Adam Eaton (L) – CF
Melky Cabrera (S) – LF
Jose Abreu (R) – 1B
Todd Frazier (R) – 3B
Adam LaRoche (L) – DH
Brett Lawrie (R) – 2B
Avisail Garcia (R) – RF
Tyler Saladino (R) – SS
2B/SS – Carlos Sanchez
OF – J.B. Shuck
OF – Jerry Sands
*This is a projection of what Robin Ventura will put on the lineup card based on his lineups last season. There has been much discussion about what is the best way to put together this lineup and Ventura tried many options last year. The second spot is the biggest question, but Cabrera does seem like the direction Ventura may try again. For what it’s worth, Jose Abreu did hit second the last ten games of the 2015 season. If only there was a free agent who was a top-of-the-order-high OBP just sitting out there who would also fill an outfield hole…
After having the worst offense in the American league last year by several metrics (i.e. .686 OPS, last in the AL), it became clear that the front office put their focus on improving that weak link. Right away, the signing of Alex Avila followed by signing another catcher, Dioner Navarro, showed the White Sox were willing to let defensive-first catcher Tyler Flowers move on. The White Sox also made headlines by not picking up the $10MM option of long-time shortstop Alexei Ramirez after possible signs of his decline. Tyler Saladino will move from third base to shortstop – which isn’t a big upgrade or downgrade from Ramirez. There will be less of a ceiling in power but potentially higher in contact.
Second base (-2.3 WAA) and third base (-1.8 WAA) were two of the areas that needed a big offensive boost and the White Sox did that by first trading for Brett Lawrie to presumably fill the third base hole, but then a trade for third baseman Todd Frazier moved Lawrie over to second.
The outfield currently remains the same as last year where the White Sox hope for a full season of consistency from Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera. Avisail Garcia has to improve for him to see a full season in right field.
The overall team speed remains below average (12th in the AL in stolen bases), as does the team’s base running. Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez (now gone) were the only players on the team with more than 15 stolen bases in 2015. Frazier has had a sneaky level of stolen bases (13 in ’15) for a power third baseman. Tim Anderson, the team’s top prospect, may still be a year away from the big club. The shortstop has great speed and projects as the stolen base threat that the team currently lacks.
The main focus of the offseason was to improve the offense and the White Sox did just that. Leaving a possible liability in the outfield when the majority of the key free agents were outfielders does still shine as a miss.
The offense was a more obvious need for fixing but the defense was not exactly full of gold glovers. Saladino was good at the hot corner but Frazier can hold his own. Brett Lawrie has had an inconsistent defensive career where certain analytics have him as below average. He does seem like a downgrade defensively from Carlos Sanchez, who will start as a bench player.
Tyler Flowers’s claim to fame was being a great pitch-framer and he was ace Chris Sale’s personal catcher. The transition to a platoon of two offensively-minded catchers may have a negative effect behind the plate. Flowers wasn’t as great at blocking passed balls (15 in ’15) and with analysts still not having perfected all framing statistics, it will be difficult to spot these moves’ overall effect.
The outfield remaining the same is not a good sign for the defense, as none of the trio have great metrics. Not to beat a dead horse, but the free agents that were out there (and are still out there) would all be an upgrade defensively, as well. The White Sox also traded their best defensive bench outfielder in Trayce Thompson. J.B. Shuck and potentially Jerry Sands remain the only bench options.
As important as it was to improve the offense, the defense needed fixing as well (.673 in defensive efficiency according to baseball-reference.com, last in the AL). The moves to improve the offense has a potential negative effect on an already awful defense. The defense had a negative effect on the pitching staff as well last year, as it downgraded a potentially elite staff.