Springtime Storylines: Can anyone on the White Sox hit the ball over the fence?

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White Sox logo.gifBetween now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: The Ozzie Guillen Show


The
big question: Can anyone hit the ball over the fence?

This is a pretty punchless lineup for a team that plays in the most homer friendly park in baseball. Their two biggest power threats from last year are (a) unemployed; and (b) searching for at bats in Minnesota. No, I don’t suppose it would have been all that life-affirming to make further commitments to a 36 year-old Jermaine Dye and a 39 year-old Jim Thome, but the fact is that the ChiSox’s two most fearsome (such as it is) bats from 2009 are absent by the team’s choice. By the way, notice that no one says “ChiSox” anymore? You used to see that all the time.

So what do they have? Paul Konerko, in the last year of his contract. He still has some pop in his bat, but if he’s the best hitter on your team you ain’t winning the pennant. Carlos Quentin should be healthy this year. If he returns to 2008 form he is a guy who could anchor a winner, but he’s no guarantee. Between Alexis Rios and Andruw Jones you’re dealing with approximately 39.8 cubic liters of wasted promise but it’s possible that one of them will have a nice season. Beyond that it’s Mark Teahen, Juan Pierre, and A.J. Pierzynski, none of whom are particularly menacing with a bat in their hands. That leaves Gordon Beckam. He’s the one position player on this team that is remotely interesting. But again, he’s not a considerable power threat. This is a team that can be pitched to.

The White Sox were 19th in runs scored last year. They could easily be worse this year. I know Ozzie Guillen likes to talk about stolen bases and the hit and run and small ball and all of that fun stuff he used to do back in the 80s, but the teams that come into U.S. Cellular Field are going to be rattling it off the bleachers. The White Sox will not be. This should be a cause for concern. 

So what else is going on?

  • The offense is pretty flaccid, but the rotation is top notch. Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia are a nice group of arms. The Sox trailed only Seattle in team ERA last year and having Peavy around for more than three starts gives Chicago one of the best rotations in baseball.
  • Bobby Jenks is supposedly in the best shape of his life, having quit drinking and lost 25 pounds. He’d better be, given that the Sox went out and got J.J. Putz, who could step in if Jenks falters and becomes hittable like he was last year.
  • Ozzie Guillen is more or less immune from heat over his antics, his tweeting and his tendency to shoot off at the mouth from time to time, but he could be under some pressure this year all the same. Why? Because this seems more like the team he wanted than the team Kenny Williams wanted. Back at the Winter Meetings Ozzie was adamant that he not be tied down with a dedicated DH. Williams listened, passed on bringing back Thome or Dye and now there’s a decent chance that Mark Kotsay and Omar Vizquel will be getting at bats from the DH slot. Juan Pierre was clearly a Guillen priority. He’s moving Gordon Beckam to second base just as he was getting used to third (and after being drafted as a shortstop).  I don’t think Ozzie’s  job is in jeopardy or anything, but if the team doesn’t produce, Guillen is probably due a lot of the heat for it. How he reacts to the heat could put his job in jeopardy of course, because anything is possible with Ozzie.

So how
are they gonna do?

I worry about this offense. I worry that there are too many guys — Jones, Pierre, and Rios come to mind — who could be utter black holes, thereby sinking what is already a foundering offensive ship. A good rotation can hide a bad offense, but I think the Twins and the Tigers have fewer question marks than the Sox, and I don’t like their chances of hanging in it all year.

Prediction: Third
place, AL Central. 

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.