As promised, Dan Szymborski posted his ZiPS projections for the 2014 White Sox on FanGraphs Wednesday. The Sox never project particularly well -- their best hitters seldom have any other abilities, and their faster players usually can't hit -- but this year is even uglier.
Expectations soften the blow, though. In previous seasons, the Sox front office billed their club as a contender. Maybe the top-level talent could carry them, but it required the club to survive a game of Thin Ice, and the tissue never quite held up by the end of the season. Look at last year's ZiPS, and the top of the position-player leaderboard really doesn't look all that different.
The guise of contending was the only difference, and there are no such promises this year. The Sox aren't committing to a rebuilding season in name -- they're allowing the possibility that the new pieces click into place sooner than most think -- but it's clearly a transition year at best. So when you scroll down the page and see an OPS+ leaderboard that looks like this ...
- Jose Abreu: 129
- Avisail Garcia: 97
- Adam Dunn: 97
Dayan Viciedo: 96
- Alejandro De Aza: 94
... it's only mildly distressing. Individually, these lines don't look all that bad for first full seasons:
- Abreu: .273/.364/.494
- Garcia: .282/.316/.423
- Adam Eaton: .251/.338/.348
- Matt Davidson: .236/.312/.410
Three of those four performances would be worth at least 1.5 wins (Garcia checks in at 0.9 WAR), which is a clear cut above the replacement-level morass Brent Morel couldn't escape despite a strong finish. If the Sox finished the year with three of these four players showing signs of future dependability, that likely meant that we witnessed watchable baseball.
That's assuming the pitching holds up, and that's not as sure of a bet as it usually is, as Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd leave pretty big shoes to fill. Chris Sale's projection is beautiful and Jose Quintana made a believer out of ZiPS, but after that, it's a collection of risks, calculated (Erik Johnson, Felipe Paulino) and unavoidable (John Danks). Masahiro Tanaka would do wonders to improve this forecast, but that doesn't make the Sox unique in any way.
ZiPS makes it abundantly clear that the White Sox face a whole new world on both sides of the ball, but it's a testament to how far the Sox fell that these numbers represent a far more interesting product.
MLB.com posted a few videos from Todd Steverson's minicamp for hitters. They feature some of the quotes that made it into Wednesday's stories. Still, there are a few extra quotes, and moving pictures of baseball players doing baseball things, which is always welcome this time of year.
Here's Abreu talking about his offseason.
Here's Steverson and Rick Hahn:
And here's Eaton and Davidson: