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MLB Baseball Scouting Reports

Chicago White Sox

SI Prediction: 3rd in AL Central
Cabrera (18) brings a steady glove and bat to shortstop, while Swisher provides some pop and much-needed OBP.
Cabrera (18) brings a steady glove and bat to shortstop, while Swisher provides some pop and much-needed OBP.
John Biever/SI
fifth season with Chicago
Team Page | 2008 Schedule
Difference in total runs scored by last season's White Sox (693) compared with the more productive '06 edition (868). Last year's club also suffered severe drops in batting average, .246 from .280 the year before, and homers, 190 from 236. Four spots in the Chicago order -- second, third, seventh and eighth -- each ranked in the bottom three in the majors in batting average.
With his freewheeling approach at the plate and ability to play second base or the outfield, Cuban import Alexei Ramirez has drawn comparisons to Alfonso Soriano of the crosstown Cubs. Truth is, Ramirez is a different type of player than Soriano; Ramirez has less speed and power but is a considerably better contact hitter (not to mention a better infielder). He deserves a place in the White Sox' everyday lineup. PECOTA, which based its projection on an analysis of previous Cuban émigrés to the majors, forecasts that Ramirez will hit .298 with 15 home runs and an .803 on-base plus slugging percentage -- numbers that would put him among the better second basemen in the American League. At a cost of $4.75 million for four years, that's a pretty good bargain for Chicago.
CF JERRY OWENS L 147 .267 1 17 32
SS ORLANDO CABRERA R 81 .301 8 86 20
DH JIM THOME L-R 68 .275 35 96 0
1B PAUL KONERKO R 70 .259 31 90 0
RF JERMAINE DYE R 99 .254 28 78 2
LF NICK SWISHER S-L 76 .262 22 78 3
C A.J. PIERZYNSKI L-R 149 .263 14 50 1
3B JOE CREDE R 215 .216 4 22 0
2B JUAN URIBE R 233 .234 20 68 1
OF BRIAN ANDERSON R 350 .118 0 0 0
IF-OF ALEXEI RAMIREZ (R) R 279 .335 20 68 6
LH MARK BUEHRLE 71 10 9 5.2 1.26 3.63
RH JAVIER VAZQUEZ 62 15 8 8.9 1.14 3.74
LH JOHN DANKS 213 6 13 7.1 1.54 5.50
RH JOSE CONTRERAS 164 10 17 5.4 1.56 5.57
RH GAVIN FLOYD 203 1 5 6.3 1.49 5.27
RH BOBBY JENKS 28 3 40 7.8 0.89 2.77
RH OCTAVIO DOTEL 155 2 11 12.0 1.34 4.11
RH SCOTT LINEBRINK 170 5 1 6.4 1.32 3.71

"They covered the little holes they had, but there are some gaping ones to be filled."

Two seasons removed from a World Series title, the 2007 White Sox were a colossal disappointment, already 11 1/2 games out of first by June 21 en route to their worst record since 1989. "Guys were embarrassed by how we played last year," says Mark Buehrle, Chicago's lefthanded ace. "In the second half it was tough to come to the field every day. When you're playing that bad, you don't even want to show up."

The drive to U.S. Cellular Field shouldn't be such a dismal experience in '08. General manager Kenny Williams was active this off-season, trading righthander Jon Garland to the Angels for shortstop Orlando Cabrera and sending prospects to the A's and the Diamondbacks for outfielders Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin, respectively. Williams also signed veteran free-agent righthanders Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel to shore up the seventh- and eighth-inning relief pitching in front of closer Bobby Jenks.

"We covered the little holes we had," says manager Ozzie Guillen. That may be true, but there are some gaping ones -- particularly in the rotation -- that still need filling.

Acquiring the gregarious Cabrera and the irrepressible Swisher was a good first step in retooling the lineup; they are playoff veterans who have made fast friends in a clubhouse that has only 10 holdovers from the '05 championship team. "They bring a swagger," says DH Jim Thome. They also bring needed offense. Cabrera, who had a .345 on-base percentage and is an ideal No. 2 hitter (not to mention a Gold Glove winner) gives Chicago a lift at short, where last year's occupants hit only .239. Swisher, who had a .381 OBP last year, will play left, with speedster Jerry Owens playing center. "They are good team guys with good energy, but more than anything they're just good players," says first baseman Paul Konerko. "Those guys getting on base more will have an effect trickling down the lineup."

Ready to take advantage are the 3-4-5 hitters, Thome (37 years old), Konerko (32) and rightfielder Jermaine Dye (34), all of whom suffered a precipitous decline last summer, from a cumulative .306 average, 121 home runs and 342 RBIs in 2006 to .262, 94 and 264. In all, the White Sox scored 175 fewer runs and ranked last in the majors in batting average (.246), average with runners in scoring position (.243) and on-base percentage (.318). "Last year was just a broken year," says Konerko. "In no way, shape or form was there anything good about it."

Chicago was still second in the AL with 190 home runs, but the club had the majors' worst record in games in which it didn't homer (13-44). So for the second straight spring Guillen is preaching small ball and situational hitting. "Two-out hits, moving runners along and taking extra bases are a big deal that everyone's talking about," says third baseman Josh Fields. "That's a big focus, to put pressure on the defense. It makes it a lot easier to hit."

Pitching, though, is what will ultimately keep the White Sox from contending with the Indians and the Tigers. Buehrle and Javier Vazquez, who were both signed to affordable extensions last year, return to anchor Chicago's rotation, but the other three slots are questionable. Aging Jose Contreras suffered his first losing season in '07, and John Danks and Gavin Floyd are unseasoned former first-round picks who haven't yet lived up to their potential. Floyd, at least, has been impressive this spring and will begin the year as the No. 5 starter. "He's got the nastiest stuff on the staff right now," says Buehrle. "I'd give my left arm to have what he has, the way his ball moves."

With the new faces onboard, this summer should at least be more fun. "Even though we are underdogs in the division, we still have a lot of pressure from Ozzie and Kenny to perform at a high level," says Cabrera. But chances are, it won't be high enough in the AL Central.

-- Joe Lemire

Issue date: March 31, 2008