Chicago White Sox

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Overview (Present Rank: 20th | Future Rank: 26th)

With a strong core intact, the Chicago White Sox went all-in last offseason by acquiring Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, and David Robertson in hopes of capturing their first world championship in a decade. In the end, the plan backfired as the Southsiders were sent packing with a 76-86 record. This offseason, GM Rick Hahn took a much simpler approach that included modest upgrades at catcher and second base, along with minor changes to the pitching staff. His biggest move landed superstar third baseman Todd Frazier without giving up any of the team’s top prospects.

In a competitive American League Central, the White Sox will have to see a lot of things go right for them to come out on top of the division in 2016. With a weak farm system, Hahn will have his work cut out for him in elevating Chicago into a title contender anytime soon. Theo Epstein was in a similar position a few years ago, and the Chicago Cubs now have one of the brightest futures in the league. However, if Hahn's first three years on the job are any indication, he's no Theo Epstein.

 

*Detailed analysis conducted April 3, 2016; rankings and charts updated throughout the season.

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Catcher (Present Rank: 27th | Present Rank: 27th)

Besides a breakout 2011 season, Alex Avila hasn’t provided much value in the Majors. He produced a 5.1 WAR that season, and has only totaled a 5.2 WAR in the four seasons since. Because he’s still only 29 years old, the former Detroit Tiger will get another shot at a starting gig.  Avila is nothing more than a replacement level player at this point in his career, which is reflected in his $2.5MM price tag. Add a knee injury that limited him to 67 games last year, and the expectations of Avila are very tempered.

Fortunately for Chicago fans, Hahn doesn’t have faith in Avila being the team's sole catcher. To help generate more production from behind the plate, he signed Dioner Navarro to a 1yr/$4MM deal. Navarro put together a terrific offensive campaign just two seasons ago in Chicago before signing with Toronto for two years. After being benched in favor of Russell Martin, Navarro slightly came back to Earth, but he’s still a productive batter, especially against lefties. Forming a platoon with Avila in 2016 is likely.

(EDIT: The only other catcher in the White Sox organization even worth mentioning is Alfredo Gonzalez. The ChiSox picked him up from the Houston Astros in July, and he delivered solid production in Double-A during his first month with the new team. He'll never profile as a starting catcher, but he could develop into a serviceable backup. [7/29/16])

Future Outlook: Need to acquire a premium catcher

Over the last three years, the Sox have registered a -2.7 WAR from their catchers. It’s no coincidence that they have recorded three straight losing seasons in that time as well. It’s time for Chicago to get a franchise catcher, something they haven’t had since A.J. Pierzynski was in town. Armed with a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft, Hahn and company will have to seriously consider selecting a catcher.

The White Sox haven’t shied away from the trade market in recent years. They could certainly pursue that avenue when looking to acquire a game-changing catcher. They did so just this past offseason at the hot corner when they brought in Todd Frazier from Cincinnati. If neither of those options work out, they could sign a player in free agency in the near future. Some variable options would be to steal Matt Wieters away from Baltimore or Jonathan Lucroy from Milwaukee after they exercise his club option for 2017.

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  First Base (Present Rank: 13th | Future Rank: 18th)

The Chicago White Sox spent a record $68MM to bring in international free agent Jose Abreu for six years. His instant success at the Major League level changed the landscape for how international free agents are perceived. The Red Sox didn’t hesitate to shatter that record with their deal for Rusney Castillo less than a year later. Abreu caught the league by storm finishing fourth in MVP voting while unanimously winning the Rookie of the Year in 2014. He followed that up with a solid sophomore campaign and showed no signs of slowing down. His ability with runners in scoring position (career 1.038 OPS) sets him apart as an elite run producer. Like catcher, the White Sox had a gaping hole at first base long term. 68 million dollars later, and the White Sox have one of the best first baseman in all of baseball locked up for the next four years.

