This week, SI.com is previewing all 30 MLB teams, counting down to the No. 1 team in the league. At No. 26: The Chicago White Sox. You can find previews for teams 30 through 27 here.
2013 Record and Finish: 63-99, fifth place in AL Central (28th overall)
2014 Projected Record: 65-97, fourth place in AL Central
The Case For
No other way to put it: The White Sox were a disaster last year. This winter, general manager Rick Hahn did as much as he could to improve a putrid offense that scored the fewest runs in the American League last year (yes, fewer than the Astros). Cuban star Jose Abreu, dynamic centerfielder and leadoff man Adam Eaton, and 22-year-old third base prospect Matt Davidson—"A potential 25-home run guy," one scout said—will add some thump into the lineup. The defense, too, should be improved with Eaton in the outfield, and in the rotation, the Sox have one of the most underrated pitchers in the game, Chris Sale, anchoring the staff; Sale finished in the top-six in Cy Young voting the past two seasons, and at 25, he's still getting better. The White Sox aren't good enough to make a run at the Tigers atop the division, but if Abreu and Eaton have big debuts in Chicago and Sale has a Cy Young-winning season, Ventura's crew could hang around in the Wild Card race and finish above .500.
The Case Against
Even one of the best pitching coaches in the game, Don Cooper, won't be able to work miracles with a staff that's relying on John Danks and Freddie Paulino in the middle of the rotation. Danks has had a good spring, but his days as a front-line starter are over, and Erik Johnson has promise but isn't ready to make an impact. Jose Quintana quietly had a nice season in 2013, but there isn't top-of-the-rotation upside there. Sale, with his thin frame and Cirque du Soleil delivery, has long been called as an injury risk, and if this is the year he misses significant time, the Pale Hose could lose 100.
X-Factor: Jose Abreu
Presenting the biggest X-factor in the entire division: The Cuban import could be anything from a 30-home run hitter this season to a $68 million bust. The good news is, he's looked great this spring. "I think he's legit," said one scout who saw him in Arizona. "He hits balls that just keep going and going. He's a better hitter than [Yoenis] Cespedes." The White Sox are clearly betting that Abreu is a star; with their $68 million investment, they made the Cuban the team's most important player other than Chris Sale.
Number To Know: 121
That's how many errors the White Sox committed, most in the American League.
Most overrated: Matt Davidson
"Matt Davidson at third base is heavy legged, not the agile kind of guy you want at the position. He'll be a 20-plus home run guy at some point, but I'm not convinced he's going to stay at third."
Most underrated: Adam Eaton
"They made a great deal to get Eaton, and he'll be a fan favorite in Chicago. A year ago, people were talking about him as one of the faces of the Diamondbacks, and I think his stock has just fallen too much. He'll hit 10 home runs in that ballpark, steal 40 bases at the top of the lineup, and give them really good defense in centerfield."
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