2010 MLB Preview: AL Central

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the AL Central.

1. Chicago White Sox (9)
Some folks will think that this is too high for the White Sox – that they should be behind the Twins and out of the top 10 in terms of the overall power rankings. Some folks will say that Jake Peavy won’t be healthy all season and that the Chi Sox will once again falter as they try to live station to station on offense. Well, I say the folks that disagree with my opinion are friggin idiots. Harsh? Yeah, but it also needed to be said. I realize that I’m taking a risk by moving the Sox to the head of the AL Central, but really, it’s hard to argue that this division isn’t a crapshoot anyway. Every team has question marks heading into the season but at the end of the day, pitching makes or breaks a team. I realize Peavy missed all of last year due to injury, but the Sox were second in the AL in pitching last season with a 4.14 ERA without him. If he stays healthy, Peavy will only add to Chicago’s solid rotation (which also features Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia) and the addition of J.J. Putz should bolster the bullpen as well. Outside of injuries, the only thing that could potentially hold Chicago back this year is its offense. What do you mean that’s kind of a big deal? I’m banking that youngster Gordon Beckham develops quickly and that Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios return to form. I also think the Sox will get key contributions from the additions GM Kenny Williams made this offseason in Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Mark Teahen. I’m not expecting the Sox to magically transform into the Yankees of the AL Central, but I do believe they have enough offense to get by while their pitching carries them to a playoff berth.

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Should White Sox give up farm for Halladay?

Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune writes that the White Sox should be willing to give up a significant amount of talent in order to acquire Blue Jays’ ace Roy Halladay.

Let’s put on our GM cap and start with shortstop Alexei Ramirez and pitcher John Danks. I know: a steep price. But worth it. Halladay is the overpowering pitcher the Sox haven’t had since Jack McDowell. Last season, he struck out 206 batters and walked 39. So far this year, it’s 106-17.

He would be a difference-maker for a club like the White Sox, who are within 1 1/2 games of first place in the American League Central. How does a rotation of Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras and Gavin Floyd sound? It makes all the heated conversations about a fifth starter seem almost meaningless.

The White Sox played well enough before the All-Star break to end any discussion about whether they’ll be sellers before the July 31 trade deadline. Now they need to be buyers. It very well could be that they would have to give up a prospect or two in addition to two major-leaguers. Do it.

Not that I disagree with what Morrissey wrote, but allow me to play devils advocate here.

Halladay is a free agent after the 2010 season and will mostly likely test the free agent waters searching for his last opportunity to win a championship (assuming of course he doesn’t win one this season or next). That means the White Sox will probably only get him for a year and a half. Is a year and a half of Halladay worth giving up Ramirez, Danks and two decent prospects for X amount of years?

It might be, but that’s a steep price. Kenny Williams would absolutely have to feel that Halladay makes the Sox legitimate World Series contenders to give up multiple pieces. If he doesn’t fully believe that Halladay gets them to the WS, then Williams needs to continue his rebuilding plan with the core he has.

White Sox beat Twins, will play Rays in ALDS

On the strength of a masterful pitching performance by John Danks and a towering home run by Jim Thome, the Chicago White Sox are AL Central Division Champions. The Chi Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 1-0 on Tuesday night and will now face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS.

Jim ThomeThome broke a scoreless tie leading off the seventh with a booming 461-foot home run to center off of Nick Blackburn, who was just about as masterful as Danks on the mound. Thome pumped his fist as he rounded first base, following one of the biggest home runs among the 541 he has launched during his illustrious career.

That slim run total was enough for Danks, who allowed two hits over eight innings. Danks matched his longest outing of the year by going eight, striking out four and walking three. Danks threw 103 pitches working on three days’ rest, giving the White Sox a 3-1 record with their starters going on the short break, before giving way to Bobby Jenks.

The Sox haven’t looked good the past two weeks, but none of that matters now. Danks was absolutely incredible and playing at home on a chilly night in Chicago was the perfect remedy to quiet the Twins’ bats.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if the Rays will show any rust after clinching a postseason berth over a week ago. While the Sox have a disadvantage having to start on the road, they almost have to feel like they’re playing with house money right now. Momentum is a dangerous thing. Game 1 will start at 2:30 PM ET Thursday at Tropicana Field.

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