Abreu’s presence didn’t prevent Chicago from selecting Corey Zangari in the sixth round in last year’s draft, and for good reason. Zangari was a steal after he passed through the first few rounds as a highly touted two-way player. The White Sox are moving him to first base where his lack of athleticism won’t be a problem. At 6’4”, 240 lb, Zangari will have plenty of power as he continues to learn the nuances of hitting. Primarily a pitcher in high school, Zangari is still learning how to alter his swing path to hit less ground balls, and drive pitches low in the zone to the outfield fence and beyond. Zangari is a high risk/high reward type prospect. If he can put it together, he’ll be an excellent replacement for Abreu when his contract expires.

Future Outlook: Only a concern if Abreu gets hurt

First base is set for at least the next four years with Jose Abreu under contract. However, if he were to get injured, the White Sox don’t have any adequate players to replace him. Todd Frazier can play adequate first base, but that would create a hole in the middle of the infield when Brett Lawrie moves back over to third. The White Sox would be wise to acquire depth options beyond Abreu. It also wouldn’t hurt to add another high draft pick or heralded international free agent in case Zangari doesn’t reach his potential.

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Second Base (Present Rank: 22nd | Future Rank: 28th)

When Chicago acquired Brett Lawrie from Oakland, it was presumed he would continue playing third base. After the Sox acquired Todd Frazier a week later, it was clear Lawrie was going to move over to second base. Changing teams is nothing new to Lawrie as he was a first round pick for Milwaukee, a top prospect for Toronto, an average player for the A’s, and now the starting second baseman for Chicago. He has been unable to live up to his top-prospect billing thus far, but he’s still just 26 years old with a chance to turn things around. He’ll have to do just that to hold off Carlos Sanchez from gaining the starting role.

Carlos Sanchez got off to a great start in his professional career. He batted .323/.378/.403 in 133 games between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A as a 20 year-old in 2012. Since then, he hasn’t done much to dispute the consensus that his ceiling is nothing more than a utility player. Sanchez’ arm doesn’t really play up on the left side of the infield, so even a utility player is a stretch. He’s still a quality second baseman, but will need to prove his ability to hit in the minors translates to the majors as well. His inability to hit Major League fastballs is a serious concern though, and limits the chance he’ll eventually be productive.

When the White Sox selected Jake Peter in the seventh round of the 2014 MLB Draft, they knew what they were getting: a player who doesn’t strike out much, but has a limited ceiling because of a lack of power and inability to handle professional pitching. Peter has an average glove with the versatility to play almost anywhere across the diamond. Peter profiles as nothing more than a backup in the MLB, but one that could fill a multitude of positions.

Future Outlook: Decide if Brett Lawrie or Carlos Sanchez is the answer

If the White Sox had Brett Lawrie penciled in as the starter four years ago, there would be no question what the long term outlook at the position would be. Now in 2016, the question remains: can Brett Lawrie be a starting caliber infielder at the Major League level?

Carlos Sanchez has his own questions and concerns. The White Sox would be foolish to rely on him to be a productive starting second baseman as it stands right now. If Lawrie continues to be derailed by injuries, or simply doesn’t improve his play, Hahn has to be thinking of other options. Because of the lack of quality internal choices, he’ll have to make moves to acquire some outside talent if both Lawrie and Sanchez prove unworthy of the spot.

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Shortstop (Present Rank: 27th | Future Rank: 12th)

Even at 37 years old, and coming off a .224/.285/.358 season, Jimmy Rollins is the best shortstop the White Sox have under contract. It was a wise move by Hahn to bring aboard a 16-year veteran to the young squad. Rollins has seen his offense, defense, and baserunning all decline over the past few years, now reaching below replacement levels. The Sox aren’t expecting much out of Rollins besides bringing credibility to the shortstop position and mentoring these younger players. At only $2MM if/when he makes the Major League roster, the risk is minimal.

The players the Sox would have relied on had they not brought Rollins aboard would have been Laury Garcia and Tyler Saladino. Both have proven to be 4-A type players: too good for triple-A, but not good enough for the MLB. Saladino has even experienced struggles in the minors as well. Garcia was typically promoted well above his age-level making his solid, yet unspectacular production more impressive. Like Carlos Sanchez, Garcia has been moved all over the diamond. However, Garcia has only mustered an uninspiring .181/.218/.215 batting line in his 137 Major League games. His role should be nothing more than a utility man off the bench, if that.

