White Sox Season Preview 2011 - Breakout Candidates

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You don't bunt your way to a breakout season, Juan. Someone's off the list // Kirby Lee, US PRESSWIRE

Contrary to what you may hear (from me), there is young talent on the Chicago White Sox.  Not young talent in the sense of "he's so good, he's so young, My God, he could do anything!", but more that there are players on the roster whose best moments are ahead of them, and not collecting dust on my DVD rack.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say no one's winning the MVP--our best hitters are either bad at defense or don't play it--but there's plenty of players with enough room to grow that the team could reap big dividends in 2011.

Candidates?

Gavin Floyd - The pie in the sky idea would be that Floyd somehow stretches his incredible mid-summer run (From June 8th to August 7th: 12 starts, 83.1 IP, 1.19 ERA, .497 Opposing OPS) over an entire year.  Well, that's unfathomably unrealistic.  What he could do, is have his ERA match his FIP (3.46), or get thirty points less unlucky with his BABIP (it was .325 last season), or not get hurt and actually exceed 200 innings again.  All those are reasonable possibilities that don't even necessarily involve Gavin getting actually better (which could also happen).

Conceivable Ceiling: 200 IP, 3.50 ERA, 5.0 WAR

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Technically, I'm not predicting a breakout season for Gavin, I'm predicting a breakout season for 'people realizing that Gavin is actually good'. // Kirby Lee, US PRESSWIRE

John Danks - There's not a tremendous amount of room for growth in the numbers like with Floyd, so it might be a little hard to predict higher heights for Danks without sounding like Hawk Harrelson, (I'll tell ya one thing about John Danks...he doesn't quit) or worse, Jon Gruden (John Danks leads the major leagues...in guts)*.  But how about this; Danks is turning only 26 this year, has no health problems to speak of, threw with the best velocity of his career last season, and is angling himself either for free agency or a mega-extension.  Everything is marked for his ascension save for Guillen forcing him to have a knife-fight with Buehrle for leadership of the rotation.

Conceivable Ceiling: 215 IP, 3.60 ERA....I guess I really can't justify ever expecting any of our pitcher to exceed 5.0 WAR 

Edwin Jackson - Edwin's been all over the world and seen all types of girls, but never put together a better set of 11 starts than he did when he stumbled to the South Side last season; his fifth team.  It's too small of a stretch of time, his competition was too weak, and his track record of mediocrity is too lengthy to think he'll just be a 3.20 ERA pitcher from now on especially while playing his home game in Pitching Hell.  But as Colin from South Side Sox demonstrates, his mechanics really are better.  He's durable, he's got a big slider, and he at least has a shot at being better than Daniel Hudson this year.

Conceivable Ceiling: 215 IP, 3.75 ERA, 4-4.5 WAR


Chris Sale
- It's hard to really 'breakout' when you're a starter who's been relegated to the pen until a spot frees up in the rotation.  But Sale made mincemeat of opposing batters (albeit ones who had never seen him before him in life), while not even using one his better pitches.  A change-up might be enough to counteract the league adjusting to him, and with his starter's endurance, some sort of hybrid/flex/DJ Carrasco role could lead to him throwing 85 innings and really proving to be an asset and not just another talented pitcher throwing 20-30 less innings than he should for the sake of fulfilling an arbitrary title.  Just sayin'.

Conceivable Ceiling: 85 IP, 2.50 ERA, 2.0 WAR

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Edwin prepares to delivers; presumably while Coop judges him silently from nearby // Kirby Lee, US PRESSWIRE

Gordon Beckham - I've become an overly-serious stathead recently, and that's a shame.  But I still believe in slumps.  By that I mean, I believe that a player can sink to a point where they are so out of it, so self-destructive in their mental approach, so detached from their mechanics, that the resulting funk where they go over a month without an extra-base hit and have a moment where they angrily whip their gum out at the dugout wall, only to have it bounce back and hit them in the face (I don't care if there's no footage of it!  It happened!) cannot really be weighed very strongly as a measure of their true talent.  He was a stud-prospect, a rookie of the year candidate, and a guy who had an .877 OPS in the second half.  Commissioner Gordon is still the future.

Conceivable Ceiling: .290/.360/.480, 20 HR, 3.5 WAR

Alexei Ramirez & Carlos Quentin: I don't necessarily think either of these guys will get better because they'd have to shed something that's been an innate part of their game for a number of years, but here goes.  If Alexei cuts out the slow (possibly, probably, almost certainly weather-based) starts, he's an .800 OPS hitter.  Simple as that.  Quentin, has all the power in the world, and while it's anyone's guess what's needed to get him back to previous levels, actually staying healthy, and less falls and stumbles that make him look like he's just fractured his pelvis every time, would be a big start.

If all these guys breakout like I'm calling for, the Sox win around 105 games....which is my way saying "that won't happen".  But, with potential for growth for the bulk of an already quite good starting rotation, and Beckham's return to being on the best young second basemen in the game, there's a lot more to this team than just an aging squad trying to have one more good season.  I promise.

*Jon Gruden said during the radio broadcast of the National Championship Game that Oregon Coach Chip Kelly "leads the NCAA in guts" after he ran a draw play on 3rd and long....you had to be there.  Wait, no you don't.  That quote is crazy outside of context too.
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J.J. says razing your farm system to the ground isn't bad if you meant to do it.
U-God previews Center Fielders in the AL Central, and features that picture of Adam Dunn that convinced me for a time by itself that he's a terrible 1st basemen.
I'm more than partial to historical anecdotes, but Joe Posnanski has a fabulous piece on the Buck O'Neil Award being given to former Sox GM Roland Hemond.

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