaton is the main prize in the Sox outfield, but there is also a ton of risk. The 27-year-old hit 14 homers last year, but all evidence points to that as a fluky total. In his previous three big-league seasons spanning 821 at-bats, Eaton totaled just six homers and he hit only 26 dingers in 349 minor-league games. Eaton also looks like he'd have 25-30 stolen base upside, but he's only managing a successful steal about two-thirds of the time in the majors. He hits for a high average, posts a great on-base percentage and can contribute across the board (including triples for leagues that have that as a category), but he doesn't jump off the board in any one category except for maybe runs hitting in front of Abreu and Frazier.

Garcia has put up disappointing numbers in his career and though he has 20-homer power and an ability to hit .290, it's hard to feel confident he'll reach either mark in 2016. He strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough, but he's still young (he turns 25 in June).

Cabrera earns a bump in leagues that account for doubles and rewards players who don't strike out much, but beyond that, don't expect much more than 10-12 homers, 70 RBI, 70 Rs and a .280 AVG - so basically a repeat of his 2015 season.

Jackson has seen his average, power and stolen base totals drop over the last three years, so don't be surprised if he isn't drafted in your leagues. But Jackson is still only 29 and could wind up taking advantage of a decent hitter's park in U.S. Cellular Field and he has plenty of playing time coming his way as by far the best defensive outfielder on the White Sox roster. Keep an eye on him on the waiver wires or take a late-round flier on him.

Starting pitchers

Chris Sale is a stud and a contender for the AL Cy Young every season. He struck out a whopping 274 batters last season and is probably the top strikeout pitcher in the game not named Clayton Kershaw. Sale should be one of the first five pitchers off the board and you can feel safe selecting him as early as the second round.

Jose Quintana is one of the more underrated fantasy stars out there mainly because he doesn't pick up many wins due to his insane no-decision luck. Quintana has been remarkably consistent and you can pencil him in again for 200 innings, 175 strikeouts and an ERA in the low 3.00s, but that's just his floor; his ceiling is even higher. All that for a guy you could pick up in the late rounds of drafts as your fourth or fifth starting pitcher? Sign me up.

Carlos Rodon is the x-factor in fantasy on this staff. There's not much of a book on the 23-year-old, but he has all the makings of a future ace. Expect some ups and downs this year, but he could easily average a strikeout per inning with 10-15 wins and an ERA in the mid-high 3.00s. If he cuts his walks down, those numbers can soar even higher.

John Danks and Mat Latos are both in very similar boats entering fantasy drafts. Each guy has had success in the past and it wouldn't be altogether shocking to see them put together a solid stretch or two in 2016, but both should be available on the waiver wire.

[MORE - John Danks on hot streak after Dioner Navarro's tip on tipping pitches]

Relief pitchers

David Robertson has a pretty solid stranglehold on the closer's job for the Sox after signing a big deal prior to 2015. He saved 34 games and struck out 12.2 batters per nine innings with a WHIP under 1.00. But he also blew seven saves, gave up seven homers and a 3.41 ERA won't help you in that category. Expect more of the same this season, though his ERA will probably drop with a little better luck.

If Robertson falters for some reason, Nate Jones is intriguing as a possible replacement for the ninth inning, but neither he nor Zach Duke or Zach Putnam are really worth owning in fantasy unless they're closing.

Sox Drawer Q&A: Is this the White Sox 'Jon Lester' offseason?

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USA TODAY

Sox Drawer Q&A: Is this the White Sox 'Jon Lester' offseason?

Back for another round of questions here in the Sox Drawer. Let's go.

Q: Do you believe this is the Sox "Lester" offseason where they make a large investment in a player for the future? Or are we still one year away from seeing this? — @BCurley3

CG: That's a question many White Sox fans are wondering about. And by the "Lester" signing, I assume you are referring to the likes of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. I'd like to think that if the White Sox have a desire to sign a big-name free agent, they will make every attempt to do it now and not wait for the 2020 free agents, even if it's coming off a 100-loss season. As general manager Rick Hahn put it in his season-ending press conference, "You can't always control when certain players become available. You can say in 2020 or 2021 we expect to be this, and we know we are going to need X. You can't look at the projected free agent and say that player will be available, much less that player will be a White Sox when the time comes." It might turn out that the White Sox don't sign that marquee free agent this offseason, but going off what Hahn said, I believe they will go all-in when their targeted "Jon Lester" is available.

