2012 Organizational Rankings: #24 — Chicago White Sox

Dave Cameron laid out the methodology behind the rankings last Friday. Remember that the grading scale for each category is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego
#25 – Minnesota

Chicago’s 2011 Ranking: #14

2012 Outlook: 43 (21st)

Boy, things looked a lot better last season. Armed with the highest payroll in team history and fresh off of signing Adam Dunn, the White Sox were the pre-season favorite to win the AL Central. Dunn responded to his new team with a historically bad .159/.292/.277 slash line. Dunn’s failure at the plate was far from the only issue. All of the White Sox high profile acquisitions cratered last season. Alex Rios looked completely lost at the plate — hitting .227/.265/.348 — and Jake Peavy pitched 111.2 innings with a 4.92 ERA. On top of those issues, Gordon Beckham once again failed to live up to his promising rookie season, and Juan Pierre received 711 underwhelming plate appearances. Thankfully, Paul Konerko continued to defy Father Time — posting the fourth best season of his career at 35-years-old.

Because of those struggles, the White Sox dropped ten spots in our rankings. While the AL Central still is regarded as a weak division, the White Sox will likely need all of those players to rebound if they hope to contend. After an off-season identity crisis in which Kenny Williams uttered the term “rebuilding,” the White Sox changed course and gave John Danks an extension. There will be a lot more pressure on both Danks and Gavin Floyd to perform this season since the dependable Mark Buehrle departed during free agency. Behind those two, the rest of the rotation is questionable. Peavy can’t seem to stay healthy since coming over from San Diego, but his 3.21 FIP last season offers some promise. Phil Humber was a big surprise early last season before fading down the stretch. Chris Sale will be making the conversion to starting pitcher this season, but there are questions about his arm slot and his durability.

The bullpen will need to rebound after losing Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays and Sale to the rotation. The addition of rookie Addison Reed and Hector Santiago — who has been lights out this spring — should help.

The Detroit Tigers may have separated themselves from the pack with their off-season signings, but the White Sox could surprise people if their high-priced acquisitions experience a major resurgence. While those players are likely to improve — mainly because they can’t get any worse — the White Sox may find themselves also chasing the Indians and Royals by season’s end.

2013+ Outlook: 33 (29th)

The White Sox have virtually no future talent in their organization. Due to owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s refusal to go over slot in the draft, the White Sox haven’t come away with many impact players. While cost restrictions can explain some of their troubles, the team consistently made awful choices in the first round. Gordon Beckham once looked like the future of this team after a promising rookie season, but he failed to post an on-base percentage over .300 last season. Dayan Viciedo will take over for Carlos Quentin in the outfield this season. While he has some power potential, his free-swinging ways might remind Sox fans of Juan Uribe. Tyler Flowers was once a strong catching prospect, but his star has dimmed over the past couple of seasons. Brent Morel had a poor debut, but his strong September has made him a breakout candidate this season. While he’s not necessarily young, Alejandro De Aza emerged as a solid center fielder last year.

Chris Sale may be the most exciting young player on the team, but there are some legitimate questions about how the 22-year-old will handle his conversion. He’s already proven to be an effective reliever, but it’s nearly impossible to build a great team around relief pitchers. Unfortunately, the White Sox already have 23-year-old Addison Reed to solidify their bullpen. Reed may develop into a top closer, but he’s still just a reliever. The rotation is still relatively young, but the entire offense is based around aging veterans who — outside of Konerko — have already experienced some serious decline.

Based on their bleak future, there’s a really good chance things will get a lot worse in Chicago before they get better. And since Kenny Williams refuses to rebuild, it’s going to be awful tough for this team to infuse their system with talent immediately. In a year or two, the White Sox could easily have the worst team in baseball unless they find a way to bring in premier young talent.

Financial Resources: 51 (tied for 12th)
The White Sox play in a big market, so it’s not unusual that they perform well in this category. According to Forbes, the White Sox are the tenth most valuable franchise in baseball. While Jerry Reinsdorf has spent a significant amount of money on the team in the past, he hasn’t been as willing to commit to the team after last season’s debacle. Williams convinced Reinsdorf to increase the team’s payroll last season in order to sign Adam Dunn. When that strategy backfired, Reinsdorf refused to put any more money into the team. As a result, the White Sox barely spent any money on free agents this off-season. In January, Williams had already admitted the team’s payroll for 2012 was already “tapped out.”

