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February 15, 2012 posted by Nick Raducanu

2012 Fantasy Baseball – Top 5 Questions: Chicago White Sox

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Alex Rios Chicago White Sox centerfielder

A lot has happened on the South Side of Chicago since we last saw the White Sox. Carlos Quentin was traded to San Diego, Sergio Santos became a native of Canada and Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buerhle now have Florida Zip Codes. As you can see with all the players being going from and not coming to Chicago, the White Sox have entered a bit of a re-building phase.

Kenny Williams was able to re-sign John Danks, but he didn’t do much else to infuse Major League talent into a roster that ranked 18th in the Majors in runs scored in 2011. As a result of Williams’ fire-sale, fantasy owners are left with a smorgasbord of veterans, low-budget free-agents, and flamed-out prospects to choose from in 2012. Perhaps new Manager Robin Ventura will bring some offense to town to go along with all the Nolan Ryan jokes that will be written (add another one to the total), but he has an uphill battle ahead of him.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at 5 questions about the White Sox for fantasy owners going into 2012:

5. Is Adam Dunn Done?

Entering the last year, Adam Dunn had been a model of consistency when it came to power numbers. He started 2011 having put up 100+ RBIs in six of his last seven seasons, and hadn’t hit fewer than 38 home runs since the Matrix trilogy was in theaters. Upon deciding that they could stomach his historically low average, most owners looked at Dunn’s move to a hitter’s ballpark (U.S. Cellular Field) and felt safe investing a top 75 pick in the slugger. A year later, however, those owners have the name “Adam Dunn” highlighted at the top of their “Do Not Draft” list.

So what happened? Was it the shift to facing AL pitching? Was it the transition to a DH role? Did his emergency appendectomy in April mess up his swing? Those are all questions the White Sox are still trying to find answers to, but rather than sharing Chicago’s concern about their $56 million dollar investment, let’s take a look at this from a fantasy perspective.

Unfortunately for most fantasy owners, their love of home runs tends to obscure some of the other unsavory numbers that come along with Dunn’s power numbers. This is also the same guy that carries a .243 career average and has averaged almost 165 strikeouts a year in his time in the Majors.

Yes, Dunn is only 32 and there’s always the chance that he’ll work through his issues from last year, but even if he hits 35-40 home runs this year, is it worth carrying an average that will more likely remind you of Rob Deer than Tony Gwynn? The smart money to that answer is no, but if you’re still being stubborn and want those home runs, please email us and I’ll be happy to help you find those power stats elsewhere.

4. It’s Last Call! Who’s Closing?

Three men factored into the White Sox’ 2011 closer situation before one of them finally ran away with the job: Chris Sale, Matt Thorton, and Sergio Santos. With Santos now closing for the Toronto Blue Jays and Sale taking a shot at becoming a starter, Thornton is the last man standing of that triumvirate. This war of attrition doesn’t mean that Thornton is a shoo-in for the closer’s role in 2012, however, as Jesse Crain and Addison Reed will be nipping at his heels in Spring Training.

All three of the candidates have a valid argument towards becoming Chicago’s closer, but each opens the year with their own unique question marks.Thornton has posted career lows in WHIP, ERA, and K/9 IP last year, and lefties haven’t traditionally succeeded as stoppers. Crain had a fantastic 2011 season in a middle relief role (2.62 ERA, 70 Ks), but he only has four career saves and the White Sox might value him more as a middle reliever. Reed posted a 12/1 K/BB ratio in 7.1 innings at the end of 2011, but he’s also only 23 years old, and the White Sox might prefer to go with a more experienced option.

Ventura has said that Thornton will enter camp as his closer, but also added the dreaded tidbit that things could change before the season begins.Thornton is still the guy to draft here, but just make sure you keep in mind that he entered 2011 as the de-facto closer too before completely imploding in April and ceding the role to Santos. If you’re going to draft Thornton, make sure you wait until the later rounds of your draft and handcuff him to Reed. There are rumors that Thornton is on the trade block, and there’s a very good chance that Reed finishes the year as the White Sox’ closer.

