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White Sox Wed Feb 19 2014
I was killing time on the internet as usual, and I clicked on Keith Law's list of the top-20 impact prospects (Insider only, alas) for 2014. Surprise, surprise, the White Sox have three players on the list. Three!
THREE!!!! The White Sox!
Law mentioned Erik Johnson, Matt Davidson and Marcus Semien... so he's not counting other guys like Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Leury Garcia (nor any of the other established Sox young veterans). What does this all mean? Not only will 2014 be a watchable White Sox season, but fans should be excited for what the year might bring.
It's a big change from what we had last year. Twenty-thirteen was a disaster. The team's best player, Alex Rios, was dealt in August, and Alexei Ramirez had the highest value among Sox position players with a measly 2.6 WAR (which surely was aided by Ramirez playing 158 games). On the pitching side, Chris Sale was great, Jose Quintana was good, and everyone else ranged from average to really bad.
Worse yet, there wasn't any immediate hope forthcoming (save for the week or two when Josh Phegley looked pretty good). No impact prospects coming to save the day, not just in 2013 but probably not the next three years, either. I am a big fan of The Baseball Show with Rany and Joe podcast (RIP!) and they talked about how the White Sox were on pace to become the next Astros. Ouch.
It's funny how that perception changed over the winter. General manager Rick Hahn's first move was to sign Cuban first baseman Abreu to a big deal. I wasn't a fan of it at first because Abreu will be 27 and the Sox were in disarray at the time, but every other move made this signing look more and more impactful. The context around the Abreu deal changed significantly.
The Sox somehow snagged Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks, a center fielder who was a hot shot a year ago but was limited by injuries. That Eaton only cost Hector Santiago (whom I like but was definitely expendable) was pleasantly surprising. Flipping Addison Reed for a third baseman like Matt Davidson filled a more important position, and pitcher Felipe Paulino is a low-risk, high-reward signing.
Add these acquisitions to the Garcia Boys and the homegrown guys (Phegley, Johnson and Semien) and this team has something going. The Sox are doing something rarely seen in baseball. Rather than go "all in," as they say, and field a lineup of veterans, or rather than stock up on true prospects who won't reach the bigs in a few years, the White Sox spent the tail end of last season and this winter accumulating young guys who have multiple years of team control that could start on Opening Day 2014.
We'll see this team improve both this year and over the next few seasons. It's not going to be pretty at first (I'm not buying playoff sleeper talk because the lineup has limited experience and the rotation and bullpen are thin), but we will become attached to this group of players. It will be fun to watch them this season.