Williams and Reinsdorf have often said they will spend more money on the team if more fans come to the games, but the White Sox ranked just 21st in attendance last season despite playing in a major market. If the team gets worse and attendance continues to decline, it’s unclear whether Reinsdorf would be willing to invest a ton of money in a bad product.

Baseball Operations: 42 (25th)

Due to their poor drafting record, and recent failures in free-agency, the White Sox baseball operations didn’t fare well in our ratings. While the White Sox likely have a strong statistical department, Kenny Williams is regarded as a GM that relies on his scouts more than the stats. In the past, this has worked to his advantage. John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton were all acquired through trades in which the White Sox gave up little talent. They were also able to turn Jose Contreras into a useful pitcher for a couple of seasons and — as a result — he was a major factor in the team signing Alexei Ramirez.

In more recent years, Williams’ moves have worked against him. Neither Jake Peavy or Adam Dunn have lived up to their expensive contracts, and waiver claims for Alex Rios and Manny Ramirez have not worked out. Williams also should have shown more patience with Javier Vazquez and Nick Swisher — both of whom were shipped out for virtually no return. Unless Williams can recapture his old magic — and the team finally starts making competent decisions in the draft — the White Sox will continue to struggle in this category. The team somehow managed to hold onto Assistant General Manager Rick Hahn, who is very highly regarded around the league.

Overall: 44 (24th)

It’s a tough time to be a White Sox fan. The team already experienced a precipitous drop in the rankings this season, and there’s a good chance things are going to get worse before they get better. The White Sox attempt to go “All In” last season was a huge failure that exposed some significant problems within the organization. Until the team recognizes those flaws, they will continue to make the same mistakes. This team is in dire need of a rebuild, but they are the most ill-equipped organization to undergo that task.

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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.

38 Responses to “2012 Organizational Rankings: #24 — Chicago White Sox”

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  1. spoof bonser says:

    After reading the Twins and White Sox rankings back to back, I would probably flip them. The ChiSox are in trouble.

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  2. Richie says:

    “UNfortunately”, the White Sox have Addison Reed to solidify the bullpen??

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  3. Xeifrank says:

    24th is exactly where I have the White Sox at too. Three year playoff drought and likely the worst minor league system of all. Up next for me is Cleveland.

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  4. Ben G. says:

    There may have been no trade that has impacted an organization more than the Chris Young/Javy Vazquez trade impacted the White Sox. If the White Sox hold on to him, they probably don’t trade for Nick Swisher, they don’t place the claim on Rios. And the organization might be in much better shape.

    as far as having more patience with Vazquez, he was despised in Chicago, both by the media and the fanbase. Looking at his qoutes at the end of the 2008 season, he wanted out, the fans wanted him out, and Ozzie wanted him out. I also wouldn’t say they got nothing for him. They got Flowers, who was a big catching prospect at the time, and Lillibridge who can play just about any position in the field, and his bat showed improvement last year (although it was a bit flukey).

    I completely agree about their drafting. It’s going to be interesting to see how they draft in the future with the new CBA as I believe it has hard slots for picks (jerry reinsdorf influenced, no doubt).

    also, the Dunn,Peavy and Rios deals looked good at the time. Hindsight is a bitch.

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    • Will says:

      The Alex Rios and Adam Dunn deals never looked good at any time.

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      • Shane H says:

        The Dunn deal looked like a fine idea before 2011. They locked him up at 14 million per for his 31-34 year old seasons. I thought they had a 3 WAR DH four four seasons which easily would have justified his contract.

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      • Baty says:

        It may have looked fine on paper, but there was a better way of approaching this. The problems related to the Dunn signing exposed a significant lack of roster flexibility. A left handed power bat usually looks good, but in the form of another extremely limited defensive player, not so good. The WS have had a steady flow of DH options in the field for a while now and they didn’t need to add to that. They needed a guy that could finally force one of those players into a DH role. It was an exciting move, but there should have been another way.

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  5. colin says:

    The WS rely more on scouting and therefore have been less successful? I mean that’s basically what this says.

    I say that is a poor argument and the easy way out. At the draft level it is almost all scouting, so saying they rely on that too much is not exactly accurate. They fail in the draft if anything because they rely on BAD scouting.

