Signing Jeff Keppinger to play third base was the Chicago White Sox’s biggest move of the offseason. That tells you two things. It shows that the team will sport a similar lineup to last season, and it also tells you just how uneventful the past few months have been for the club. The only other change to infield personnel comes at catcher, where Tyler Flowers will finally get a chance to show what he can do in a full-time role. While it’s hard to see any breakout candidates in the White Sox’s infield, they do offer some reliable veteran options.
Adam Dunn proved that his 2011 collapse was a fluke, hitting 41 home runs last year. While the performance was a big improvement, he’s never going to produce the vintage .380 to .395 wOBAs of his prime. Strikeouts continued to be a massive problem last season, as Dunn struck out in 34.2% of his plate appearances. At that rate, he’s no longer a safe bet to hit .240 over a full season. The power is nice, and is mainly the reason Dunn still gets selected in fantasy leagues, but he’s getting awfully close to the point where his fantasy flaws outweigh his upside. If you can afford to take on a terrible average, or desperately need power later in your draft, he’s your guy.
With long-tenured catcher A.J. Pierzynski now in Texas, the team will turn to former prospect Tyler Flowers. Flowers was considered the prize of the Javier Vazquez deal, but hasn’t progressed like the team expected. Instead of forcing his way into the starting lineup, Flowers had settled for being Pierzynski’s platoon partner over the past two years. At age-27, he’s finally getting his first shot at a full-time gig. Flowers actually has above-average power potential for a catcher, and given his home park, could threaten to hit about 15 home runs. But he, like Dunn, strikes out at an astronomical rate, meaning there’s little chance his average is going to be higher than .230. Catcher is unusually deep this season, and Flowers isn’t a candidate to be selected in mixed leagues.
There’s no way you can accurately project how Paul Konerko will perform this season. Very few players have their best statistical year at age-34. Konerko was actually on pace to top those numbers last season, getting out to a ridiculous start. Konerko got off to a blazing start last season, with a .469 wOBA in April, and a .461 wOBA in May. But a wrist injury severely cut into his production for the rest of the year. Konerko had surgery on the wrist in October, and is fully recovered now. And while he’s been able to stave off Father Time the past few seasons, he’s now 37-years-old. There’s considerable risk in drafting him, as he could fall off at any time, but he’s shown no sign of decline yet.
It’s going to be a crucial year at the plate for Gordon Beckham. The 26-year-old hasn’t lived up to expectations he set during his rookie season, when he hit .270/.347/.460 in 430 plate appearances. He’s been really bad over the past two years, posting sub-.300 wOBAs in each year, and there’s no real sign he’s on the verge of a breakout. He shouldn’t be considered in most leagues.
Alexei Ramirez completely ditched any concept of plate discipline last year, walking in just 2.6% of his plate appearances. And while that’s concerning, the bigger issue last season was Ramirez’s declining power. Ramirez hit just nine home runs last season, good for a .364 slugging percentage. The 20 stolen bases were nice, but Ramirez plays at a position where guys can typically swipe double-digit bags. If his days of hitting double-digit home runs are over, he’s not going to have a ton of value in mixed leagues.
The 33-year-old Jeff Keppinger may actually be a decent addition to the White Sox lineup, but that doesn’t make him a useful fantasy pick this season. Keppinger hits lefties well, and doesn’t strikeout much, a welcome change for a team that plans to use Dunn and Flowers as regulars. Keppinger doesn’t do enough in other areas to be a worthwhile fantasy pick.
Konerko remains the only White Sox infielder who wil be selected before the late-rounds of most drafts, and even he comes with some considerable risks. Dunn will likely be selected as a late power guy in mixed leagues, and Ramirez could get a look based on the weak depth at short. Flowers, Beckham and Keppinger aren’t to produce a ton of value this year, and are nothing more than waiver-wire material. There’s no exciting sleeper pick here, but at least you have a general idea of what you’re getting from the veterans.
Early Depth Chart
|Conor Gillaspie (AAA)||Backup CI||465||8.80%||11.60%||0.281||0.345||0.441||0.344||N/A|
|Angel Sanchez (AAA)||Backup MI||398||10.10%||6.30%||0.320||0.390||0.407||0.361||N/A|
|Hector Gimenez (AAA)||Backup C||418||8.90%||21.30%||0.259||0.324||0.440||0.343||N/A|