Baseball preview: Chicago White Sox

After finishing in fourth place in the AL Central in 2007, the White Sox made two major trades during the offseason in an attempt to improve their record in 2008.

The White Sox traded right-hander Jon Garland to the Los Angeles Angels for shortstop Orlando Cabrera in November. And in January, the team shipped three prospects to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Nick Swisher. By acquiring Cabrera and Swisher, the White Sox believe they will be able to win the AL Central this season.


I really like the two trades that the White Sox completed in the offseason. Since they have veteran pitchers Mark Buehrle and Javier Vazquez in their rotation, the White Sox could afford to deal Garland. Cabrera will likely score about 100 runs and pick up around 20 stolen bases for the White Sox in 2008. Swisher immediately gives the White Sox another power hitter to complement designated hitter Jim Thome, right fielder Jermaine Dye and first baseman Paul Konerko.

In order to compete for the division title, the White Sox will need to get a lot of quality starts from the bottom of their rotation. John Danks needs to improve his numbers from a dismal rookie performance in 2007. He went 6-13 with a 5.50 ERA in 26 starts. Baltimore native Gavin Floyd must prove to the White Sox that he is capable of pitching in the majors. He's only 25 and still considered to have a lot of potential, but the door is slowly shutting on Floyd. If the White Sox want to be playing in October, then Danks and Floyd must show that they are ready to contribute in a significant way.


Chicago White Sox

2007 record: 72-90 (4th in AL Central)

Key additions: OF Nick Swisher, SS Orlando Cabrera, RHP Scott Linebrink, RHP Octavio Dotel, OF Carlos Quentin, 2B Alexei Ramirez

Key losses: RHP Jon Garland, OF Scott Podsednik, IF Alex Cintron

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Paul Konerko, 1B – The veteran first baseman only hit .259 in 2007, but he still managed to collect 31 home runs and 90 RBIs. Konerko's numbers should be helped by the addition of Swisher. I think Konerko will be closer to his .281 career batting average and he should hit 30-35 home runs. If Konerko can collect 100-110 RBIs, then he'll be very valuable to your fantasy team.

2. Jim Thome, DH – Since 1996, Thome has hit at least 30 home runs in every season except for 2005. He was limited to 59 games that year because of injuries. The 37-year-old designated hitter will have 35-40 home runs and 95-105 RBIs and will likely hit around .280. To say he strikes out a lot would be an understatement. Thome has struck out 2,043 times in 17 seasons, so he may hurt you if your league counts this statistic.

3. Nick Swisher, OF – In my opinion, Swisher's fantasy value in Chicago will be greater than it was in Oakland. The White Sox lineup contains plenty of other power hitters, so there won't be as much pressure on Swisher. His batting average will likely be around .265 and he'll have between 20-25 home runs and 80-90 RBIs. Swisher isn't one of the top outfielders available, but he'll be a solid offensive contributor in 2008.


4. Javier Vazquez, RHP – Last season, Vazquez was 15-8 with a 3.74 ERA and 213 strikeouts. He'll rank in the top 10 in the American League in strikeouts, but it'll be interesting to see if he can keep his ERA under 4.00. If he's able to do that, then Vazquez will be a great pick. Otherwise, he's just an average starting pitcher. Even if his ERA is high, Vazquez still has some value because he'll pick up close to 200 strikeouts.

5. Mark Buehrle, LHP – Buehrle is considered the ace of the staff, but Vazquez is more valuable in fantasy baseball. Buehrle will throw over 200 innings and his ERA will be around 3.80, but he needs to be able to win more games this season in order to be a top fantasy pitcher. An improved offense will score more runs for him in 2008, so remember that when you're considering whether you should draft him.

6. Jermaine Dye, RF – After hitting .315 with 44 home runs and 120 RBIs in 2006, Dye only managed to hit .254 with 28 home runs and 78 RBIs last season. If Dye is able to get his batting average near his career mark of .275, then he'll be a valuable outfielder for your fantasy team. Even if his batting average is still below normal, Dye will help your team with home runs and RBIs.

7. Orlando Cabrera, SS – Cabrera isn't a power-hitting shortstop, but he'll pick up a good amount of stolen bases and his batting average will help your fantasy team. I wouldn't recommend Cabrera as a top-level fantasy shortstop, but he's an adequate backup. He'll hit around .280 with 20-25 stolen bases. Cabrera could also score close to 100 runs and pick up 75-85 RBIs in 2008.

Hidden gems:

1. Josh Fields, 3B – Fields will be competing with Joe Crede in spring training for the starting position at third base. Last season, Fields hit 23 home runs in 100 games, but he only hit .244. He'll need to show that he can hit for a higher batting average in order to win the everyday job. If Fields becomes the starter, then it might be a good idea to draft him. As an everyday player, he'll add 20-25 home runs and 70-80 RBIs to your fantasy team.


2. Alexei Ramirez, 2B – After defecting from Cuba, Ramirez signed with the White Sox and is expected to compete with a group of players to become the starting second baseman. If Ramirez can emerge from the crowd that includes Danny Richar, Juan Uribe and Pablo Ozuna, then he could become a sleeper in 2008.