The AL Central teams are up next in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2016 season, with the Chicago White Sox, who came in fourth place in the division last season, up first.
The White Sox finished in fourth place in the division for the second straight year in 2015, and they’re not content to be out of contention in the Central so they spent the winter making moves that they feel make their team better. Among them were making trades in which they acquired 2B Brett Lawrie from the A’s and Todd Frazier from the Reds. They also signed some veteran free agents, including SS Jimmy Rollins and C Alex Avila. They lose SP Jeff Samardzija to free agency when he signed with the Giants, but the team signed SP Mat Latos to fill that spot in the rotation.
The main reason the White Sox tried to revamp their offense over the last several months is the lackluster performance they got last season. Their team batting average was tied for the fourth worst in the American League, and their home run (136) and RBI (595) totals both ranked last in the league. 1B Jose Abreu was one of the few bright spots on the offense, as he hit .290 with 30 home runs and 101 RBI. The team’s ERA was closer to league average, finishing just below the mean, at 3.98, while they had the third-most strikeouts in the AL with 1359 — in large part due to SP Chris Sale‘s AL-best 274 strikeouts. Sale and fellow SP Jose Quintana led the rotation in ERA, at 3.41 and 3.36, respectively, and rookie SP Carlos Rodon pitched to a 3.75 ERA with 139 strikeouts in 139.1 innings over 23 starts. In the bullpen, closer David Robertson struck out 86 batters over 63.1 innings while posting a 3.41 ERA.
Frazier adds some pop to a White Sox lineup that needs it after hitting a career-high 35 home runs with the Reds last season. Both Frazier and Lawrie bring a higher average to the White Sox than what they got from those positions last season. Avila, on the other hand, is a bit of a downgrade offensively compared to C Tyler Flowers, who played the position for the White Sox last year. Overall, though, the team should see an improvement over last season’s offense. Latos had the worst season of his career in 2015, putting up a 4.95 ERA while playing with three different teams. That came in a season during which injuries limited him to just 21 starts. If his poor performance was injury-related and he is able to bounce back and put up numbers closer to his 3.51 career ERA, he would provide a strong rotation when teamed up with Sale, Rodon and Quintana.
The White Sox should see some improvement this season, but I don’t think it’ll be nearly enough to find success in the division. They finished 19 games back of the eventual World Series champion Royals last season, and the Royals are still likely the class of the division. Other than the Royals, there’s not really a strong team that is an obvious pick as second best in the Central so the White Sox could move up in the standings, but it likely won’t be enough to make the playoffs.