The White Sox made waves this offseason by bringing in younger, more talented players. Problem is, that excitement will mostly be saved for the outfield. Jose Abreu was brought in, and should make an immediate impact, but the team has been somewhat hesitant to talk up Matt Davidson. That leaves the usual, boring suspects to fill out the rest of the infield. The question is whether any of them can contribute enough to be a fantasy asset.
Despite a glaring need behind the plate, the White Sox were unable to address the catcher position during the offseason. That leaves some combination of Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley to fight it out for a starting spot. Flowers actually has strong pop behind the plate, but that’s overshadowed by his propensity to strikeout. In a full-time role, he could hit 20 home runs, but it would come with a .210 batting average. Phegley received the bulk of the workload in the second half last year, but did nothing to lay claim to the job in 2014. He makes far more contact than Flowers, but probably won’t provide enough in any area to be fantasy-relevant.
Jose Abreu is arguably the biggest question mark in all of fantasy this season. The scouting reports were generous about his power, but provided some concern about his bat speed. Now that camp is open, there have already been glowing reports about Abreu’s ability in the cages and during workouts. The truth is, fantasy owners have no idea how he’ll perform until they at least get a look at him during the spring. And even then, it’s going to be tough. Most projections believe he’ll hit between 25-30 home runs, somewhere between .270-.285 and give a decent, but not great, on-base percentage. Once 10-12 first baseman are off the board, it makes sense to make a play for Abreu. The potential is there to completely dominate right off the bat, or be exploited by the inside fastball. Spring training stats don’t tell us much, but they will provide some context with Abreu.
Gordon Beckham once again enters the season as the club’s best option at second. Beckham actually posted decent numbers once he recovered from a hamate injury, but much of that was BABIP-induced. He quickly declined again once his luck ran out, leading to a .267/.322/.372 slash line. Now entering his sixth season, Beckham doesn’t have much more upside to tap into. He’s also a candidate to lose his job if he gets off to a poor start.
Marcus Semien would probably be in line to take over for Beckham at the first sign of struggle. Semien has the distinction of being the only White Sox prospect who isn’t allergic to walks. Though it didn’t show last season, Semien has displayed patience in the minors. There’s nothing he does exceptionally well, making him a boring fantasy player, but he might get on-base at a decent clip.
Despite utilizing the same approach at the plate, Alexei Ramirez‘s value has changed dramatically in recent years. The power he showed early in his career is non-existent now. Over the past two seasons, he’s hit just 15 home runs. Most of Ramirez’s value comes from his ability to swipe a base. While he didn’t flash this skill as much early in his career, Ramirez has now stolen 50 bases over the past two seasons. He still relies on a contact-heavy approach, so he’s prone to going on streaks. He can be a cheap source of steals, but won’t provide much else.
Matt Davidson was acquired during the offseason, but he’ll have to earn a shot on the starting roster. While his competition isn’t particularly strong, both Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie probably have the inside shot at the job. Gillaspie hits righties close to league-average, but is not an option to play against left-handers. Prior to last season, Keppinger killed lefties over his career. The two could pair to create an underwhelming platoon, but neither would play enough to warrant fantasy attention.
If Davison somehow wins the job during the spring, he should see some added value based on the team’s ballpark. Davidson has 20+ home run potential, with a spattering of doubles, but batting average is the bigger issue. Davidson has always shown high strikeout totals throughout the minors, and that doesn’t figure to get any better in the majors. For that reason, Davidson is expected to begin the year in the minors. It’s possible a strong spring vaults him into a starting role, but there could be growing pains. The power potential is nice, but can he hit enough to be useful?
It looks like Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn will split duties at DH. Dunn should see the majority of the time against right-handers, while Konerko will spell him against lefties. Dunn was an above-average hitter against righties last season, but still hit just .226. The walks and the power will be there, but the batting average is starting to outweigh the positives. Konerko decided to come back in a limited role, and isn’t expected to play all that much. He was still effective against left-handers, even during his poor 2013. Konerko could actually experience a bit of a bounce back at the plate, but won’t play enough to matter. A rebound is possible in a full-time role, but Konerko is going to be 38, and doesn’t think his body will last playing everyday.
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