Last week, Baseball Prospectus predicted the Chicago White Sox to win just 73 games and finish dead last in the AL Central. Although the formula and prognostications of sabermetrician geeks sounds bleak, remember almost no one predicted the Sox to win the AL Central last season.
Back in the World Series year of 2005, most people predicted the pale hose to finish third! Lots of people forcasted the Sox to win the division in '06 and '07, yet they controlled the division for just 36 combined days during those two seasons. In summation, it's wide open.
One guy with White Sox knowledge second to none is Soxman, who offered his spring prospectus.
"There are a ton of question marks going into 2009 that should make for an exciting spring," Soxman said. "I can't remember a time where there were so many position battles."
Center field will definitely be fun to watch, where Jerry Owens is expected to battle Brian Anderson. The early favorite to win the job is Owens, as he's also expected to assume lead-off duties. However, Getz and Lillibridge could also factor in there because Ozzie claims that speed alone does not entitle Owens to bat atop the lineup.
Third base is Josh Fields' to lose, but if he does, Wilson Betemit could slip right in. The Cuban Babe Ruth, Dayan Viciedo may need some minor league seasoning before being considered a serious threat to assume full-time 3B duties.
As if that's not enough, it will also be interesting to see how Alexei Ramirez handles full time shortstop duties, how healthy Bartolo Colon is, and how well Scott Linebrink's shoulder has healed.
Soxman sees the White Sox lineup shaking up this way:
"The everyday lineup will truly reveal itself during the final days of spring training. I'm really hoping that Ozzie does not decide to hit Thome, Konerko, and AJ back-to-back.
- Owens - CF
- Ramirez - SS
- Quentin - LF
- Thome - DH
- Dye - RF
- Konerko - 1B
- AJ - C
- Fields - 3B
- Getz/Lillibridge - 2B
"Second base will be a wide-open battle. Chris Getz, Jayson Nix, and Brent Lillibridge. All three players combined have 61 games of MLB experience and just 143 at bats. While none of the candidates are proven, this is one of two open positions where the Sox should get a speed boost," Soxman said.
Another issue on all the minds of Sox Nation is the battle for the fifth starter. Although Jose Contreras is now supposed to be way ahead of schedule, the Sox will still need major innings from one of the prospects such as Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard or the man with the most alternative lifestyle sounding name in White Sox history, Lance Broadway.
"After his heroic performance in September, Clayton Richard is the early favorite to win the fifth spot but will likely be challenged by Aaron Poreda and Jeff Marquez. Broadway will likely battle the losers of the rotation competition for the long relief spot in the bullpen. Poreda likely has the most long-term upside, but is likely to start the season in AAA," Soxman said.