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