That bodes well for top prospect Tim Anderson. A top-20 prospect according to Baseball Prospectus, Anderson has the potential of a future superstar at a premium position. Drafted with the 17th pick in the 2013 draft, Anderson has lived up to the billing so far. Anderson has world-class speed that he’s starting to translate onto the base paths, showcased by his 49 steals in Double-A in 2015. His .312 Avg may have been skewed due to his outrageous .391 BABIP. However, Anderson’s quick bat and excellent contact skills project an above-average hit tool in the bigs. He’ll need to improve his over-aggressive plate discipline, and his fielding technique before he’ll get a call up to the Majors.

Future Outlook: Decide who’s bridging the gap before Anderson’s arrival

It’s clear that the front office views Tim Anderson as the future shortstop of the Chicago White Sox. However, Jimmy Rollins might not be enough to hold the position down before Anderson is ready to become a productive big leaguer. While Jimmy Rollins isn’t awful, the Sox could certainly upgrade. They would be wise to find a better player to take over the position and hold onto it until Anderson is ready to take the reigns.

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Third Base (Present Rank: 15th | Future Rank: 30th)

Even with the holes at second base and shortstop, third base was arguably the weakest position in south side Chicago by the end of the 2015 season. Hahn made it a priority to upgrade the position, and he did so with his biggest splash of the offseason. He acquired Todd Frazier from the Reds in exchange for Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas, and Trayce Thompson.

Frazier became a hometown hero when he out slugged Joc Pederson at the Home Run Derby in Cincinnati. It was after that home run derby that Frazier’s production began to fall off a cliff. After owning a sparkling .284/.337/.585 batting line at the break, the two-time all-star faltered to .220/.274/.390 line in the second half. He had a weak second half in 2014 as well. Playing for a different team now as a 30 year-old, we’ll see if that was a fluke, or the beginning of a recurring pattern. Batting in another hitter-friendly park shouldn’t hurt his value as he makes the transition to the American League.

If Frazier wasn’t around, the White Sox would have likely had to rely on Mike Olt as their starting third baseman. Viewed as a former top prospect from his time with the Rangers, Olt is only a shadow of what baseball executives expected him to be. After having one of the best performances in the 2011 Arizona Fall League, Olt saw his stock rise sharply. Since then, Olt has disappointed and doesn’t profile as a starting third baseman anymore. However, with his prospect profile and decent minor league track record, he could catch on as a backup corner infielder.

The White Sox haven’t felt a need to invest much in developing a third baseman for the future. They haven’t drafted a third baseman before the sixth round since 2008 when they selected Brent Morel with a third round pick. Now they are starting to feel the repercussions of those decisions. However, they do have Trey Michalczewski waiting in the wings. The seventh round pick from 2013 is slowly developing into one of the ChiSox’ top prospects. He doesn’t have a very high ceiling, but he could develop into a Chase Headley-type if he reaches his potential.

Future Outlook: Acquiring young talent must be a priority

The White Sox are set at third base at the Major League level...for now. Frazier is a great addition to this ballclub, but he’s already 30 years old and only has two years of team control left.  While the Sox are impressed with the development of Michalczewski, his ceiling is limited, and there’s no guarantee that he will even reach it. The Sox must find elite young players to add to their system. While other positions need to be upgraded as well, the Sox will be in trouble at third base if Frazier begins to decline or leaves in free agency. The Sox should start planning now and utilize their 10th pick, 33rd pick, or $4MM international bonus pool in the upcoming year to bulk up their farm system at the hot corner.

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Outfield (Present Rank: 18th | Future Rank: 24th)

Trading away Hector Santiago and Brandon Jacobs for Adam Eaton is arguably the best trade the White Sox have made this century. While Santiago has been a reliable pitcher in Los Angeles, the Sox already had an abundance of left-handed starters under contract. Meanwhile, Eaton has transformed into one of the best center fielders in baseball. He brings speed, hitting, and an arm to whatever stadium he goes. Batting leadoff with Cabrera, Frazier, and Abreu behind him will only help him produce the statistics that truly reflect his outstanding abilities.

