2009 MLB Preview: #16 Chicago White Sox

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Offseason Movement: GM Kenny Williams made a pair of trades that could help the Sox in the near future. Williams first traded outfielder Nick Swisher to the Yankees for Jeff Marquez and Wilson Betemit, then dealt veteran pitcher Javier Vazquez to Atlanta for catching prospect Tyler Flowers and infielder Brent Lillibridge. Marquez has a chance to earn the fifth spot in the rotation, although a hamstring injury could hold him back. The Sox also added veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon and young Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo.

Top Prospect: Gordon Beckham, SS
Beckham helped lead Georgia to a second-place finish at last year’s College World Series, hitting .474 with five dingers and 2 RBI in 14 games. At one point during the college season last year, he was also tied for the Division I lead for home runs with 28. Thus far in spring training, Beckham is 6-for-18 with four doubles and two home runs. The 22-year old prospect probably won’t make the Opening Day roster, but once he learns how to play second after making the switch from shortstop in college, Beckham is going to be playing big league ball.

The Big Question: Can the youngsters produce right away?
The youth movement has clearly started in Chicago as the club parted with former All-Star Orlando Cabrera and veteran third baseman Joe Crede in the offseason. Alexei Ramirez and Josh Fields will fill in at short and third, respectively, while another youngster, Chris Getz, will become the full-time starter at second. With all that youth in the infield, can the Sox expect success right away? After hitting .290 with 21 long balls and 77 RBI as a rookie last year, Chi-Sox fans can’t wait to see what Ramirez can do this season. He provides an upgrade at short, but Fields and Getz are both largely untested.

Outlook: This club has a nice mixture of veteran (Carlos Quentin, Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye) and youthful (Alexei Ramirez, Josh Fields, Chris Getz) talent, but can it all mesh this season? The starting lineup is pretty good, but the Sox relied too much on the long ball last year and both Dye and Thome are at their ceilings in terms of production. Quentin also has to stay healthy after suffering a wrist injury last year and Brian Anderson needs to be a reliable table setter at the top of the lineup. The top three in the starting rotation – Mark Buehrle, Jon Danks and Gavin Floyd – are all solid. But Bartolo Colon is a question mark and Ozzie Guillen needs to find a fifth starter out of Clayton Richard, Jeffrey Marquez and Jose Contreras. The bottom line is that this team could definitely compete in the AL Central, but the young hitters and back of the rotation starters have to produce. If the Indians, Twins and Tigers bounce back like many expect, the Sox will probably take a back seat to them in the division. But if Cleveland, Minnesota and Detroit struggle again like they did last year, one has to believe that the AL Central is Chicago’s to lose.

Projection: 4th AL Central

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