The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

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2016 White Sox Season Preview

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Slugger Jose Abreu looks to lead the White Sox to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Season Preview

By: Jarrett Malec

After a 76-86 campaign in 2015, the Chicago White Sox have reloaded their roster and are looking to compete again in the American League Central.

Last season, the Sox were last in the AL in team batting and 28th overall (out of 30 teams). That performance was extremely disappointing for a team that plays in a hitters’ ballpark and had playoff aspirations a year ago. A year later, the Sox have attempted to fix areas of weaknesses in their lineup and with a strong pitching rotation, expectations are high on the South Side.

After an offensively-challenged 2015 season, the Sox looked to add more pop to their lineup to complement their pitching. The Tyler Flowers era has ended in Chicago and along with the loss of complementary catcher Geovany Soto to free agency, there was a vacancy at catcher. Last November , Chicago signed catcher Alex Avila in free agency. The 29-year-old only played in 67 games last year because of a bone bruise in his left knee. Avila had a batting average of .191 in 2015 and was an All-Star in 2011.

One month later, the Sox signed another catcher in 31-year-old switch-hitting Dioner Navarro. Navarro is a 12-year veteran who has most recently played above the border in Toronto. Up until last year, Navorro was the Blue Jays’ every-day catcher, but in 2015, he served as the backup to Russell Martin. In his 54 appearances last season, Navorro posted a .246 batting average. This season, both Avila and Navorro will look to provide a needed spark to the lineup.

Last season, the Sox struggled to find an infield that could both be sound defensively and produce on offense. Now, with the exit of longtime shortstop Alexei Ramirez, as well as second baseman Micah Johnson, the Sox needed to make a few deals. With the new additions of two-time All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier and Oakland’s Brett Lawrie, the Chicago infield looks much different this upcoming season. Last December, the White Sox acquired Frazier from Cincinnati in a three-team deal. Frazier batted .255 with 35 home runs last season, a number that will be a great upgrade at the third place position for the Sox. With Frazier now on the roster, that will likely force usual third baseman Brett Lawrie to play second base.

The Sox picked up Lawrie a week before the Frazier deal occurred. Last season, Lawrie established his best career numbers with a .260 batting average along with 60 RBI. The 26-year-old looks to stay away from lingering injuries and play day-to-day for the Sox. Most recently, the Sox added veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins from the Dodgers. The three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, and NL MVP in 2008 in Philadelphia will be competing with youngster Tyler Saladino for the starting shortstop position. Although Saladino played only 11 games at shortstop last season, he is being slated by many as the starter for 2016. With Rollins now coming to town, there will be a competition for the starting shortstop job and a chance for Saladino and minor league star Tim Anderson to gain valuable experience from a seasoned veteran.

“We are going to come in here and see how this plays out, I’m not throwing around guarantees for anybody,” said Manager Robin Ventura in a press conference after the Rollins signing.

On Feb. 9, the White Sox agreed to terms with free agent pitcher Mat Latos. During his tenure in the MLB, Latos has a career ERA of 3.51 over the course of nine seasons. The 28-year-old right hander will compete for a spot in the rotation that consists of ace Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, John Danks, and Erik Johnson.

In the Outfield, the White Sox recently became more athletic with the signing of 29-year old Austin Jackson. Last season, Jackson batted .273 in the course of 136 games with the Seattle Mariners and the Cubs. Jackson has spent most of his time playing Center field, a position which is bolstered by leadoff hitter and speedster Adam Eaton. General Manager Rick Hahn believes that most of Jackson’s time will occur in center field. Along with Eaton, current starting outfielders include Melky Cabrera in left field and Avisail Garcia in right field.

With the offensive additions to the year’s club I see the White Sox hovering around 85 wins and in a position to make the postseason.

Fan Perspective

By: TJ Murbach

As a die-hard Sox fan, I call in sick from school and attend the home opener every season. The anticipation and excitement is through the roof as the smell of hot dogs and grilled onions fill the ballpark. No matter what happened the season before, Sox fans fill the stadium and hope for the best as all the players are standing on the foul line with the giant American flag covering the outfield during the Star-Spangled Banner.

The excitement on the South Side is high even after last season’s disappointing fourth-place finish. The White Sox again have high expectations to compete for their first postseason bid since 2008: USA Today’s annual MLB season predictions have the Sox winning the AL Central division with a 90-72 record, tied for the highest projection in the AL.    

“This is baseball’s deepest division, with five teams capable of winning it – and almost as many that could finish last.” said USA Today writer Gabe Lacques.

For the fans, the excitement is centered around the young talent and new additions. Adding infielder Brett Lawrie in a trade with Oakland will be vital for the Sox turnaround this season. Last year, the White Sox second baseman, Carlos Sanchez, struggled to produce at the plate, hitting .231 with only five home runs and 31 RBIs. Lawrie hit 16 homers last year, including a 476-foot moonshot in an August matchup against the Diamondbacks.

Through a three-team trade with the Reds and Dodgers, the White Sox made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason when they acquired slugger Todd Frazier. Last season’s Home Run Derby champion, to go along with 43 doubles, which was tied for second in the senior circuit. The addition of Frazier is exactly what the White Sox need; last year, they were 29th as a team in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for all third basemen.

To go along with Frazier in the middle of the lineup, Jose Abreu looks to continue his dominance heading into his third MLB season. Abreu is only the second player in MLB history to have 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in each of his first two seasons (Albert Pujols is the first). Abreu is more than just a slugger; he has a career average of .303 and an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .904. Now that Abreu has some support in the middle of the order, Sox fans can expect his already exceptional stats to increase even more.

The powerful core of Abreu, Frazier and Lawrie should get Sox fans roaring as the fireworks explode over the left-center bleachers.

For the South Siders, the starting pitching is widely regarded as the strength of the team, led by the Big Three of lefty starters Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon, and Jose Quintana. White Sox fans fill up the K one and hold up a K sign for every strikeout in support of ace Chris Sale, who led the AL in strikeouts with 274 last season.  The six-year veteran has a career ERA of 2.91 to go along with a 10.3-strikeouts-per-9-inning ratio. His overpowering velocity is complimented well by his devastating off-speed pitches. Sale is an early pick for many to win the AL Cy Young Award.

Sox fans are expecting a big season from second-year phenom Carlos Rodon. The lefty starter struggled early in the season with control, but he hit a groove late in the season as he found his command. Over his last eight starts of the season, he did not allow more than two earned runs in any of those outings. Rodon, similarly to Sale, is a strikeout machine who possesses elite velocity. His slider is practically unhittable because of the large amount of break and high velocity. Rodon’s average velocity on his slider is 88 mph and it even reaches 90-91 mph, which is almost unheard of for a breaking ball.

Lefty Jose Quintana boasts a career 3.46 ERA and is one of the most steady pitchers in the league. He has pitched at least 200 innings in each of the last three seasons and he does not allow many home runs, with a .08 career home runs per nine innings ratio.

Sox fans will be on their feet in the ninth inning when closer David Robertson comes in to shut the door. With a career high of 39 saves (in 2014), Robertson will anchor the Sox bullpen with his sharp cut-fastball. When it comes to setting up the ninth inning for Robertson, manager Robin Ventura has a lot of options, including flamethrowing right-hander Nate Jones, lefty Zach Duke and righty Jake Petricka.

Many baseball experts are expecting the White Sox to improve this season and place themselves in a position to contend for the playoffs for years to come. The impact of new additions give Sox fans like me hope for a chance at a postseason birth.

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The student news publication of Libertyville High School
2016 White Sox Season Preview