2015 Outlook: Abreu took the league by storm in 2014, hitting 10 home runs in two of his first three months, with an injury to his left ankle seemingly the only reason he didn't complete the feat in May as well. The power faded after the All-Star break, but his production remained strong, as Abreu traded the homers for base hits and walks. Despite just seven home runs in the second half (compared to 29 in the first), his OPS dipped just 24 points thanks to a .350 average and .435 OBP. Was the ankle a cause in this power slide or was it just the regression of his obscene 35 percent HR/FB rate from the first half? The latter seems most likely, but it gave him a chance to show how good he is at hitting. He'll remain a power-hitting force, and when you pair 30-plus homers with an average that should again exceed .290, the result is a truly elite fantasy commodity.
2015 Outlook: The 2014 season was a tough one for an AL pitcher to try to win the Cy Young Award, given the amazing performances of Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez. But in many other years, Sale would have been an outstanding candidate. He posted excellent ratios (2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), struck out batters at the highest rate of his career as a starter (10.76 K/9) and allowed fewer homers (just 13 in 174 innings). But because he missed six starts with a flexor strain, he never had much of a chance. The White Sox invested in their offense and their bullpen this offseason, which should give Sale more opportunities to win games in 2015. Unfortunately Sale suffered a sprained ankle and an avulsion fracture in his right foot during camp, leaving his status for the start of the season in serious jeopardy. All signs point to him joining the rotation at some point in April, but he will not be ready for Opening Day, and there is a chance he could miss one or two more starts in the early going.
2015 Outlook: When Samardzija first reached the major leagues, his control was a major problem, but over the last two years, it's improved to the point where it's actually become an asset. He once walked 13.2 percent of the batters he faced, but in 2014, that rate slipped down all the way to 4.9 percent. Despite the big improvement in his ratios, Samardzija had a hard time notching wins, thanks to bullpen collapses and poor run support -- he got just 3.55 runs of support in a league where 4.07 was the average. Those factors should change with Samardzija's offseason trade to the White Sox, whose hitting has been boosted by the additions of Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera, while they've added David Robertson and Zach Duke to the back end of their bullpen. The change in ballparks and a little change in the normal ebb and flow of luck on batted balls might hurt Samardzija's ERA and WHIP, but he'll probably do better in the win column as a tradeoff.
2015 Outlook: Ramirez had stolen 20 or more bases before, and he had homered at least 15 times in a season before, but until 2014 -- his age-32 campaign -- he hadn't done both in the same season. In doing so, he was a top-five fantasy shortstop in standard mixed leagues. Despite his free-swinging ways, Ramirez was able to produce in each of the counting categories while hitting for a decent average. Even as a free swinger, he hits for good average and has shown little volatility in that department thanks to a consistently league-average BABIP. At age 33, it is going to be tougher for him to continue stealing 20-plus bases a year, but manager Robin Ventura has given Ramirez the green light to take bases when opportunities are there.
2015 Outlook: The pressure of trying to fill Mariano Rivera's shoes in the country's biggest media market could have easily gotten to Robertson, but the right-hander proved poised and plenty capable in the ninth-inning role in his first season as a closer. A groin injury forced him onto the DL just a week into the season, but Robertson returned after the minimum 15 days and remained healthy the rest of the year, converting 36 of his first 39 save opportunities and improving his strikeout rate from 2013 by three per nine innings. Thanks to an anomalous 15.6 percent HR/FB rate (career 9.4 percent) and a pair of disastrous outings, Robertson finished with an ERA more than a full run above his 2013 mark, but his xFIP actually dropped from 2.60 to 2.13, giving him the confidence to turn down the Yankees' $15.3 million qualifying offer at the end of the season. The White Sox ponied up more than $40 million to acquire Robertson's services, cementing him into the closer role on a rising team for several years to come.
2015 Outlook: It can be easy to overlook LaRoche, as he has essentially been the same player throughout his career. That isn't said critically, however, as he's been a consistently solid contributor and has remained steady into his 30s. In fact, in the past three seasons, his 79 homers are good for 16th in baseball. LaRoche has always hit better in his home park despite rarely having played in a hitter-friendly yard, but now he moves into U.S. Cellular Field, which has been a homer haven for years. The park was eighth in home runs per game (1.86) in 2014, well ahead of the 1.33 mark for Nationals Park. LaRoche has a pair of 30-homer seasons on his ledger and might be primed for a third, but the safe bet is to expect 25 homers and 90 RBI and take anything else as pure profit.
2015 Outlook: Cabrera was one of a handful of impressive offseason acquisitions by the White Sox, and, fortunately for fantasy owners, he goes from one great hitting environment (Rogers Centre) to another in U.S. Cellular Field. A plus-plus hit tool is Cabrera's meal ticket in both real life and fantasy. He has hit better than .300 in three of his past four seasons, and last year's .301 average was good for fifth among qualified hitters. Though he missed the final 22 games of the season with a broken pinky finger, he finished with 16 home runs and six steals. Similar counting stats should be present in the switch-hitter's age-30 season. Cabrera should also be a good source of runs, as he will play almost every day, likely hitting second in Chicago's lineup, right ahead of Jose Abreu.