3. Will Dayan Viciedo Justify the Hype?

Towards the middle of last season, there was an injury bug going around that was taking down third basemen left and right (Kevin Youkilis, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez to name a few). I, for one, was scrambling to replace my fallen stars and found myself trying to find lightning-in-a-bottle with guys like Mike Moustakas and Lonnie Chisenhall. That obviously didn’t do much for me, and I found myself constantly reading about a White Sox minor leaguer who was tearing things up at AAA with a .296 average and 20 home runs in 452 at-bats. The minute said youngster got called-up, I thought I had found a secret weapon to win my leagues and ran to the waiver-wire to scoop him up. 102 major league at-bats and only one home run later, however, I was left wondering whether I had been duped by the highly-touted Dayan Viciedo.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but I still haven’t given up on Viciedo just yet. Whether they want to admit it or not, the White Sox are in rebuilding mode and Viciedo will enter the season as the team’s starting right fielder. The 23-year-old showed surprising plate discipline for a young player, which should keep him in the lineup and give him the chance to develop the power he showed at AAA. Viciedo likely won’t have third base eligibility in most leagues this year, but he could still be a great option if you’re looking for some cheap power at the end of your draft.

2. Will Alex Rios Rebound?

There’s nothing more tantalizing in fantasy baseball than a guy with 30-30 potential. There’s also nothing more frustrating in fantasy baseball than a guy who has 30-30 potential, but never actually gets to 30-30. Enter Alex Rios

After being taken in the 1st round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999, Rios has always had big expectations laid at his feet. He has the physique and skills of the always-coveted “five-tool player”, and he also has the big contract ($64 million over six years) to go along with those skills. He’s always come this close to realizing his upside, but as he enters the 2012 season on the wrong side of 30, it’s time to start wondering if he’s already hit his ceiling.

Rios’ best seasons in the majors came during the span of 2007-2008 when he was playing for the Blue Jays, but he actually put up surprisingly decent numbers for the White Sox in 2010 (.284, 89 runs, 21 HRs, 88 RBIs, and 34 steals) after being traded by the Blue Jays in what amounted to a salary-dump. That 2010 season fooled a lot of fantasy owners into spending a top-60 pick on Rios in 2011 and (unfortunately for them) that resulted in a lackluster season total of .227, 64 runs, 13 HRs, 44 RBIs, and 11 steals.

Will 2012 bring us the Rios of 2010 or the Rios of 2011? The truth most likely somewhere in the middle, but Rios’ finish to 2011 (.307, 5 HRs in September) gives fantasy owners promise as we head into 2012. Assuming he stays healthy, Rios’ albatross of a contract will lead to the White Sox giving him every opportunity to succeed, and he’s absolutely worth a late-round flier if he falls in your draft.

1. Gavin Floyd or John Danks?

The trick answer to this question should probably be Chris Sale, but I’m going to leave him out of this and compare two similar White Sox veterans: John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Danks will more than likely be the White Sox’ Opening Day starter, but is Floyd actually the better option for fantasy owners?

At 26, Danks is the younger of the two and will enter drafts ranked four or five rounds ahead of Floyd. Entering 2011, he had posted three straight seasons of 12+ wins, 140+ K’s, and an ERA/WHIP combo that was no worse than 3.77/1.28, respectively. Danks stumbled out of the gate last year, though, and began the year 0-8 before finishing the season at 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He did, however, post a 7.13 K/9 IP (2nd-best of his career) while lowering his walk rate for the second year in a row. Forgive, but don’t forget here. There should be more of a reversion back to his 2008-2010 numbers, but his 2011 season cannot be thrown out the window either.

Floyd hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.00 since 2008, so is he really worth owning? He’s obviously not worth anything other than a late-round pick, but there’s still value to be had in Floyd. He kept his walks in check last year and posted a career-best 1.16 WHIP, while racking up over 150 K’s for the fourth straight year. Floyd also had an egregious 5.66/3.41 home/road ERA split last year, so picking the right spot-starts could prove highly beneficial for a discerning owner.

I’m not telling you to pick Floyd over Danks, but I am saying that I like Floyd in Round 16 just as much as I like Danks in Round 12. If you don’t get Danks where you want him, don’t panic. Just wait a couple of rounds, and Floyd will be right there to provide you similar value.

2012 Outlook: Other than Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez, there’s really no one of note on the White Sox in terms of fantasy prowess. Just because there aren’t players of note doesn’t mean there aren’t players to take risks on. Fantasy leagues are often won or lost on late-round fliers, and the White Sox are ripe with plenty of low-risk, high-upside players to take a chance on. There’s proven veterans (Floyd, Danks), overpaid former stars trying to reclaim past glory (Dunn, Rios), and young players trying to prove they aren’t busts (Sale, Viciedo) that can all be had at a low cost. Just make sure you choose wisely, and a member of the Pale Hose might be able to help your team take the crown.

Nick Raducanu finished 2011 ranked in the top 20 on ESPN’s Fantasy site, and is the mystery man behind the TraderX persona at www.FantasyTrade411.com. You can follow him and ask him for fantasy advice on Twitter @FantasyTrade411.

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