Could this be the season Gavin Floyd puts it all together? Courtesy: Spencer Green / AP
The White Sox are nine games into the season and sit at 4-5. And with Opening Day comes the revived obsession for so many fans across the country: Fantasy Baseball. So every two weeks, we'll break down how the Sox players are doing from a fantasy perspective and what you can expect in the near future. There won't be much mention of Randy Williams or Omar Vizquel, but that's just the way it is.
Every year ESPN fantasy guru Matthew Berry comes out with his love / hate list. People he likes for the upcoming fantasy season and people he doesn't like. Sometimes he gives reasons, sometimes he doesn't.
In his preseason column, Berry wrote, "OK, I'm gonna say it. I kinda like Chicago this year. I see value all over the South Side...I love me some White Sox."
While Matthew Berry emphasized the value of White Sox hitters, it's been the pitching that has carried Chicago this season. Other than Carlos Quentin, most White Sox hitters have struggled in the first nine games of the year.
C: While never one to put up huge power numbers, A.J. Pierzynski never hurts fantasy teams in average. Last year Pierzynski batted an even .300, which led the Sox, and managed 13 HRs. But so far this season, Pierzynski's power hasn't shown. He has only one extra-base hit in 31 AB's and is batting only .226. Historically, this is normal for Pierzynski. His career power numbers and averages are all lower in April than any month except September. Last year he finished April with only three RBIs and a .254 average. Until the weather warms up in May and June, don't expect much fantasy production from Pierzynski.
1B: Paul Konerko has been as consistent as they come at 1B. Once an elite fantasy option, he's now seen as a solid hitter to fill the utility or corner infield positions. Konerko has already belted three HR's this season, but otherwise hasn't recorded an extra-base hit. His seven BB's indicate that's seeing the ball well and his .150 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) is an extremely unlucky .150. He's a career .277 hitter but last year's .277 mark was the highest average he's recorded in the past three years. Look for Paulie to get some more hits to fall and raise that average up to around the .250 to .275 range.
2B: In standard fantasy leagues, Gordon Beckham just earned 2B eligibility, which greatly increases his fantasy value. Everyone's favorite fantasy sleeper before the season, Beckham hasn't gotten off to the greatest of starts. While he's consistently hit the ball hard, Beckham already has seven strikeouts on the young season. As Beckham gets more ABs against pitchers he's faced before, look for his average to climb up.
3B: Unless you're in an AL-only league, Mark Teahen probably wasn't drafted in your fantasy league. Only because he'll be the starting 3B for the Sox does he carry any kind of fantasy value. You can safely assume he'll put up roughly the same numbers he's had over the past 4 seasons: 10+ HR and 60+ RBI. With no one except Omar Vizquel pushing Teahen for a starting spot, he looks safe to stay in the starting lineup . But unless Teahen starts running more often his value and upside will be lmiited.
SS: The past two seasons Alexei Ramirez has been a huge cog for the White Sox offense. His power numbers dropped from his impressive rookie season, but his walk totals increased and he stole bases more efficiently. Like Pierzynski, his worst monthly splits are at the beginning of the season and grows better as the season goes on. Alexei is also another case of an extremely low BABIP so far this season, hitting only .174 on balls in play. Hang on to Alexei early on into the season. If it's late May and he's still hitting around .200 then you can contemplate other options.
OF: Will Alex Rios produce enough to validate his $10M salary this season? No. But he could prove to be a bargain for someone who drafts him in the 10th - 12th rounds. Everyone knows of his atrocious end to last season, but it was most likely an anomaly. Although his batting average still hovers around .250 to start the year, Rios already has 2 HR's and 2 steals. Depending on where he ends up in the lineup (anywhere from 5th to 7th), Rios could finally cross the 30-30 plateau. Again, be patient with Rios. For Andruw Jones the biggest question will be playing time. While not drafted in many standard leagues, he could be a huge fantasy asset if he returns to form and breaks into the starting lineup. After starting the season off 0-7, Jones has gone 7-13 with three HRs in his last four games. Out of all the White Sox outfielders, Carlos Quentin has the highest ceiling. In 2008, Quentin put up monstrous numbers, but an injury-plagued 2009 season have people doubting his ability to stay healthy and putting him in the same category as Josh Hamilton. He's always had trouble staying in the lineup, but you can't predict injuries. The early results from 2010 look good as Quentin has already scored nine runs and driven in 10 RBI. Five of his nine hits have been for extra bases so the power is still there. If Pierre and Beckham produce ahead of Quentin, we could see another 30 HR / 100 RBI season. Juan Pierre's fantasy value comes purely from his ability to steal bases. For fantasy purposes however, speed is only utilized well if the man can reach base. Something Pierre has failed to do much of this season. As with the other outfielders, if Pierre gets on base he'll benefit from the Ozzie-ball philosophy that has this team running early and often.
SP: You can put Mark Buehrle down for 200 IP and 10 wins. Mark it down. While he's not going to overpower people and win your strikeouts category, he'll greatly improve your ERA and WHIP categories by pitching A LOT of innings. Buehrle struggled down the stretch last season, but his first two starts this year have been typical Buehrle. He should be a weekly play. Jake Peavy transition to the AL looked like smooth sailing in last season's final three starts. However, his first two outings against the Indians and Blue Jays have been rough. Peavy's command of the strike zone has been erratic and has already recorded five walks and three HBP in only 10 innings. While you have to be patient with Peavy because of his past, I wouldn't turn a trade for someone more consistent and with just as big an upside. Buyer beware. John Danks is an interesting case study. His tendency to give up HR's is a little concerning and his walk ratio climbed from 2008 to 2009. Still his stuff filthy nasty and he often overcomes his mistakes with strikeouts. Slotted as the #4 starter this season, Danks should receive favorable matchups, but his range of wins (anywhere from 10-15) will be determined by his run support. Danks' first two outings were stellar and his 12 strikeouts in 13 innings are a great sign. Like Danks, Gavin Floyd has a tendency to give up the long ball. His wins may have regressed from his 2008 campaign, but it was largely a product of huge discrepancies in run support. He increased his strikeout totals and decreased his walks from 2008. Floyd hasn't pitched badly to start 2010, but has no win to show for his two quality outings. His 12 strikeouts in 12 innings is promising though. Look for Floyd to continue putting it together in his third full season as a starter. He might have the largest upside outside of Peavy on this staff.
RP: Bobby Jenks came into the season ranked as a middle-of-the-road closer option. On a team that's projected win around 80 games, Jenks is bound to get saves. But his declining strikeout rate and increasing WHIP are cause for concern. Jenks has also seen his saves total drop from 40 to 30 to 29 in the past three seasons. Although Jenks has picked up two early saves, he's struggled with his command, issuing four walks in only four innings. As long as Jenks keeps getting the job done, he should hold on to the closer role and continue being a valuable fantasy option. Matt Thornton has been the darling of the White Sox bullpen the past two seasons, striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings and keeping an ERA under 3.00. He's a sleeper fantasy option for deeper leagues and worthy of a roster spot just in case Jenks gets injured or continues to struggle. Thornton has more than lived up to the billing in the first 10 games of the season. In only 5 2/3 IP, Thornton has struck out 10 batters and allowed 1 ER on only two hits. He even managed to pick up a win against Toronto. While there aren't any save opportunities in the near forecast, Thornton can certainly boost a team's ERA, WHIP and Strikeout totals.
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