Another trade the White Sox made recently was when they received Avisail Garcia by forfeiting one and a half years of Jake Peavy. While Peavy left for greener pastures once he reached free agency, the White Sox still have four years of control over Garcia. Garcia has all the tools to succeed at the Major League level; however, his aggressive approach at the plate has led to him swinging at awful pitches and racking up numerous strikeouts in the process. He has a cannon for an arm, but doesn’t possess the instincts or speed to get to balls in the gap. Garcia is young enough to turn things around (turns 25 in June), but he hasn’t developed his game enough to be considered even an average player at this stage in his career.

Melky Cabrera is another outfielder manning the grounds of U.S. Cellular Field. The ‘Melk man’ has been known to do a little bit of everything in his 11-year career. He’s also built a reputation of dramatic inconsistency. In 2011, 2012, and 2014 he averaged an OPS of .841 while in 2010, 2013, and 2015 he averaged an OPS of .687. Those hoping for a rebound season after a down year shouldn’t be too optimistic. Cabrera has shown signs of slowing down (20 steals in 2011; 11 steals in ‘13, ‘14, and ‘15 combined;), and less bat speed as well. The biggest cause of concern has become Cabrera’s sudden inability to catch up to Major League fastballs last season. After posting positive ratings against fastballs for years, Cabrera ended up with a -9.3 rating against them in 2015 according to FanGraphs.

Making things more interesting, Rick Hahn purchased the services of Austin Jackson to add to the outfield mix. Jackson has been a decent center fielder in his six-year career. Despite entering his prime, his offensive production has declined in recent seasons. At 29 years old, Jackson will still give Chicago some value across the board. His speed and defense are his best qualities, while improved plate discipline has lessened his biggest weakness. Jackson will hit the market again at year’s end as he only signed a 1yr/$5MM deal.

The team’s current fourth outfielder is J.B. Shuck. Shuck isn’t anything special, but he held his own against Major League pitching last season. He would likely be exposed if given a starting role, so the Sox better hope their outfield starters can stay healthy. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Chicago move on from Shuck after this season when the better outfield prospects in the system will be knocking on the door.

The Sox’ best outfield prospect is Adam Engel. Chicago’s No. 4 overall prospect has the potential of being the leadoff hitter for the south siders for many years to come. He already has the speed, range, and glove to be an above-average center fielder. The key to his development is changing his bat plane. Initially he was hitting way too many ground balls because of his downward swing. He has already made adjustments in the late part of the 2015 season, which were highlighted during the Arizona Fall League. Engel was named the Most Valuable Player of the AFL after he batted .403/.523/.642 in his 86 plate appearances. If Engel can carry his new and improved swing with him into this season, he could be on the fast track to a starting spot in the outfield. If Eaton’s injury problems reoccur, Engel could be called up sooner than later.

The Sox also have Courtney Hawkins and Jacob May as potential starters in the future. Hawkins was taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He showcased his athleticism right away with a backflip on stage immediately after being drafted. Hawkins hasn’t been able to translate that athleticism into production thus far in his professional career. He needs to develop his approach at the plate, and decrease his strikeouts dramatically before thinking he can carve out a starting role in the bigs. May can flat out fly, and can be an elite defensive center fielder with more reps. However, the only way we’ll find out if he can become that is if he improves his contact. Still, it’s hard to imagine May developing into even an average hitter in the MLB.

(EDIT: With both Engel and Hawkins struggling in the minor leagues this year, the White Sox made a move for a young outfielder with the idea of being a starter pretty shortly. Chicago acquired OF Charlie Tilson from the St. Louis Cardinals for LHP Zach Duke. Click here to read more about the White Sox' newest outfielder [8/1/16]).

Future Outlook: Sacrificing bad offense for good defense

The White Sox have the pitching that could make them a contender year in and year out. What won them a World Series ten years ago was good pitching and elite defense. No infielder on their roster now or one that is projected to be a starter in the future can be considered quality defenders. While relying on the infield for the offense (Abreu, Frazier), they could focus their attention on defense in the outfield. If that’s the case, a trio of Eaton, Engel, and May would register 60-70 Defensive Runs Saved a year. The offense could leave much to be desired, but the pitchers would be tipping their caps often.

