No inter-divisional rivalry gets Detroit Tigers’ fans more fired up than a good, old-fashioned Tigers-White Sox contest. While the Minnesota Twins have done more horrible things to the franchise over the years, and the Cleveland Indians are closer in proximity than any other rival, Chicago brings out the best–and worst in the team and their fans.
Many forget that Chicago spent most of 2012 denying Detroit first place in the AL Central only for the Tigers to overtake the Sox and later win an AL Pennant. In 2013, the White Sox dropped 22 games in the standings and narrowly missed out on losing 100 games for the first time in 65 years. Yet the White Sox seemingly have a bright future and have one of the Tigers’ best prospects on their team–Avisail Garcia. The fact that Garcia will start many games for Chicago this year will be a new wrinkle for the rivalry, especially with the piece they received in return in the three-way deal, Jose Iglesias, out for (probably) the year.
FanGraphs predicts a decent bounce back season for the Pale Hose and sees them improving by 11 games to go 74-88 to crawl out of the AL Central basement.
He joins us to talk about the 2014 White Sox.
MCB: How have the White Sox been faring in Arizona this spring?
SS: It’s been a back-and-forth type of spring for the Sox. The offense has been solid and several players – especially Jordan Danks – have stepped up in a fairly significant way. That being said, the question of who fills out the rotation past Chris Sale and John Danks remains a major concern moving forward.
MCB: Who is standing out and/or surprising for the ChiSox? Who is disappointing?
SS: John Danks has been really solid all spring long, and is easily the biggest asset to the team moving forward. He’s made three starts, posted an ERA of 2.08 in 13 innings of work. That being said, he’s also issued 8 walks while only striking out six, so there remains work to be done.
Tyler Flowers, at least offensively, has been – well, I wouldn’t say a disappointment because most didn’t have the highest of hopes – but at least a letdown. People thought he might bounce back from a so-so 2013 with a strong 2014 campaign, but if this spring is any indication, it doesn’t seem likely.
Adam Dunn has been downright awful – worse than normal, even. No home runs, just three RBIs and he’s hitting .194 with 10 strikeouts in 31 at-bats.
MCB: Do you think there will be a surprise veteran cut before Opening Day for Chicago? If so, who?
SS: No. Dunn is the veteran who has struggled, but they’re not about to eat that contract. He’s owed $15 million this season, and it’s safe to say that this may very well be his last go-round with Chicago.
MCB: Is there a prospect that won’t be on the Opening Day roster, but will join the big league club at some point this season?
SS: Infielder Marcus Semien has put together a solid spring for Chicago, but needs a little more work at Triple-A. He’s played just over 30 games at that level of the Minors, and with Ramirez and Beckham likely handling the middle infield for the White Sox, he’ll be the odd man out. However, if Beckham’s injury doesn’t heal well or he is traded at some point this season, Semien will be the man moving forward.
MCB: Where do you see the White Sox finishing this year? A lot of people seem bullish on the Sox and see a decent improvement for them in the standings. What are fans expecting?
SS: It’s just a bad season to be a Chicago baseball fan in general. This team has weak pitching, especially because Jose Quintana has struggled terribly this spring, the offense has a lot of potential, but it just remains to be seen what this club will look like as a cohesive unit. This club is destined for fifth in the AL Central. Until the front office adds or develops quality pitching, which, granted, it has done well recently, it won’t be a winning club. 2015 looks much more promising.
This concludes our roundup of the American League Central heading into Opening Day on Monday.