The survey says: Alexei Ramirez will take care of business for yet another year.
The 2011 value survey was pure science, based on a full season of statistics, while the 2012 value projections that follow represent quite a bit of speculation-apply salt grains generously. I used a bit of common sense for tweaking, but leaned generously on the many projections listed at FanGraphs. Also, note that the same dollar value for a 2011 win is applied in these 2012 projections. And while 44 players saw action for the White Sox in 2011, only 34 are being projected on the 2012 roster, but barring a huge breakout from an unknown (or a Williams blockbuster deal), the 35th-44th men who could see action in 2012 shouldn't steer the team totals by much.
White Sox Projected 2012 Bargains
Players who project to provide value on top of what they will cost the team in salary.
1. Alexei Ramirez, ss, $14,448,000
Alexei's salary jumps only to $5 million in 2012, so a repeat of his 2011 production should see him go back-to-back as Chicago's top value.
2. Chris Sale, rp, $10,992,000
Way back in November 2010 a certain soothsaying sportswriter I'm tight with had pegged Ramirez and Sale as the two most important White Sox on the roster. Two years later, nothing will have changed.
3. Phil Humber, sp, $9,616,000
While dropping to a 1.0-WAR pitcher would likely mean a bump from the rotation for Humber, anything north of that will allow him to continue hurling on as one of the great finds of the Williams-Hahn administration.
4. Gavin Floyd, sp, $9,354,000
Groovy Gavin seems better-loved by the stat sheet than White Sox fans. But even a grumpy projection has his value well outpacing his salary bumping to $7 million.
5. Gordon Beckham, 2b, $9,224,000
At such a friendly price tag, Bacon was a plus-value based solely on his defense in 2011. Any stick whatsoever will see the first-rounder take a big step toward touching his high ceiling.
6. Brent Morel, 3b, $8,390,000
Projections for Mo are very optimistic by and large, but like Bacon, plus-defense and any bat whatsoever = major value.
7. Alejandro De Aza, of, $8,169,000
De Aza's projections are overly generous, and his Winter and Cactus League play raises an eyebrow. But he earned more value than this in just a couple of months of play in 2011. With 600 at-bats, he could do some real damage.
8. John Danks, sp, $6,586,000
This value takes the full brunt of Danks' $7.5 million signing bonus on as 2012 salary-otherwise the downhome lefty would be a positive value for the team basically after his first pitch on Opening Day.
9. Tyler Flowers, c, $4,437,000
Look for another good year of value from White Sox catchers.
10. Brent Lillibridge, of-if, $4,362,000
Projections are excessively pessimistic regarding Lilli, but even a 1.0 WAR season allows him to continue as a solid team value.
11. Addison Reed, rp, $2,684,000
He doesn't have to close a single game; simply a solid, 2010 Sale-esque rookie year would be a massive plus for his value.
12. Dayan Viciedo, of, $2,141,000
If the offense steps up a few ticks, Viciedo can slide down the batting order and regain his slugging stride under less glare. But if the Tank sputters into May, Kosuke and Lilli will be right there to gobble ABs.
13. Hector Santiago, rp, $1,358,000
14. Kosuke Fukudome, of, $1,210,000
He likely won't see enough time to build major value, but at $1 million this season Kosuke will have to play disastrously to evade plus-value.
15. Zach Stewart, rp, $1,137,000
16. Dylan Axelrod, sp, $916,000
17. A.J. Pierzynski, c, $851,000
A.J. seems to be pegged for a better season, one that may well keep pace with his $4 million raise.
18. Paul Konerko, 1b, $818,000
Konerko's prodigious production in 2011 barely kept pace with his $12 million salary, and at 36 it will be a challenge for him to remain in the black.
19. Matt Thornton, rp, $246,000
This is essentially Buehrle's value spot for 2011. That wouldn't be a bad-bounce back for Matty Ice, which will be easier to attain if he resumes setup/occasional closing as opposed to full-on closer duties.
20. Nate Jones, rp, $42,000
Yes, these projections ended up coming across as impossibly sunny, especially in the face of the gloom and doom forecasts from everyone and their brother (wrath ye, Ted Keith!). But with predictable steps forward-relatively minor ones, mind you-from the youngsters populating the infield and a lack of complete bottoming-out from Dunn and Rios, the clouds do part a bit.
White Sox Projected 2012 Busts
Players who project to cost more to the team in salary than the value they will provide on the field.
1. Alex Rios, of, -$8,685,000
Surprise! A new No. 1 hits the top of the charts for 2012. Whereas Dunn seemingly has tweaked his way toward a brighter future, the early returns on Rios look like more of the same. The biggest team issue in 2012 may be Ventura's patience with the fallen All-Star.
2. Jake Peavy, sp, -$8,602,000
It's not a stretch at all to predict slightly better results in 2012 for the Bulldog-but those results will be hard-pressed to keep pace with a salary that bumps to $17 million.
3. Adam Dunn, dh, -$6,928,000
Even a bounce-back year that restores Dunn to some state of normalcy will be impossible to trump a 2012 salary that jumps to $14 million.
4. Will Ohman, rp, -$2,942,000
If the professorial southpaw gets knocked around much at all, he'll be in a season-long value hole.
5. Brian Bruney, rp, -$1,428,200
The cribbage king returns. Oh yeah.
Danks and Mitchell are essentially interchangeable; any cups of coffee they'll see in 2012 will have predictably sobering results.
Ditto Johnson and McPherson, neither of whom will see enough time to work their way into the black.
It's early for both Escobar and Saladino, both of whom could be blocked for years to come by young Pale Hose talent at second, third and short.
12. Jesse Crain, rp, -$522,000
Post Santos (trade) catastrophe, Crain was an easy pick to assume closing duties. But his itchy spring training arm sends up a flag. A drop in production + increase in salary lands the keeper of the toy chest in the red.
OK, so Rios, Peavy and Dunn won't exactly turn profitable in 2012, but in the case at least of the two hitters, simply not proffering two of the worst high-salaried seasons in major league history could provide a sort of boost to the club as a whole. Not having to bury Dunn deep in the lineup could allow younger players like Viciedo and Beckham to be slotted into lower, less pressurized positions in the order. Admittedly, it's a haphazard-looking line of dominoes that must fall with ruthless precision in order for White Sox fans to still care come August. But as a pessimist heading into the season (nay, even into this very value survey piece), those tiles are lining up, some 2,500 words in.
Last season, it was the pitching staff that rescued the White Sox, but 2012 projections have the two sides both offering true value: the hitters line up as $30.6 million in the black, the hurlers $29.4.
Will not doubling, as tossed out above, but tripling surplus value from 2011 to 2012 put the White Sox back in the playoffs? It remains to be seen. But playing a full season without the mind-numbing black hole of almost 1,100 energy-sapping, sportwriter-growling, fan flailing appearances from Dunn and Rios might lighten the mood quite a bit.
But just in case, a reminder from above, Robin: Pencil your 10 best players into the lineup, regardless of salary.