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White Sox Fri Mar 28 2014

White Sox Preview: Beyond the Helmet Sundae

Sox_200.pngFor the last two years the White Sox have jazzed up the menus at Sox Park. Last year was all about the Walking Taco (for me, at least). This year we have several new food items, including pork chop sandwiches, bacon mac and cheeseburgers and chicken and waffle sandwiches.

The king of the new offerings is the massive ice cream sundae the Sox are peddling. You can get a full-sized batting helmet with a 12 scoop banana split inside. My God. The Sox say this sundae is for the whole family, but you know a bunch of bros are going to try to tackle this thing themselves. I don't blame them.

Every year I get excited for the new menu... until I see the prices. The sundae is a reasonable $17, but I'm sure that ordering one of each new food item will run you about $126 combined. The Walking Taco, which is just a mini bag of Fritos with a squirt of chili and nacho cheese inside, is $4.50, which is highway robbery. You're better off bringing in peanuts or going to Taco Bell after the game.

Beside the menu, here are some other notable things about the 2014 White Sox.

• Robin Ventura set the pitching rotation the other day and it's a little unorthodox. Chris Sale will start Opening Day, but then the rotation will go Felipe Paulino, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson and John Danks. Most rotations go one to five in descending order in terms of talent, but Ventura said that this is a way to break up the lefty-heavy order. The rotation will go left-right-left-right-left.

Not really sure any of this will matter, because outside of Sale the starting pitching is pretty thin. Quintana is good but not No. 2 starter good. Paulino needs to return from injury. Johnson is a rookie with five games of experience. Danks wasn't good last year. Waiting in the minors are Dylan Axelrod and Andre Rienzo, two replacement level pitchers.

Johnson and fellow prospect Chris Beck should be rotation mainstays in a few years, but for 2014 pitching will be a problem.

We covered Gordon Beckham yesterday, but his middle infield partner Alexei Ramirez also sticks out on this roster. He will turn 33 later this year, and he is owed $19.5 million over the next two seasons (with a $10 million team option for 2016). Ramirez isn't a good hitter - he has a lifetime 90 OPS+ and he doesn't draw walks or hit for power. But, he is good on defense, so he's acceptable at short.

He should be tradeable, then. Ramirez isn't a future asset because he's in his mid-30s, but he still has value for 2014 and 2015. Leury Garcia could take over at shortstop later in the year if Ramirez departs.

• Jordan Danks hit five home runs this spring but will open the season in Triple-A, in part because the team already has four outfielders. Matt Davidson will also start the season in Triple-A.

• As of this moment the closer role is still uncertain. Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom and Daniel Webb are all options, and the Sox picked up Javy Guerra from the Dodgers this week. Maikel Cleto, Ronald Belisario and the aforementioned Beck all have the potential to close, too. The safest pick would be Jones, who has a blazing fastball, but I guess it's not as simple a choice for the Sox.

• Last year the Sox wore 1983 throwbacks on Sundays. This year the team has bumped up the look to a regular alternate jersey. I dig it!

• A few White Sox players have fantasy value. Sale will be one of the first seven pitchers taken in a draft, and Jose Abreu is a fun player to reach for (I'm intrigued with his power upside).You could do worse than having Adam Eaton as a fourth or fifth outfielder because he'll get some stolen bases and score some runs. Ramirez could be an option if you want to wait on selecting a shortstop.

Otherwise? Waiver Wire City. Nab whoever is the Sox closer for cheap saves, and get Adam Dunn if you really want home runs, but you'll pretty much be in wait-and-see mode for this season.

• As for a prediction, most publications peg the Sox's win total in the low 70s, including Sportsbook.com's over/under of 74.5. That... sounds about right.

This team has upside everywhere, from the rookies to the guys returning from injury, but the Sox have one sure-thing pitcher and no sure-thing hitters. If everything breaks right (even extending to other teams) they could contend, but one or two key injuries and the Sox could win only 60 games.

I'll be optimistic, though. I say the White Sox win 78 games this year. Abreu will hit 25 home runs and Eaton will be a good, not great, lead-off hitter. Paulino will have a strong year, Quintana will remain solid, and the young pitchers will have their moments even though they'll have subpar overall statistics. Davidson will take over at third, catcher will improve to "not dreadful," and the bullpen will remain in flux but it won't matter.

Most importantly, the team will be fun to watch, and the White Sox will continue to build towards 2015 and beyond.

 

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