Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Top ten White Sox question marks

Finally, Spring Training is here, and I am deeming baseball talk on this website officially relevant. The White Sox utterly disappointed me the past few months. Once the 2008 season finished I, as well as many others, were under the impression that the Sox were going to have somewhere between $20-25 million to spend freely.
But Kenny Williams announced a cut-back in payroll, dashing hopes of Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn and many more.
So going into the '09 campaign, Chicago has more question marks than ever before; below are ten of the biggest.

10. Is Quentin going to continue tear?
Q was going to be the AL MVP, no doubt about it. But after a frustrating plate appearance with about a month left in the season Quentin broke his hand slamming the bat against his thumb. But this isn't an ACL tear, this should not affect his career. Even without this injury however, will he post another .288/36hr/100rbi/96run season? Or will he be a flash in a pan and become just another average corner outfielder with below average defensive skills? He carried the Sox in May and June of last season, and without him, they're sitting right by Kansas City in the central standings. Can he do it again?

9. Will we see Viciedo playing at Comiskey?
As stated earlier, the Sox did not make a big splash this winter, but one guy they did sign was 19-year-old Cuban Dayan Viciedo. He came to the states overweight but it is rumored he dropped 20 lbs and Ozzie Guillen referred to him as a "former fat guy." Weight aside, Alexei Ramirez has reportedly been showing him the ropes, and if there is anybody to talk to about balancing ones figure, its Alexei. It sounds as if Josh Fields will start the season at the hot corner. The Sox could really use the production Fields gave them the second half of '07, but if not, Viciedo doesn't seem like that much of a "plan-b" in the grand scheme of things.

8. Can Ozzie withstand?
I have stated multiple times that I honestly feel like Ozzie is the best manager in baseball and the most entertaining personality in sports. But sometimes his personality is what has gotten him into trouble. And trouble begins when the team doesn't play good ball. The 2009 squad has its bright spots, but really this is the most iffy team Guillen has had to manage since arriving in 2004. Will a poor April and May be too much for Ozzie or Kenny Williams for that matter, to handle?

7. Who's at second?
The team had decided to go forward with Chris Getz, Brent Lillibridge and Jayson Nix all with opportunities to get some time (Getz first and foremost). But none of them have played consistently, if at all, in the bigs. Whoever it is will definitely have to earn it over the other two in the next month-plus, and the winner will most likely find themselves batting ninth in the order.

6. Can the bullpen hold up?
The bullpen last season was a tale of two halves. The first half they were lights-out, and other than Q, a large reason Chicago had the first half they did. The relievers went a combined 17-11, with a 2.96 era until the all-star break. The second half however was disastrous however, as the pen was 6-7 with a shoddy 5.60 era. While many of the problems post all-star break had a lot to do with injuries, the group has no new prominent middle-relief guys. Jenks will be back, and he feels he that by dropping velocity, he is actually able to strike guys out. Scott Linebrink and Ocavio Dotel will return as setup men, but age and health both come into play with these two guys. Matt Thornton is the only one we can truly expect to improve.

5. Will Konerko contribute?
You can't not like Paulie, but there comes a point where his ability has to be questioned. With an exception of his September, it was one we would rather forget. If he wasn't hurt, he was hitting .220. There have been so many question marks on the team it seems as if the organization felt first base was secure. Let's hope so because I don't particularly trust backup Wilson Betemet and long-term resolution Brandon Allen is still probably two years away from being able to perform at ML level.

4. What if Danks and/or Floyd regress?
Don't get me wrong, this is a huge "if," but at the same time, is it a guarantee that these guys are going to have seasons they did last season? They both played outstanding, better than anybody expected, especially Floyd. But the Sox need these guys to succeed, if not they're in trouble. This isn't Boston, they don't have 10 starters that they could get quality outings from. If Jon Lester regresses, there may not be a guy to totally replace his numbers, but there is a serviceable replacement. The White Sox however, do not have that luxury. They'll get burnt. Fans need to cross their fingers and hope the two studs post sub 3.70 era and win at least 15 games.

3. Can Alexei really play short?
Chris De Luca named him the best player in the city. While it may not be far from the truth, the best player in the city is not something I would associate with Alexei's name He only played 16 games at short last year and had limited action (15 assists and eight put-outs). He might have played some short in Cuba, but MLB is a different ball game. He does play solid defense and can quickly turn double-plays, but this is a different side of the infield. I hope this transition doesn't hurt the team, especially when we look at long-term scheme when realizing the Sox best prospect, Gordon Beckham's primary position is at short.

2. Who is going to play center?
This is a two-part question because in reality, whoever plays center is more than likely also going to lead off. Like second base, there are three competitors in Jerry Owens, Brian Anderson and Dewayne Wise. From the sounds of things, Owens seems to have the short track, which I am indifferent with. But a problem occurs if Jerry does win the job. He is a lefty, as is AJ Pierzynski, who will bat second, and likely #9 hitter Chris Getz is also a lefty. Three in a row, including the top two in the order will not work when facing lefty pitchers. The only likely resolution is to platoon in center with Brian Anderson getting the nod when southpaws on the bump. That or Alexei strikes another similarity with Soriano, and they put him at the top of the order. The former idea is more logical.

1. Will Bartolo stay healthy?
As stated earlier, this would not be a problem if the Sox had a few more starters who were MLB-ready. But as it stands, Colon is the #4, and any injury puts Chicago in a sticky situation. It appears, though early, that Clayton Richard will get the #5 spot while top pitching prospect Aaron Poreda will start the year in Triple-A. Odds are that he would jump into the rotation should Colon go down. This would bring the rotation to a similar-styled rotation to the 2007 team, when young stars John Danks and Gavin Floyd were thrown into the mix a earlier than many felt they should have. While it may have worked a few years ago, neither of these prospects were quite the projected talent to the duo in 2007. So they need production out of Colon, or trouble could come.


GP said...

They still need an experienced back-up catcher. They cannot rely on a youngster to jump up from Single A minors into that role.

Maggie said...

I'm just glad baseball season is around the corner. Who knows what 2009 brings for the White Sox, but it should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to hate to see Crede playing for the Twins.