    Take the Blue Jays, they are a team notoriously dedicated to heavy scouting. They also have one of the best minor league systems in the game. Nobody would say they lack front office savvy because they rely too much on scouting. They have a good front office because they have a ton of very good scouts strategically located and have savvy movers and shakers at the very top. If anything I would say the Jays get too much credit for being a “stats” oriented team just because the fangraphs community wants it to be true and therefore perception is reality.

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    • Chris Cwik says:

      I’m not sure how you came away with that conclusion.

      Kenny Williams isn’t known as a guy who pores over spreadsheets, so I think it’s fair to say he relies on his scouts fairly often. As I point out in the article, this was worked to his advantage many times in the past.

      He’s made a couple bad decisions the past few seasons and the team is going to pay for it. But no where in the article did I say “if they relied on stats, they would be better.”

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      • Ben G. says:

        I’d say draft philosophy has been a bigger problem than scouting.

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      • colin says:

        Yes, I will give you that you didn’t say it directly and that my response might have been a bit addressed to the straw man. However, that was certainly implied by, “Due to their poor drafting record, and recent failures in free-agency, the White Sox baseball operations didn’t fare well in our ratings. While the White Sox likely have a strong statistical department, Kenny Williams is regarded as a GM that relies on his scouts more than the stats”

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      • colin says:

        @Ben, yes I would agree. But you cannot tell where the scouting and draft philosophy intersect. For example, is a scout coming in and telling KW ‘we have this high upside OF with no current production who I love and we must reach for him early’ or is the scout telling him ‘you have options a, b, c, a is solid producer with good odds at mlb success but not superstar production while c is high upside guy who is a long term project’ and KW just picks C. You cannot really know what the interaction is between the two groups. So to this point you have to call it a joint failure, it certainly could lay more with one side than the other though.

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      • Chris Cwik says:

        Colin, I think you hit it on the head with your last comment. I’m not entirely sure the scouts who are involved in drafting guys are the same scouts that advise Williams on free-agent signings.

        I also feel like Don Cooper probably has a significant say in which pitchers the team acquires. They seem to target guys that he thinks he can fix or improve.

        Honestly, I probably gave them a higher rating than most of the writers. I think the team has done really well in the past, but they are getting killed by the recent decisions.

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      • colin says:

        @Chris, yes, sorry I jumped on you about scouts vs stats. That I should also add that what you say is essentially this is what has happened, results have not been good, so it is below average. You imply some other ideas which are ideas that I think certain folks on this site go overly extreme with, but not yourself in particular.

        That said, I think the draft philosophy is definitely broken. With regard to free agency, it is hard to really criticize KW or their staff for that. With Dunn in particular, the criticism is pretty much all ad hoc, “oh he failed so it was a bad signing”. The methods might still not be terrible in that regard. I would say ranking FO is inherently hard if not impossible because of the limited information available so some ad hoc analysis is almost definitely required.

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      • Chris Cwik says:

        Oh man, don’t apologize. I love having these conversations. I feel like I was hard on the team, but, as a fan, I’m frustrated.

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  6. Ben G. says:

    The Dunn deal did. People pointed at V-Mart’s contract and said how the White Sox’s got a deal for one of the most consistent power hitters in the game. There were people who hated the K’s and pointed at some made up (in my opinion) attitude issues.

    The Rios one had more detractors, but at the time, he was a plus defender in center and was coming off a couple of 5 WAR seasons. 2010 was better (aided by a massive May). People thought a change a scenery would change his attitude, but we know how that turned out.

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  7. GOB says:

    I would say that refusing to go over slot in the draft is part of their bad farm system, but bad draft choices and development is more to blame. The braves also notoriously don’t go over slot but have produced Heyward, Freeman, Kimbrel, Minor and others and have a very good farm system.

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  8. Ben G. says:

    I would say it’s organization that dictates the draft philosophies that is filtered down to the scouts. For few years, it was “safe” college pitchers like Kyle McColluch and Lance Broadway. After a slight change in regime, it turned into toolsy college players with tons of athletic upside but no real polished skills.

    The reason for these philosophies is simple, the players will come cheaply.

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    • MikeS says:

      Part of the reason they like people who are better athletes than ball players is because that’s what Kenny Williams was.

