1. Detroit Tigers
Notable Additions: OF Torii Hunter
Notables Losses: RP Jose Valverde, OF Delmon Young
This is very much the same team that came back and bit the White Sox in the butt at the end of last season. They lost one below-average outfielder and picked up a still above average one who should continue to succeed late in his career. The Tigers also let go of their erratic closer and will most likely have a closer by committee with candidates Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke among others vying for the job. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera along with his partner in crime Prince Fielder will once again be counted on to lead the team’s run production, but they will also have Victor Martinez return to the lineup in 2013 and he will make this team that much more dangerous. Not to mention that if Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks build off their success in 2012 as well… Jesus the Tigers are scary. And Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez, too. I’ll just stop. They are going to win the division, they are too good.
Notable Additions: OF Michael Bourn, OF Drew Stubbs, OF Nick Swisher, SP Brett Myers, MGR Terry Francona, SS Mike Aviles, C/1B Yan Gomes, SP Trevor Bauer, 1B Mark Reynolds, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1B/DH Jason Giambi
Notable Losses: OF Shin Soo-Choo, RP Tony Sipp, SS Jason Donald, RP Roberto Hernandez (Fausto Carmona), 1B/DH Travis Hafner, OF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jack Hanahan, UTIL Brent Lillibridge
The Indians are a highly improved team in 2013. They have men who can hit at every position, power, speed, and on-base percentage. In fact, I think their lineup rivals Detroit’s in terms of scariness; and it’s not because their players can take you deep at will, but instead because they can win in so many different ways. Mark Reynolds, Jason Kipnis, and Nick Swisher can take you deep. Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley, and Drew Stubbs can run wild on the base paths, and Asdrubal Cabrera can continue to dazzle with his glove. The main sticking point to this team is their starting rotation. Justin Masterson is their ace, which really says something about A.) how bad this staff is, and B) how badly Ubaldo Jimenez had regressed from his days with the Rockies. If Masterson can pitch like the ace he is supposed to be, allegedly and Jimenez can return to his glory days with Colorado the Indians should be in good shape. Brett Myers will eat innings, Trevor Bauer should be up in the majors by mid-season, and Scott Kazmir has really impressed in Spring Training. Not to mention the Tribe really doesn’t need that great of a starting staff because their bullpen is one of the best in the American League with Vinny Pestano being one of the best guys for holds in the league and Chris Perez being the best closer in the division.
3. Chicago White Sox
Notable Additions: RP Matt Lindstrom, UTIL Jeff Keppinger, 3B Conor Gillaspie
Notable Losses: 3B Kevin Youkilis, C AJ Pierzynski, UTIL Orlando Hudson, SP Francisco Liriano, RP Brett Myers, SP Philip Humber
The White Sox lost a lot of key players from the 2012 almost champion team. AJ Pierzynski clubbed a career high twenty-two home runs in 2012 and that will be sorely missed in the 2013 version of the White Sox. Tyler Flowers has been the named the anointed one to replace all-time favorite Pierzynski. He probably won’t come close to AJ’s numbers in his first year, but he can be expected to produce at least fifteen home runs and drive in at least seventy runs on a year to year basis. Kevin Youkilis also left the team for the “Evil Empire” New York Yankees, and the Sox will most likely fill that hole with a platoon of Brent Morel and Jeff Keppinger. Hopefully Morel can turn into the hitter he was projected to become in the minors so that the Sox can have a consistency at the position, which has been unstable since the great Joe Crede left. Overall, the Sox lineup is starting to age as slugger Paul Konerko begins to head down the road to retirement. Adam Dunn is still a good power hitter and should be able to contribute to the offense and Alex Rios is still a wild card as far as consistent production goes. The 2013 lineup wont be the most offensively potent, however if there is one thing the Sox have always been able to do, its pitch. Ace, Chris Sale, was extended to five year deal, and will hopefully continue his prior dominance. Jake Peavy extended his contract with the team for two more seasons and should continue his mad-dog attitude on the mound. John Danks is returning from injury and is expected to be a big contributor as well. Not to mention Gavin Floyd will be back on the mound, barring he doesn’t get flipped at the deadline; and in addition Jose Quintana is looking to rebound from a poor second half performance and pitch the Sox to playoff contention in 2013. The baby bullpen will begin their sophomore season this year as well. Veterans like Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, and Matt Lindstrom will be expected to lead the group of talented relievers including Nate Jones, Addison Reed, and Dylan Axelrod. The young bullpen did well in 2012, and will hopefully continue to be consistent in 2013. The Sox don’t look that good on paper, but they didn’t look good last year either; and the best thing is that the front office has shown willingness to make moves if the Sox are in contention, as evidenced by the Youkilis and Myers moves. They will give the Tigers & Indians problems and may compete for a wild card spot.
4. Kansas City Royals
Notable Additions: SP James Shields, SP Ervin Santana, SP Wade Davis, INF Elliot Johnson
Notable Losses: RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Vin Mazzaro, OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi, C Brayan Pena, RHP Joakim Soria, RHP Blake Wood
If you haven’t had the chance to as of lately please say good-bye to the days of the Royals being absolute pushovers in the AL Central. Though I have them finishing in fourth place, the Royals will be highly competitive in 2013. Their lineup will feature young fixtures Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Bill Butler, and Salvador Perez. Those four players are part of the Royals core of players who will begin to reek havoc upon the Central for years to come. The Royals did well down the stretch last year, despite not having the best pitching out there. Well GM Dayton Moore did something about that this winter, trading for starters James Shields and Wade Davis from the Tampa Bay Rays, and signing Ervin Santana in free agency. Not to mention they have mainstays Bruce Chen and Jeremy Guthrie returning to the rotation as well. The Royals will also have a very good bullpen which will feature Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and Kelvin Herrera. The Royals look good this year, but I can see them putting everything together yet. They will battle with the White Sox for third place but ultimately lose out.
