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The most essential White Sox of 2016: Nos. 20-1

The individuals on whom the team most relies

Chicago White Sox v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Picking up from Saturday, when we listed the 2016 White Sox from No. 40 to No. 21 ...

No. 20: Tyler Saladino

If Jimmy Rollins can start 110+ games at shortstop, then Robin Ventura can play Saladino to his strengths. If Saladino gets overexposed by having to start too often, Carlos Sanchez and then Tim Anderson may be able to provide a little relief. He has the makings of a highly useful utility player, so this should work.

No. 19: Jake Petricka

Speaking of playing to strengths, Petricka should be more aligned with his own now that Nate Jones is back. At his core, he's a righty-on-righty ground-ball guy. Due to lack of depth, he's often been used when the situation calls for a high-leverage guy who can get a strikeout. That said, he's pitched above his pay grade because Ventura's trusted him more than others.

No. 18: Jimmy Rollins

Last year, Alexei Ramirez was No. 5, and had he returned for one more year, he would've ended up in this neighborhood, too. The Sox have adjusted their expectations well. Rollins could be done as a player, but he wouldn't take the team down with him this time. If he has baseball left in him, the Sox will reap the benefits, especially relative to the investment.

No. 17: Dioner Navarro

He could end up taking half or more of the starts, and the Sox wouldn't be in awful shape. But I think the Sox would feel better if his partner took the lead.

No. 16: Zach Duke

He's the best lefty reliever the Sox have, which is troubling when he wasn't good last year.

No. 15: Alex Avila

As I said two spots above, Navarro could outperform Avila with no ill consequences. That still requires Avila to be an entity, though, and he'll open the season with sizable responsibilities -- the lefty side of a catching platoon and the first choice to catch Chris Sale -- and some scary variables to overcome.

No. 14: John Danks

Ideally, he'd be closer to No. 20 on this list as he enters his final season, where he could be a respectable fifth starter if he succeeds and replaceable if he falls well short. Alas, his rotation spot isn't the biggest question mark, and the pecking order behind him is quite murky, so the Sox could use some decent Danks more than they'd care to admit, probably.

No. 13: Brett Lawrie

He's a second baseman with some pop, which automatically means he has upside. He also has a history of injuries, some scary plate-discipline trends and a thin track record at second base, which could put him in Teahen Territory. Fortunately, as emergency starters go, Carlos Sanchez isn't a terrible one.

No. 12: Avisail Garcia

The only downside of Adam LaRoche's retirement is that Garcia is exposed. He's just hanging out there. The counterpoints? He's young, he's made changes that legitimately attempt to address his mechanical shortcomings, and he won't have to play defense as much. It's still tough to buy, but he's going to have to be a somebody unless somebody else surprises just as much in Charlotte (Matt Davidson?).

No. 11: Nate Jones

We saw what the White Sox bullpen looked like when it wasn't expecting to miss him in 2014, and we saw the kind of jump he gave the relief corps when he was finally healthy again in 2015. While David Robertson's sleight-of-hand is neat in its own right, a fully healthy Jones is the most fun to watch.

No. 10: Austin Jackson

He won't have to return to his Detroit form in order to be a passable everyday outfielder, but he will have to look like a discernible upgrade over Avisail Garcia, which hasn't always been the case the last two years.

No. 9: David Robertson

Everybody's emotions will be in his hands.

No. 8: Mat Latos

Here's the hardest guy to rank, because based on the tenor surrounding his spring, it's not difficult to envision Latos flopping by May and the Sox faring better in his absence. But at the moment, he's the one tasked with upholding the integrity of the back end of the rotation, and it's just as easy to imagine the rotation unraveling in a hurry if he falters. I'm comfortable calling him the pitching fulcrum ...

No. 7: Melky Cabrera

... so it makes sense to pair him with the offense's fulcrum. The Sox could sure use a potent switch-hitter, either as a table-setter or somebody drafting off Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier. They sure couldn't use another slow start like he had last year, because the outfield and DH spots are stretched thin enough.

No. 6: Adam Eaton

Jackson's presence eases the hand-wringing over Eaton's bipolar defensive metrics in center field, but he'll still be counted upon to deliver an above-average OBP, because those are in short supply on the South Side. If the double-digit home run total hangs around, so much the better.

No. 5: Carlos Rodon

The White Sox don't need him to make The Leap, especially since he's not yet a well-rounded pitcher. They do need him to be a sturdy presence with nasty stuff.

No. 4: Jose Quintana

Three straight seasons of 200 innings and an ERA in the mid-3's. No time to let up now, especially since the offense might be able to get him to 10 wins for once.

No. 3: Jose Abreu

You could make a case for him being the most important player on the team. He's the best hitter and he has the work ethic and aptitude to patch holes in his game, so the chance for a game-changer of a season remains in the picture. Plus, he carries himself with more grace than anybody, which is appreciated after the LaRoche thing.

No. 2: Chris Sale

I put Sale ahead of Abreu just because we've seen the world-beating before. He lends the team an aura of invincibility when he's on his game, and he's the team's best bet to take home individual hardware at the end of the season. The last step in his development might be making it harder to tell when something or somebody has gotten to him, and his reaction to LaRoche's retirement isn't the most encouraging start.

No. 1: Todd Frazier

There's no particular reason why this shouldn't work, but man, if it doesn't ...