Q: If you had your choice, would the White Sox sign Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado? — @Dehhmac_

CG: I'll take either. Arenado gets the edge defensively. Machado has the advantage offensively. One stat about Arenado that gives me some pause is his career home/away splits. At Coors Field, he's slashing .320/.374/.609. Away from Coors Field, he's at .263/.318/.469. He's still a great player, but his numbers are inflated due to the higher elevation in Denver. If they don't sign him to a contract extension this winter, I'm curious to see if the Rockies listen to trade offers during the Winter Meetings like the Orioles did with Machado last year. The Rockies are much more competitive than the Orioles, so they might decide to go for it one more time with Arenado. If not, a crazy Winter Meetings just got crazier.

Q: I have long expected this to be the offseason when the Sox start signing free agents. However, lately, I've heard about possible big-name trade potentials. Do you expect trades this early in the rebuild or mainly acquisition through free agency? — @ToddHertz

CG: At some point, the White Sox will probably dip into their farm system to acquire major league upgrades where they see fit. Because there were so many injuries to prospects last season, I'm not sure they've seen enough to know exactly what they have to make those kind trades just yet. However, the one position in the minors where they seem very deep right now is in the outfield. That could be an area they could subtract from to add elsewhere. I think the White Sox timed their rebuild very well with free agency. Last year's lackluster free-agent class was a great time to be on the sidelines. The next two winters will have much better talent available. The White Sox don't have much on the books and will be in a good financial position to make upgrades.

Q: After Eloy comes up in April who's the next guy in waiting and when does he come up? —  @franknacchio19

CG: With two open spots in the rotation, we could see a few prospects compete for starting jobs in spring training. Jordan Guerrero, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams are possibilities. All three of them finished the season at Charlotte and could be close to knocking on the door. The next big name after that would seemingly be Dylan Cease, who if he continues to pitch like he did this past season will probably be on the Michael Kopech timeline to the majors, and Kopech came up in August.

Q: If the rumors are true and the Diamondbacks dismantle their roster, which player on their roster makes sense for this White Sox team long term? —  @mr_zablocki

Q: Who would you hypothetically trade for Goldshmidt? — @DaRealScaletta​​​​​​​

CG: Looking at the Diamondbacks' roster, there aren't many natural fits with the White Sox rebuild. Where's the All-Star third baseman on a rebuilding team with a four-year, team-friendly contract? I like Zack Greinke, but he's going to be 35-years-old and has three years and $104 million left on his contract. A 27-year-old Robbie Ray would be solid, but he's under team control for only two more years. Paul Goldschmidt is an all-world first baseman with three Gold Gloves, but he's a free agent after next season. Depending on what the White Sox do with Jose Abreu, who also has one year left on his contract, maybe they go after Goldschmidt next offseason if they don't re-sign Abreu.

Q: Tell a Yolmer story. — @NJBooth20

CG: Yolmer was wearing this cool T-shirt in the clubhouse this past season. On the front, it said "play hard" with a photo of him making Mickey Mouse ears. On the back it said "have fun," and there's the photo of him pouring Gatorade all over himself. I asked him if I could have one of those T-shirts. He said, "50 dollars." I countered with, "How about 30?" With perfect comedic timing, Yolmer came back with, "Make it 10." He might not be the best bargainer in the world, but Yolmer Sanchez is definitely one of the funniest people around.

Q: Why did Nagy run the ball on 3rd and 4?? — @rypie182​​​​​​​

CG: Not sure.

Q: Can I leave a voicemail? Too drunk to tweet. — @HurriKayne26​​​​​​​

CG: Rough Bears game.

Q: Who will be the biggest surprise and/or the greatest improvement for next season's team? — @nicklicious33​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. If he's able to come back, I can think of one person in particular who would be quite an incredible surprise in 2019. That's Danny Farquhar. At home in California recovering from his near-death brain aneurysm, Farquhar is training with the hopes of pitching in the majors again, possibly as soon as 2019. I wouldn't put it past him. He's a special person who has been defying the odds since that horrific night in April. It would be great to see!

Thanks again for all of your questions. We'll do it again next week.

Sorry, White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

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USA TODAY

Sorry, White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.