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Designated Hitter (Present Rank: 14th/15 | Future Rank: 9th/15)

If you’re starting to notice a pattern here, it’s that the White Sox have a lot of positions with serious question marks. Designated Hitter marks another position that is without a short term or long term answer. The Sox were hoping when they handed out $26MM to Adam LaRoche, they would have solved the short term answer. After one of the biggest Spring Training controversies in recent years, Manager Robin Ventura is now forced to put Avisail Garcia in the DH role. Garcia’s defensive discrepancies make him the ideal choice, but his plate discipline causes fans to yell at their TV’s more than most.

One injury to Garcia or one of the three starting outfielders, and the ChiSox will have to turn to a lackluster player like Matt Davidson. Like Garcia, Matt Davidson currently carries an awful approach at the plate. He’ll need at least another year of seasoning, but if he can cut down on his strikeouts and put the barrel of the bat on the ball more often, he could solve the team’s long-term problems at the position with his immense raw power.

Future Outlook: Find out if Davidson is worthy of a spot in the lineup

Matt Davidson has gotten on base less than 30% of the time in each of the past two seasons. He’s also striking out more than once a game. Both of those are red flags when considering a player’s minor league pedigree. The 2009 first-round pick has still been able to drill the ball over the wall at least 20 times in both of those seasons. If he can improve his hitting abilities while maintaining his power, Davidson would give the Sox a player they can rely on, not worry about.

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Left-Handed Starting Pitchers (Present Rank: 2nd | Future Rank: 1st)

The White Sox have a lot of weaknesses. Left-handed starting pitchers are certainly not one of them. The best player on this team is Chris Sale without a doubt. While he has yet to be named the winner, Sale has finished in the top-6 in Cy Young Award voting in each of the past four years. As a 26 year-old, he led the American League in SO’s (274), FIP (2.73), SO/9 (11.8), and SO/BB (6.52). This was all behind the league’s worst defense that has now improved. Sale still has two more guaranteed years on his contract along with two cheap team options ($12.5MM for ‘18; $13.5MM for ‘19) that will certainly be exercised. It doesn’t matter who is in Chicago’s deep farm system of pitching, nobody is taking over Sale’s spot as the ace.

That doesn’t mean nobody on this roster is capable of taking over that ace role. On most teams, Jose Quintana would qualify as that ace, but most teams don’t have Chris Sale. Quintana has thrown over 200 innings for three consecutive years while keeping his ERA below 3.52 in each of them. He strikes out a healthy amount of batters, and is especially dominant against left-handed batters. While Carlos Rodon is poised to join them, Quintana and Sale give the Sox a proven duo of frontline southpaws.

Speaking of Rodon, the NC state product got his first taste of big league action in 2015. As a 22 year-old rookie, he posted a sterling 9.0 K/9. Carlos Rodon has always been viewed as a future ace ever since being taken with the third overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. He flew through the minor league system, and reached the bigs within a year of being drafted. Once Rodon can show the ability to throw his 93-94 MPH fastball with excellent command consistently, then he will settle into the No. 2 spot in this stacked rotation.  

While those three are trending upward, John Danks is gravitating in the opposite direction. After being a reliable piece in Chicago’s rotation for years, Danks’ production has sunken to below replacement levels. Now on the wrong side of 30, it’s hard to see things turning around for the nine-year veteran. Thankfully for Chicago, they only have one more year of suffering before Danks’ contract expires and he is no longer a burden on the franchise.

Jordan Guerrero is the other young lefty in the Sox’ system poised to be a regular in the rotation. Guerrero is currently the team’s No. 6 prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus. While his high effort delivery may lead to injuries down the line, Guerrero has a high floor if he can stay healthy. If he can add some break to his curveball or gain command of his fastball, he’ll be a lock for the No. 3 spot in the rotation some day.

Future Outlook: A dominant trio is intact, but for how long?

There has been plenty of trade speculation surrounding Sale, Quintana, and Rodon in recent years as the Sox stock up on frontline southpaws. As the bright spot of this team, Hahn might deal away one of his lefty aces in hopes of acquiring some offensive talent. If Guerrero develops into a mid-rotation starter, Hahn has even more reason to trade one of them away. It will be interesting to see if the White Sox keep all three lefties, and if so, how dominant can they become.

