Opening Day is Monday April 1st for the Chicago White Sox. After a entertaining season in 2012, the Sox once again enter the year as a underdog in the Central Division. The Detroit Tigers are a strong favorite in the American League Central. The KC Royals and Cleveland Indians are both improved. So what can you expect from the Sox in 2013? I believe the Sox will contend much like they did last season. I have the Tigers winning the Division, but I have the Sox getting into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Yes, the Sox have to play better in the division versus Detroit and KC. There are going to be a few negatives throughout the season, but there are some positives for fans to look forward to. Here are 10 things, in no particular order, that Sox fans should look forward to.
1. Paul Konerko's RBI total increases: Paul Konerko got off to a hot first half of the season getting his average up to .399 at one point. Injuries and wrist issues cooled Konerko off in the second half. In 2013, Konerko will be dropped in the batting order to the 5th spot. If Konekro stays healthy in 2013, I predict his RBI total to increase by 20. Last year he had 75 RBI's, so I see him knocking in 95 RBI's.
2. Sale and Peavy are 18 game winners: Chris Sale won 17 games last year and Peavy won 11. Sale was dominate in 2012, while Peavy pitched well his results didn't show it. Peavy looks fully returned from his health injuries. Peavy should pitch just as well this season and hopefully the Sox will score more runs for him. Peavy lost a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 ball games. Sale is expected to build on his first full year in the rotation. Sale should be stronger and better prepared to deal with the full 162 game season. Sale is considered 1A and Peavy 1B, which makes for a great top two in any rotation.
3. Beckham returns to 2009 form: After blazing across the scene in 2009, Gordon Beckham has struggled offensively. In 2009, in 378 AB's, Beckham hit .270/63 RBI's/ 14 HR's giving Sox fans hope he was the real deal. Beckham struggled though in his next three seasons offensively. Last year, Beckham hit .234/60 RBI's/ 16 HRS. After years of tinkering with his batting stance, Beckham seems to finally found something that works for him. Beckham's Spring has been strong and I see him finally returning to 2009 form. Beckham's slash line should look like .280/74 RBI's/ 18 HRs when 2013 ends.
4. Reed saves 40 games: Addison Reed will start the 2013 season as the closer. Last year after taking the job from Hector Santiago, he converted 29 saves in 33 opportunities. With a full season under his belt, Reed should be better than last year. Reed admitted last year that he struggled late in the year with his slider. Reed has worked in the offseason on his off speed pitches. Better control of the slider and changeup, teamed with a plus fastball, should make Reed tough. Reed has wanted to be nothing but a closer in life. In 2013, Reed is going to start elevating himself to a premiere closer.
5. Ventura continues to grow as a manager: Robin Ventura was a unknown commodity entering 2012 as a manager. He had no managerial experience, but had a great understanding of the game. Ventura's calming influence and structure helped the Sox remain in 1st place contention in 2012. With a full year under his belt, Ventura should have a better feel for matchups and players. He now knows what he has on his roster and what other teams are going to throw at him. Expect Ventura to try new lineups and tinker with his bullpen options. Ventura will also use his bench more than he did in 2012.
6. Rios continues to be "Good Rios": Alex Rios has been known for his up down years since his waiver claim in 2009. After tinkering with his batting stance and returning to right field, Rios became the Sox best player in 2012. Working with Jeff Manto has helped Rios find a comfort zone. Rios looks comfortable now in Chicago and I expect him to provide a similar season that he did in 2012. Rios will also be hitting in the 3 spot this year. There will be no more "Good Rios, Bad Rios" on the Southside. "Good Rios" is here to stay.
7. Flowers is better than expected offensively: Tyler Flowers has a tough job replacing AJ Pierzynski offensively. Tyler won't match AJ's numbers, but the opinion that he will be terrible at the plate is wrong. When Sox traded for Tyler he was known for his offensive production. Flowers will get consistent at bats for the first time. Flowers will strikeout, but also has the power to hit some HR's. My prediction for Flowers is .255/ 60 RBI's/ 22 HRs. Fans will be rough on Flowers because he's not AJ, but they will be pleasantly surprised at what he gives the team offensively.
8. Viciedo has a breakout season: Dayan Viciedo is going to have a big year for the Sox. He may even make his first All Star team in 2013. At 24, Viciedo is just starting to hit his prime. With a full year under his belt in left field, Viciedo should feel comfortable. Jeff Manto has worked with Viciedo at the plate to make him more patient. I expect Viciedo's average to slightly improved to about .265, but his homerun and RBI totals are going to rise. Viciedo is going to hit around 30-35 HR's and knock in somewhere near 100 RBI's. Viciedo should also be able to raise his OBP from .300 to about .340. The young Cuban should show fans in 2013 why the Sox have been so high on him.
9. Quintana is real deal and not one year wonder: Jose Quintana ran out of gas at the end of 2012 after dominating for the early part of his season. Quintana, whose wasn't on anyone's radar, got his chance when the Sox needed help in a double header. Quintana was sent back down with the new 26th man rule, but ended up replacing John Danks in the rotation due to injury. Quintana had a strong Spring and I expect that to roll over into the regular season. There will be some growing pains with Quintana, but he should win 13 games without issue.
10. Jared Mitchell impacts Major League roster: Jared Mitchell had a strong Spring Training and started to show why the Sox drafted him in 2009. Finally fully healthy from a injury sustained two years ago in Spring, Mitchell is opening up eyes. He is going to start the year at AAA Charlotte, but I see him getting called up at some point. I have concerns with De Aza staying healthy, so I expect Mitchell to get a chance to show what he can do.
Final Record for Sox: 87-75 Wild Card Team
So Sox fans what do you think? Please post any comments or reactions and let me know what your expectations are in 2013.
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