      I think Broadway and McColluch came from the Buehrle philosophy – college pitchers with control and not great “stuff.” Then they saw the Tigers succeed and felt everybody should be throwing hard and in the bullpen. They have no real philosophy on what type of players they value. It has gotten them into trouble and now they are on the downward slide.

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  9. GOB says:

    I’m not sure I would compare Heyward to Beckham
    (averaging bWAR and fWAR)
    Beckham at age 22 – 1.75, 23 – .3, 24 – 1.15
    Heyward at age 20 – 5.15, 21 – 2.1
    Heyward is just now as old as Beckham was when he debuted and has, in one less year, still produced 2.2 WAR more than Beckham. Even in a horrible sophomore year Heyward was still a 2-win player. Beckham hasn’t even had a 2-win season yet.

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  10. rjbiii says:

    After reading this it’s hard to see why they’re this high.

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  11. MikeS says:

    Williams and Reinsdorf have often said they will spend more money on the team if more fans come to the games

    What other business says this? Does the resturant on the corner say they will get better food if you eat there more often? Does the clothes store promise to update their line if you just buy a suit a week? Does Ford say they will build better cars if you buy more crappy ones? I realize they are not among the Jeffrey Loria’s of the world, pocketing revenue sharing checks or the McCourts leveraging the team for their lifestyle but I still disagree. I am the consumer. Give me entertainment I like and I will consume it. Don’t blame me for your inability to draft and develop talent. I’m holding onto my season tickets because I like baseball and I hope someday they will be good again but this philosophy galls me.

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  12. ezb230 says:

    Well, that’s got to be an uplifting read for Sox fans right before opening day. None of this is a secret, but it’s pretty devastating to see it all laid out like this.

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    • MikeS says:

      Are you kidding? 24th is better than I expected. I fully agree that it is going to get worse before it gets better.

      Some media outlet just predicted 95 losses and Jake Peavy was indignant. He said they were too proud, they were going to “get after it” and no way would they lose 95 games. Bold talk for a guy who has thrown 320 IP in the last 3 years. He went on and on but never once even bothered to lie that there was too much talent on the roster to lose 95 games.

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  13. Conner says:

    My White Sox will be in when Kenny W is out.

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  14. MattM says:

    White Sox are going to be a ton better than people are expecting. Not having to deal with the Kenny-Ozzie mess alone is gonna do a world of difference. I’m predicting a wild card win and second place. Bookmark this page so you can see when I tell each of you “I told you so.”

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    • ezb230 says:

      Will you bookmark it and return to comment on it if they are terrible?

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    • MikeS says:

      They have question marks at all 3 outfield spots, DH, C, 2B, 3B and 3/5 of the rotation. Not to mention a manager who is a complete unknown. An awful lot has to go right to reach 80 wins. Peace between the manager and the GM won’t make the players more talented.

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      • Ben says:

        I don’t think people who don’t really follow this team know how toxic the Ozzie-Kenny relationship became. Ozzie was all but throwing games to try and prove some inane point to Williams. Things like brining in Adam Dunn to pinch hit against lefty relievers, completely misusing the bullpen, having players play out of position etc.

        The change from ozzie to ventura itself won’t make them a playoff team, but a more relaxed clubhouse has to account for something.

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  15. SoxfaninDC says:

    I never had a problem with the Dunn signing. I did have a problem with the decision to hold onto Carlos Quentin. While his conditioning and fielding improved last year, he was really one-baseclogging bat too many on a team that had a baseclogging bat in AAA making plenty of scratch. They should have traded Quentin at the trade deadline in 2010…and then again in 2011…when they could have gotten top value (see, e.g. Carlos Beltran for Zach Wheeler).

    On a separate note, I think the Peavy deal was a good one when it was executed. The problem was how Peavy was handled/was allowed to handle himself after he was acquired. I do think that at this point he would be more valuable to the Sox as a healthy reliever than what is he is now–an oft-injured starter capable of pitching a solid 5 innings every now and then.

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  16. sox2727 says:

    as if i needed a reminder of how bleak things are…

    “While the White Sox likely have a strong statistical department…”

    do you have some information that the rest of us that follow this team every day don’t that allows you to make this statement?

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  17. Arney says:

    Hard to argue with this ranking. 2012 might not be a disaster but a lot of things have to break right for the Sox to challenge .500, making the idea that they can put pressure on Detroit rather laughable.