5. Minnesota Twins
Notable Additions: SP Rich Harden, SP Mike Pelfrey, SP Kevin Correia, SP Vance Worley
Notable Losses: OF Denard Span, OF Ben Revere, SP Scott Baker, INF Alexi Casilla, RP Matt Capps
The Twins will be your resident celler dweller this year. They traded away their best two outfielders this offseason, and have no offensive weapons aside from Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham (barring Justin Morneau has a great rebound season). The pitching staff is improved from last years as Scott Diamond will get some veteran help from the likes of Correia, Worley, and Pelfrey. There really isn’t much to say about this team as they seem to be drained of talent at the major league level. However Aaron Hicks is currently an exciting player to watch as he may win their center field job out of Spring Training without playing a game above AA. Also keep your eye on Miguel Sano, an exciting young shortstop with power, and Bryan Buxton who is a powerful outfielder. This team will finish last, but Terry Ryan is working to change that.
The White Sox have reached an agreement to sign Chris Sale to a 5 year, $60 million dollar contract Thursday afternoon. The contract will lock up Sale through his arbitration years beginning in 2014 and will also cover his first free agent year. The White Sox now have three pitchers locked up for at least the next two years who should be critical to the team’s success in Jake Peavy, John Danks, and Sale. This deal is an outstanding one for the Pale Hose as it locks up a young arm who pitched to sixth place in Cy Young voting in his first year as a starter, and also looks to be the team ace, for an annual value of $12 million a year. To put that in perspective, Justin Verlander will make $20 million in 2013, Jered Weaver will make $16 million, and Felix Hernandez will make $19 million. In fact, the only starting pitcher who finished above Sale in Cy Young balloting last year, the winner himself, David Price is the only one of the group who will make less than Sale in 2013 and it is the end of a team friendly 6 year deal he signed in 2007, and Price is in for a big raise this offseason.
Sale is a key piece for the future of the White Sox organization and I as well as every other White Sox fan should praise general manager Rick Hahn for taking the initiative to re-sign the pitcher who will attempt the carry the White Sox to a division crown for years to come.
Consensus around the league has the White Sox farm system consistently ranking in the bottom three of the league. Despite this reputation of depleting our farm system, drafting badly, and not being patient enough with our prospects, the White Sox have groomed some very decent major league caliber players from their farm system in a relatively short time. Nate Jones a 2007, 5th Round Pick is contributed magnificently to the major league pen last year. Gordon Beckham and Jordan Danks, who were taken in the 2008 draft are on the major league roster with Beckham being our starting second baseman since 2010, and Jordan Danks just locking down the fourth outfielder job last year. Then the infusion of arms from the 2010 draft that included Chris Sale and future closer Addison Reed has rounded out key contributors the White Sox have drafted and bred for the Major Leagues.
Going into the 2013 season whitesox.com has ranked slugging outfielder Trayce Thompson, back flipping outfielder Courtney Hawkins, and pitcher Charlie Leesman as the top three prospects in the White Sox organization for the upcoming season. Hopefully in 2013 we will see one of these young men, and they will contribute to the big-league roster just as Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale, and Addison Reed before them.
Trayce Thompson is currently the White Sox number one prospect, and boy does he look the part as he stands at 6’4 inches tall, and weighs 200 pounds. Thompson is projected to have plus power and speed, and should be an exciting player to watch when does make it to the show. Yet, despite his immense promise Thompson needs more seasoning to perfect his game as he is still needs to learn how to work counts into his favor, and be more selective with pitches he chooses to swing at. But once he gets his eye and patience down pat, he should be major league ready and will hopefully be a fixture in the middle of the White Sox lineup for years to come.
Most White Sox fans remember the next guy from the draft day video of him doing a backflip shortly after being drafted by the Pale Hose. Fact is Courtney Hawkins is a flat out athlete. He checks in at 6’3, 210 pounds, and is considered by many to already have a major league ready body. Though Hawkins is considered to have quick hands and raw power, he hasn’t been able to fix his hitting mechanics to adjust to pitches other than fastballs. Hawkins needs to work on his moving parts of his swing, and also keep his head on the ball in order to progress to the next level. Hawkins is an average runner and should be able to get the extra base when he is all done developing and into the big-leagues. Overall, Hawkins is raw, but with the right coaching and fundamentals he should be an above-average outfielder with plus power, and a decent defender too.
Charlie Leesman is the third prospect of our top three according to whitesox.com, and he is also currently playing at the highest level out of the three. Pitching in Triple-A Charlotte last year, Leesman compiled a 12-10 win/loss record, 2.47 ERA, and a 1.34 WHIP in twenty-six games started for the Knights. Leesman is a southpaw who throws a fastball that hits around ninety miles per hour on the gun, and also throws a slider and a changeup. Leesman’s pitching style can be most compared to that of former White Sox great Mark Buehrle, as he won’t over power a hitter but he can get a lot of ground balls, which a good defense would turn those groundballs into outs. His fifty-two walks in 135 innings pitched last year, isn’t promising, but Leesman is still on the forty-man roster and has an invite to major league spring training. Don’t expect Leesman to be the reincarnation of Buehrle because he lacks the control, but you can expect him to be a potential 5th starter or a long-reliever for the White Sox in the future.
In 2013, don’t expect to see any of these names make an impact on the major league roster as there are still kinks that need to be worked out of every one of these guy’s games, and there are also current major leaguers blocking their path to a starting spot. With another year of seasoning the White Sox and their fans will be glad to know that these young players will only get better, and will have easier transitions once they taste the bigs.