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White Sox Tue Mar 26 2013

White Sox Fantasy Baseball Preview, Part 2

Sox_200.pngQuick tangent/intro before we get to the top White Sox fantasy players for the 2013 season:

The new Sox ad campaign about pieing teammates is a hit. It's fun to see athletes take part in local commercials, to see them mug for the camera and act so unnaturally. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Hawks have mastered it, but for whatever reason, Bulls players aren't in local ads. Here's hoping the Sox make some more commercials with the Chris Sale, Paul Konerko and the gang.

Mid-Rounders

Addison Reed, Alejandro De Aza, Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn

Reed was bad in the second half of 2012, with a high ERA and BABIP. But, he has a fair amount of job security at closer (because other options like Matt Thornton and Hector Santiago failed in the past), and he's young. He'll get the hang of closing.

De Aza is a solid option in the outfield. In his first full season in the bigs, he hit .281 with 81 runs and 26 stolen bases. He's not remarkable in any way, but if he stays healthy he's a good third or fourth outfielder.

Peavy is going in the middle rounds, typically when the "best players available" are a glut of middle-rotation pitchers. He was great last year -- toward the top of the league in ERA and WHIP. His strikeout rate (7.97) was also very good. You always have to worry about injuries with Peavy, but he is still a smarter pick than someone like Zack Greinke, a similar pitcher going 80 picks earlier.

If you need a power hitting first baseman, Dunn is your guy. The guy jacks home runs -- and that's about it. Assuming 2011 was a fluke season, Dunn will hit 35-plus home runs, drive in 85 or more runs, and hit close to .215. He'll kill your team's batting average with his string of 0-4 games, but those home runs will be nice.

Mid-Round Enigma

Paul Konerko

Some fantasy experts have Konerko as a sleeper, because he's going as low as the 12th round, and as Matthew Berry points out, he's the only first baseman to have 25 homers, 75 RBIs and a .298 batting average for each of the last three seasons.

Some experts have Konerko as a bust. Over the last half of the season, he only hit .263 with a pedestrian .771 OPS -- the lowest figures in a half for him since early 2008. Keith Law believes he's on the decline.

"I'm surprised it took this long to start," Law writes. "He's 36, and his rate stats have dropped two years running. I also don't like the way he's expanding the zone more easily, especially as pitchers work him with more off-speed stuff that he can't quite adjust to as quickly as he once did."

The answer lies somewhere in between. Konerko won't win you a title. He won't even carry you in any one week. But he's always there. He'll get numbers in each of the categories (except steals, naturally), he hits righties and lefties equally well, and when you have to resort to roster roulette sometime this season, Konerko won't be on your chopping block. Paulie is like 7-Eleven -- not the best but always there when you need it, and he very rarely lets you down.

Top Eighty Pick

Alex Rios

Rios will be a great pick if he repeats last year. He's a five tool guy and was steady in 2012, with similar splits against both righties and lefties, and in the first and second half. The only issue? Rios is woefully inconsistent from season to season. If the pattern holds, he'll disappoint this year.

ESPN.com's Todd Zola likes Rios and thinks the inconsistency is rooted in happenstance. "Rios has displayed relatively consistent skills; he has just hit into some bad luck in those down years," Zola writes. "While I admit a repeat of last season's stellar effort is optimistic, put me down for him posting numbers a lot closer to 2012 than 2011, where he was snake-bitten with a .237 BABIP, which in turn wasted a career-best contact rate."

What we do know is that after Rios in the draft, outfielder value dips considerably. Following Rios in average draft position are question marks like Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and Carlos Gomez. If it's the eighth round and you still don't have an outfielder or speed guy, Rios is a good choice.

Top Sixty Pick

Chris Sale

Last year, picking Sale in the 20th round was one of the top value picks of the draft. The guy was a stud. Sale had a 3.05 ERA, 192 strikeouts, and a 1.14 WHIP along with four double-digit K games, a complete game and 13 games with one earned run or less.

Yet...

By picking him, you are taking two risks. First, you're hoping hitters around the league haven't figured him out yet. That may have been happening after the All-Star game last year. Sale had a 4.03 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in the second half, and the Tigers, Rangers, Royals and Rays all shelled him the second time around. His stuff is very good, but you can get a sense of what he likes to do: go low and in on lefties, use his slider, etc.

Second, and most importantly, you're hoping he doesn't get injured. He had some scares last year, with arm troubles in May and arm fatigue during the summer. Sale's delivery is scary, in a bad way -- it just looks like he is putting a lot of strain on his arm. Even if he doesn't get hurt, there's always that sense that if he does get a tweak in his arm, manager Robin Ventura (or the Sox front office) will consider shutting down Sale. After all, the guy just signed a five-year deal and will be pitching for a team that's projected to win around 80 games.

While he was a sweet 200th overall pick last year, you're going to have to take a leap of faith with Sale in the fifth or sixth round. Regardless, Sale is the most valuable White Sox player in fantasy baseball.

Naturally, as a Sox fan, you have an affinity for your hometown guys. It's understandable. Just make sure that you don't reach for these players. No one on the team is a lock, and you won't be totally objective when evaluating Sox players for fantasy purposes. Basically, draft like how a hitter works a pitcher: take what the pitcher (the draft) gives you, do your homework, and don't swing for the fences every pitch (draft pick); just choke-up and make solid contact each time.

As Alexei Ramirez said about properly pieing Alex Rios, "And that is how you do it."

 
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