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Right-Handed Starters (Present Rank: 29th | Future Rank: 27th)

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The White Sox weren’t fans of the right-handed starting pitchers they had in 2015. Out of all righties to start more than one game, Erik Johnson was the only one they decided to bring back while Jeff Samardzija, Hector Noesi, and Frankie Montas are all no longer with the team.

Erik Johnson won’t blow it by anyone as he averaged 91.3 MPH on his fastball in 2015. However, Johnson has a good mix of pitches with solid command to make up for it. Johnson’s ERA will likely be closer to 4.00 as his career continues, but he should be a reliable pitcher in the middle of the rotation until he’s eligible for free agency in 2022.

The flamethrowers in the system are Carson Fulmer and Spencer Adams. They are the White Sox’ top two pitching prospects. They both are projected to be frontline starters if they reach their full potential. They could each be ready to make their presence known as September call-ups in 2017. After given a chance to earn starting spots in Spring Training 2018, they’ll likely settle into their future roles in 2019. The real question is: which one is going to be the ace?

Tyler Danish creates a lot of intrigue. His pitching mechanics remind many of Chicago’s current ace, Chris Sale. As an unorthodox righty, Danish owns a slider and changeup that induce plenty of ground balls to compliment his fastball. If Danish can become consistent with his release point, he could settle in as a No. 4 starter for this White Sox ball club.

Swings and misses might not be a part of Chris Beck’s game, but he can still be effective in Chicago’s rotation. After avoiding Tommy John surgery in 2015 with an elbow injury, Beck’s pitching career is on thin ice. His first priority must be getting healthy at this point, but if he can do that while throwing his wealth of offspeed pitches effectively, he could earn a spot in the rotation.

There might not have been a player to have a worse contract year in 2015 than Mat Latos. After hoping for a $100MM contract on the market, Latos ended up inking a 1yr/$3MM deal this past offseason with Chicago. The deal comes with little risk, but there is potential for a high reward as a former ace of the Cincinnati Reds. It was just a year ago he was pitching to a 3.25 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 1.307 WHIP, with 100 SO’s in 116.1 IP before disappointing in 2015. The White Sox are hoping he can get back to that pre-2015 level of production for only a fraction of the cost.

Jacob Turner was a former top prospect with the Detroit Tigers. He was originally sent to Miami when the Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. After a disappointing run in Miami and Chicago’s northern team, the White Sox claimed him off waivers. Considering Turner hasn’t had a successful season since 2011 and expectations are tempered. However, he still has the same stuff that made him the cream of the crop in Detroit’s system and is only 24 years old.

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Future Outlook: Fulmer and Adams could complete an elite rotation

With Sale, Quintana, and Rodon all under contract until at least 2020, the Sox have a trio of dominant lefties under control. If Fulmer and Adams continue on their development path, that will give the Sox two more frontline starters. With a rotation full of ace-caliber pitchers, that leaves Erik Johnson, Tyler Danish, and Chris Beck on the outside looking in. Each of those players could get back decent value, and with holes all over the infield by the time 2018 comes around, the Sox would be wise to flip at least one of them for a competent infielder. Meanwhile, the Sox would have the best rotation in baseball if Sale, Quintana, Rodon, Fulmer, and Adams all pitch how they're capable of come 2019/2020.

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Bullpen (Present Rank: 20th | Future Rank: 25th)

In their big offseason overhaul last winter, the Sox spent $46MM to acquire the services of closer David Robertson. After years of being Mariano Rivera’s understudy, Robertson stepped into the closer gig in the bronx, and performed extremely well. He might be on the wrong side of 30, but Robertson is still among the best closers in the game. A downward trend in his ERA might scare some fantasy users, but his peripherals show he has plenty of juice left in the tank.

Nate Jones being placed in the set-up role is more projection than production at this point. The 30 year-old has only thrown 19 innings over the past two season, all of which were in 2015. Still, Jones touches 98 with his fastball, and owns a 91 MPH slider to compliment it. Those two pitches along with his improving command peg Jones as a future closer; that is if he can show he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.