2015 Outlook: Despite pitching in a park that favors home runs, Quintana permitted just 10 long balls last season. Despite a lack of wins, he did pitch 200 innings with a good ERA and WHIP, and he improved his strikeout and walk rates for the third consecutive season. In fact, Quintana's 2.81 FIP suggests he might have been even better than his 3.32 ERA. He has a good fastball, but it's Quintana's curveball that does the dirty work, as opponents hit .198/.223/.277 on the hammer last season. The White Sox have improved their roster this offseason, which should provide Quintana with better run support and perhaps allow him to reach double-digit wins for the first time. His results certainly merit it.
2015 Outlook: Leadoff hitters on teams with productive middle-of-the-order bats are typically good values on draft day, and Eaton figures to be no different. He missed 35 games with a variety of minor maladies but still managed to score 76 runs in 538 plate appearances. There are some concerns about Eaton's ability to stay healthy for a full season due to his aggressive style of play, but there is no denying his qualifications as a leadoff hitter when healthy. He offers virtually no power, but he hit .300 with a .362 OBP and 15 steals last season. The average was aided by good fortune on balls in play (.359 BABIP), but even if he hits .280 for a full season, he could approach 100 runs and 20 steals. Eaton, who turned 26 this offseason, is basically a finished product, but he has the ability to be a three-category contributor for years to come.
2015 Outlook: At 6-4, 240 pounds and just 23 years old until June, Garcia has a lot of projection left in his game, specifically in the power department. He has never hit double-digit homers in a season, but he has also never topped 260 plate appearances in parts of three seasons. Garcia missed 70 percent of the 2014 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in mid-April but still managed seven home runs and four steals in just 190 plate appearances. A career .272 hitter, Garcia should be able to improve upon the unlucky .244 average (.285 BABIP) he put up last season. Going into the spring, he appears to have a good shot at holding the every-day right-field job on the South Side, and if he can just stay healthy, a 20/10 season could be within reach, with the potential for even more power down the road.
2015 Outlook: Johnson appears to have won a spring competition with Carlos Sanchez and Emilio Bonifacio to become Chicago's starting second baseman in 2015, and for fantasy purposes, Johnson is far and away the more appealing option. While Sanchez may have the defensive edge, Johnson, 24, has the speed to put up 25 to 35 steals if he can find his way to 500-plus plate appearances. Even if he wins the job, veterans like Bonifacio and Gordon Beckham, who will both be used in utility roles, could steal some starts at second base, but it seems like the White Sox want to award the starting job to one of the two youngsters to take advantage of the versatility of the veterans. Johnson's batting average probably won't be anything special and he won't hit for much power, but for someone who can be had at the very end of drafts, he could be a nice source of speed if he can hold on to the job at the keystone on the South Side.
2015 Outlook: Flowers ascended through the minors as a legitimate prospect with the Braves and even cracked some top-100 lists back in 2009 and 2010, but he has never been able to turn that minor league promise (.876 OPS in 2,233 PA) into major league production. A guy who strikes out too often is said to have a hole in his swing; with a career strikeout rate of 35 percent in 1,034 PA as a major leaguer, Flowers seems to have seven or eight in his. The power is somewhat alluring, especially in two-catcher leagues, but how much longer will the White Sox dole out playing time to a late-20s backstop who isn't showing any real signs of improvement?
2015 Outlook: Rodon's combination of proximity to the big leagues and the ceiling of a top-of-the-rotation starter make him the top player from the 2014 draft for fantasy purposes. A big lefty with a plus-plus slider and mid-90s cheese, Rodon made mincemeat of minor league hitters in his brief taste of pro ball. He had 33 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings between High-A and Triple-A, and there was even some talk that he might get a late-season call-up to The Show. However, the White Sox opted to wait for 2015 to put the NC State product to the test. He may boast the best swing-and-miss stuff in the minors, and considering how many innings he pitched in college, it would make sense for him to be pitching for the South Siders sooner than later. Making room for Rodon in the rotation won't be a problem, since the White Sox only have three starters who are beyond reproach.
2015 Outlook: In 2013, Gillaspie managed a hint of value by popping 13 home runs, but he didn't contribute positively anywhere else, which certainly limited his appeal. In 2014, it looked like he traded some of that power output for incremental gains everywhere else, but in actuality he collected a ton of base hits in the first two months of the season (.351 AVG) while being held homerless,s and then spent the final four months as the guy we saw in 2013 (.255 AVG, 7 home runs). It was still an improved season, but this isn't exactly a growth stock ready to explode. He likely deserved at least a few more home runs based on his batted-ball profile, but combining the double-digit power with the .282 AVG seems unlikely especially as someone with a playing-time cap based on his inability to hit lefties.
2015 Outlook: Bonifacio was one of the hottest hitters in baseball last April, slashing .337/.385/.406 with 10 steals in 24 games with the Cubs. His blistering start quickly became an afterthought, however, as he hit .214 with two steals in May before an oblique injury suffered in June sidelined him for more than a month. Chicago traded Bonifacio to Atlanta at the deadline, and he served in a utility role as a part-timer in the Braves' lineup. The soon-to-be 30-year-old still has plenty of speed, however, and he'll look to reclaim a starting role with the White Sox this spring after inking a one-year deal with the South Siders in January.