    The real problem (as this article correctly identifies) for this organization is beyond this season. Saddled with immovable contracts to declining veterans (let’s just be thankful that Peavy’s deal ends this year), a complete rebuild by stockpiling the farm system is simply implausible.

    The Sox are built to win now (what with Konerko, Pierzynski, Dunn, and Rios populating the starting nine). They’re just not good enough to win anything. Management diagnosed it, and started the reboot (moving Santos and Quentin for minor league arms). But then realized they’re caught in the middle. No one was going to take Dunn and Rios, at least not last offseason. So they backtracked, and locked up John Danks. The idea being they’ll rebuild while attempting to compete simultaneously (of course, that’s usually a recipe for neither outcome actually occurring). For example:

    This is a repeat of the crosstown conundrum in 2009 after Milton Bradley went all, well, ‘Milton Bradley’. The Cubs were a veteran team in decline and in need of an organizational overhaul. An infusion of young talent. But, the Cubs had been built to ‘win now’ under Lou Pinella (and veterans Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Zambrano, Dempster, Fukudome, Theriot, and Lilly), and instead decided to make minor tweaks to the roster while allowing for a slow trickle into the lineup of the organization’s top prospects. The result, back-to-back 5th place finishes as the team won 75 games in ’10 and 71 in ’11 (much to most White Sox fans delight).

    Compounding the problem is the dire state of the Sox’s farm system (ranked dead last by multiple sources). So that trickle of prospects into the lineup? Are any of these guys a sure thing to solidify a permanent starting job? This is probably Gordon Beckham’s final chance to turn the tide and stop getting worse every year with the bat. Brent Morel needs to capitalize off a strong September or he could be given up on. Dayan Viciedo still doesn’t have a good approach at the plate, despite his obvious power. Tyler Flowers finally figured out how to play catcher, all it took was having his bat disappear. And Alejandro De Aza will be a 28 year old given his first chance to start in the majors.

    The pitching staff is fairly solid, but Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton might not be long here if the team struggles. John Danks is 4-5 WAR guy at the top of the rotation and he’s locked up, making him the ace. Chris Sale is a potential star and might be the team’s best player as soon as next season, but first he must prove he’s capable of the handling a starter’s workload. Addison Reed (the team’s top prospect) is a stud and projects to be relief ace (closer duties will probably be his by the end of 2012). The rest of the staff should be competent enough.

    All in all, the 2012 White Sox look like a 75 win team that is only going to get worse. But how did the Sox get here? From 2005-2008, the White Sox won two divisions, a World Series. And in ’06, missed the playoffs with a 90 win team. … Let’s not speak of 2007. Since then, bad drafting–bad trades–bad free agent signings has put them in a bind.

    It’s time to be honest about this team, Kenny Williams should have been fired. Not only has he created a mess, but his relationship with Guillen was an embarrassment for the organization. Rick Hahn is going be hired by someone eventually to be GM, he should have already been given the promotion with the Sox. Reinsdorf’s loyalty is killing this team. The Williams-Guillen feud festered for way too long (one or both deserved to be fired long ago for it). Robin Ventura really has no business being a MLB manager (despite that, it could be fine, they put the right guys around him). And Paulie’s great final years with the club are being wasted. To wrap this up, I agree with the conclusion of the article: “There’s a good chance things are going to get worse before they get better.”

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  18. Tom says:

    Guess what scouting and player development system has produced the most major leaguers since 2007? The Chicago White Sox. Do your homework. Maybe this is why the Minor Leagues rating is so low.

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  19. Sophist says:

    Coop is going to be the key to this rebuilding/competing thing having any kind of a positive result. KW’s moves were typical last winter–finding soured-on “pedigree” guys (like simon castro) with the hope that Coop can fix mechanical issues. Castro and Molina have a (slim) shot at being top-of-rotation guys; if not, they’ll round out a staff with Sale and Danks at the top (with Floyd likely traded). There’s also more depth at starter (if not top of rotation talent) than is apparent from the outside: Humber, Stewart, Axelrod, Santiago, etc . . . .

    It’s a long shot–a lot needs to go right–but the starting staff rebuild may be virtually done. either that or Kenny’s out of a job soon. Should be a fun year.

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