Matt Albers has quietly been one of the game’s best relievers over the past four years. Yet, the White Sox are getting him at a bargain of $2MM. Injuries are certainly the main cause of the low price tag, but when healthy Albers gives the Sox a reliable arm in the back of the ‘pen. As long as he can go for at least 30 innings, picking up his $3MM option for 2016 seems like a no-brainer.

Zach Duke is now coming off of back-to-back successful years as a reliever. The southpaw turns 33 this year, and for the first time since 2010 could end the year with the same team for consecutive seasons. The increase in walks are cause for concern, but unless Travis Wood has something to say about it, Duke is the best lefty reliever residing in Chicago.

The White Sox have an another interesting reliever in Zach Putnam. After dominating hitters in 2014, a year after playing for Chicago’s other franchise, Putnam struggled in 2015. A big reason for his success in 2014 was the fact he utilized his splitter to generate ground balls. Using it as a strikeout pitch backfired for Putnam in 2015. Going back to the basics should help Putnam rebound into a solid piece of the bullpen puzzle.

Another reliever controlled until 2020, Dan Jennings made his White Sox debut in 2015. Unlike the former Marlins manager of the same name, this Jennings is still in the same role as he has been for the past few years. Jennings saw a spike in his ground ball rate thanks to a sinking fastball and a slider he keeps low in the zone. With a porous infield defense behind him, Jennings could be in trouble in 2015.

Consistency is hard to find in relievers in this day and age. This makes what Jake Petricka has been able to do so far in his three-year career even more impressive. As another ground ball inducing pitcher, Petricka might see his production deteriorate with this infield behind him. As long as Ventura can keep Petricka away from lefties at all cost, he should have another solid season overall.

Scott Carroll gives the White Sox another relief option with Major League experience. Carroll doesn’t have much of a track record to go by, but his four-pitch mix makes him an intriguing relief candidate. Carroll’s two-seam fastball has been his key to success with its ability to induce ground balls at a high rate.

In the future, the Sox have Jordan Stephens, Brian Clark, and Andre Wheeler to look forward to. They each have ways to go before cementing themselves as members of Chicago’s bullpen. Stephens has the highest ceiling of them all with his high velocity fastball. This next season will be a big indicator in where he is in his development as he recovers from recent Tommy John surgery.

Clark and Wheeler are the two best relief southpaws in Chicago’s farm system. Both of them profile as lefty specialists thus limiting their overall potential. However, their stuff could make them really tough to face from the left side of the plate.

Like Stephens, Robin Leyer is another starter who would fit in much better in the relief role. He has already touched high-90’s with his fastball in that role. His release makes it easy for batters to recognize the pitch early on which hinders his potential impact. If he can improve his command, Leyer could establish himself as reliable late-inning option.

Michael Ynoa and Daniel Webb are two low-end relief pitchers. Neither player inspires much confidence from White Sox executives. Unless something catastrophic happens to the long list of relievers in front of them, Ynoa and Webb will be very limited in the amount of opportunities they receive.

Future Outlook: Robertson’s great, but only for three more years

Choosing David Robertson as the current closer was an expensive decision. The White Sox would prefer to find their next one at a much more affordable rate. With Robertson only controlled for three more seasons and getting into his mid-30’s, the Sox will have to be looking for that next closer quickly if they want him on the cheap. Unless Nate Jones suddenly puts it all together, their next closer isn’t currently employed by the Chicago White Sox. Closers can be found with various resources, as Robertson was once a 17th round draft pick himself. Hahn will have to get creative in finding who shuts down games in U.S. Cellular Field.

KEY | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | PIT | LHP | RHP | PEN | OVERALL

OVERALL OUTLOOK: Building blocks for success

Once the White Sox noticed what the Cubs were brewing on the north side, they decided to go for it all last offseason. To match the buzz the Cubs were generating, GM Rick Hahn used a large amount of cash to make splashes every Chicagoan would be talking about. Most of the moves ended up backfiring, but the White Sox still have a strong core in tact with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, and now David Robertson and Todd Frazier all on the South Side. Hahn will have to keep making moves and fill the rest of the holes on the roster before Ventura and company can legitimately consider a rise to the top. Some more rough seasons may be ahead, but a light exists at the end of the tunnel. It’s up to Rick Hahn to put the right players around the strong core firmly established in southern Chicago.

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