Chicago White Sox Odds to Win 2014 World Series
by Alan Matthews - 3/21/2014
Is the American League Central up for grabs this season? The Detroit Tigers remain the prohibitive favorites to win a fourth straight division title, but they don't look anywhere near as good as last year. Gone are pitcher Doug Fister and slugger Prince Fielder. Ian Kinsler is in at second base, but that's pretty much a wash with Omar Infante, last season's Detroit starter. The Tigers have a major question mark at shortstop with Jose Iglesias now potentially out for the season, left field with Andy Dirks likely out half the year, and third base with rookie Nick Castellanos perhaps not ready for big-league pitching.
Plus, the Cleveland Indians (Ubaldo Jimenez) and Kansas City Royals (Ervin Santana) each lost their second-best pitchers -- in some ways their best -- this offseason. It's not all that rare these days for a team to go from worst one year to first the next in a division. Just ask the 2013 Red Sox. Perhaps the White Sox could be this year's Cinderella story.
The White Sox are sort of like the Atlanta Hawks of baseball in that they always try to be competitive but are rarely good enough to win a title (other than 2005 for the Sox) and never bad enough to full-on rebuild. Chicago entered last season fully expecting to contend for the Central Division after leading it much of 2012, but the Sox hung on to some guys a season too long and plummeted to a 63-99 record and last place. It was the franchise's worst year since 1970. At least new GM Rick Hahn got a head start on his rebuild, the franchise's first in decades, dealing away veterans such as Jake Peavy and Alex Rios for prospects; Hahn really did well in getting touted outfielder Avisail Garcia from Detroit in the three-way deal that sent Peavy to Boston.
On a team with 99 losses, needless to say there are going to be major issues nearly everywhere. Easily the biggest two for the Sox were on offense. Even the Houston Astros scored more than the White Sox, who finished with 598 runs, ahead of only nearly historically-bad Miami. The Sox had no guys who could get on base but who struck out a ton -- I'm looking at you, Adam Dunn. In addition, Chicago tied with the Marlins for the most road losses in MLB. It didn't help matters that the Sox were 26-50 overall inside the Central, including a crazy 2-17 record against the Indians, who weren't exactly the 1927 Yankees.
White Sox 2014 Projected Lineup
The Sox will have three young building blocks in their lineup that they didn't last Opening Day in leadoff hitter and center fielder Adam Eaton, No. 3 hitter and first baseman Jose Abreu and No. 5 Garcia. Eaton was arguably Arizona's top position player prospect entering last season, but he was dogged by injuries and struggled a bit. He was acquired in the three-way deal that sent White Sox pitcher Hector Santiago to the Angels. Eaton has looked very good this spring. He is a gritty-type player in the mold of former White Sox fan-favorite Aaron Rowand, who will do anything to get on base and has good speed.
The Pale Hose were surprise winners in the bidding for the Cuban slugger Abreu as no one expected Chicago to spend $68 million on an untested big-leaguer. By all accounts, Abreu has been terrific this spring as well, and he was a better hitter in Cuba than either Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig were. Abreu seems a good bet to hit 30 bombs playing in hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Garcia hit .304 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 42 games with the Sox.
The Sox lineup could be in flux all year. The team brought back Paul Konerko for a farewell season but really has nowhere to play him with Abreu at first and Dunn at DH, so presumably Konerko and Dunn will platoon. The Sox would love to unload Dunn. Don't be surprised if some power-hungry contender comes calling by the deadline as Dunn hit 34 homers last year. He's pretty much either going to whiff, walk or homer when he comes to the plate. Chicago also would like to trade either outfielder Alejandro de Aza or Dayan Viciedo because there's only room for one in the every-day lineup. Eaton and Garcia aren't coming out.
Matt Davidson, acquired from Arizona for closer Addison Reed, will take over at third base at some point this season. Third and catcher were huge weak spots in the Chicago lineup a season ago and look that way again, at least until Davidson proves he's ready at the hot corner. Tyler Flowers won the catching job and he hit all of .195 last year.
White Sox 2014 Projected Rotation & Closer
The Sox felt they could trade Santiago -- and they did sell high on him -- because they have three other lefties atop the rotation led by all-star Chris Sale. It now looks brilliant that Chicago locked him up to a very team-friendly deal through 2019 last March as the 24-year-old would be worth $25 million a year on the open market. He will make just $3.5 million this season. Sale lost 14 games in 2013 because the offense was so terrible, but he had just a 3.07 ERA and 226 strikeouts to only 46 walks. At this point, it's fair to call him the best lefty in the AL and probably second-best in MLB behind Clayton Kershaw.
Alas, the rest of the rotation has issues. Jose Quintana (9-7, 3.51) was good last year but has been absolutely lit up this spring. He says there's nothing wrong physically. John Danks was just 4-14 a season ago, but now that he's two full years off major surgery the team expects improvement. No. 4 Erik Johnson looked good in his late-season call-up stints, but he hasn't been great this spring, and neither has projected No. 5 Felipe Paulino. On the bright side, Nate Jones has been very good this spring and should take over from Addison as closer. Jones doesn't have a save in his two big-league seasons, however.
White Sox Odds to Win the World Series and Futures Odds with 2013 Trends
Odds from Sportsbook.ag and Bovada. Chicago is +1000 to win the AL Central, +2500 to win the AL pennant and +6000 to win the World Series. The Pale Hose have a wins total of 75 ("under" slight -120 favorite). The Sox were by far the worst team to bet on last year in total money units lost at -3218. They were 69-84-9 "over/under" and 76-86 on the runline (ghastly -2425 on units there). Sale is listed at 12.5 wins, with the over a -125 favorite. He's 12/1 to win the Cy Young. Abreu is 15/1 to hit the most homers in the majors, which is behind onlyChris Davis (13/2),Miguel Cabrera (13/2), Giancarlo Stanton (10/1) and Prince Fielder (12/1).
2014 Chicago White Sox Picks and Predictions
It's a more interesting team than last year's to be sure and appears on the right track. Real contention in the division isn't likely until 2015, but the Sox weren't as bad talent-wise as their record in 2013, and this group looks better overall, the pitching struggles notwithstanding. The Cactus League is notoriously bad to pitchers. The White Sox won't make the playoffs, but I'd lean over the 75 wins as .500 is attainable. I also believe Sale can get to 15 victories with a bit more run support. Can't recommend Abreu on the home-run king prop, but if his total when posted is 27 or anything under I'd lean over.
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