2014 Outlook: Sale continues to defy the naysayers, who might claim his herky-jerky delivery increases his long-term injury risk or that the elbow issue that haunted him early in 2012 might eventually return. But after two seasons as a top-shelf fantasy starter -- he finished 13th among starters on our Player Rater in 2012 and 11th in 2013 -- Sale has earned our confidence. He has shown no change in velocity, fastball or slider effectiveness, or hints of overusage in two seasons as a full-time starter. Sale has elevated his game to that of an elite fantasy starter, particularly attractive in sabermetric/quality start-oriented leagues, which don't rely on wins (a problem for a pitcher backed by a weak offense such as the Chicago White Sox's).
2014 Outlook: When Ramirez first came over to the States, the expectation was for considerably more speed than power, but he surprised by displaying more pop than expected while not running very much. In other words, last season was supposed to be the norm for the Cuban Missile. The thing is, it's rare that a stolen-base spike at age 32 is sustained, so the safe play is to expect pullback. On the other hand, a return to double-digit homers would not be shocking, so, at the end of the day, Ramirez is what he always has been: an extremely durable and reliable middle-infield option for those who don't draft for scarcity early on.
2014 Outlook: After consecutive, successful big-league debut seasons by Cuban imports Yoenis Cespedes (2012) and Yasiel Puig (2013), it's understandable that fantasy owners are giddy over the prospects of a third in a row, this one by Abreu. He's the ultimate unknown commodity entering 2014: Scouts have suggested a range as wide as his being a low-average, big-power type like Pedro Alvarez; a higher-average, modest-power type like Cespedes; or perhaps as little as a fringe big-league regular. A 2011 league MVP in Cuba, Abreu excelled at filling two specific categories: Home runs and times hit by pitch, the latter a direct result of his close-to-the-plate batting stance. (Hey, at least the latter fuels on-base percentage.) He'll presumably be the White Sox's starting first baseman, in a ballpark that plays beautifully for power. Abreu might be wildly streaky and a feast-or-famine type initially, but he's well worth your mid-round consideration.
2014 Outlook: Eaton hasn't had much luck in the injury department during his young career: His 2012 ended prematurely due to a broken hand, and he suffered an elbow injury during spring training that cost him the first 61 regular-season games of 2013. Last year, he never seemed to be his usual self in terms of power and speed, but he'll get a fresh start this year with the Chicago White Sox, presumably taking over as their regular center fielder. It's a cluttered outfield picture, somewhat threatening Eaton's at-bats, and he needs to improve his walk rate to the 11.5 percent mark in his minor league career or 13.6 percent in his brief 2012 stint, but there's a very real chance he could quickly develop into a 10/30 performer who hits atop the lineup. With a strong spring, he'll surely soar up draft boards.
2014 Outlook: De Aza's first full season as a starter rates a success on the heels of a career-high 17 homers, but closer inspection reveals an across-the-board drop in his slash line spurred by a big jump in strikeout rate. This is even more relevant since De Aza may not have the luxury of full-time at-bats to pump up the counting stats. His present role is in a platoon, as Adam Eaton is slated to take over full-time duties in center field. This renders De Aza an intriguing player in AL-only formats, since a trade or an injury to an outfielder will propel him back to regular status. Just don't assume he'll maintain last season's career-best power pace; some give-back should be expected.
2014 Outlook: Jones pitched better than last season's ERA suggests, as both his FIP and xFIP were well under 3.00. That said, it remains to be seen if he can sustain the simultaneous improvement in strikeout and walk rates. The White Sox seem to think he can, thus he'll be given a chance to fill the club's open closer role. At least for now, Jones is best considered a reserve or speculative option for saves. In the likely event he breaks camp with the gig, he still needs to show the skills gains exhibited last season to be a trusted closer.
2014 Outlook: The Chicago White Sox's primary haul in last July's three-team Jake Peavy trade, Garcia batted .304/.327/.447 in a 42-game stint for his new squad, setting himself up for a starting role entering 2014. Those stats, however, don't grant the promise of a substantial breakthrough, even if his power should play well in U.S. Cellular Field. Garcia is a noted free-swinger, making him susceptible to slumps, which is a concern for a player fighting for at-bats in a crowded outfield. He's an intriguing, up-and-coming talent, but he's more fringe candidate in mixed leagues rather than one you should target in AL-only formats.
2014 Outlook: Dunn is the epitome of the "three-true-outcomes" slugger, having either walked, struck out or hit a home run in almost exactly 50 percent of his career trips to the plate, that the highest such rate of anyone in baseball history (minimum 5,000 plate appearances). As he has aged, more of those outcomes have shifted into the strikeout column, as he has the second- (2011), fourth- (2012) and 29th-highest (2013) K rates of any hitter in a single season of 450-plus PAs, all of those comprising his past three seasons. Dunn is more of a specialty player, valuable in leagues that reward walks and on-base percentage, but more of a liability in Rotisserie leagues which weight batting average. And with the Chicago White Sox sporting a new first base/DH candidate in Jose Abreu, Dunn's at-bats are at greater risk now than they were a half-decade ago.
2014 Outlook: Scary fact: Beckham is the only player to have managed four consecutive seasons of at least 400 plate appearances and a sub-.700 OPS. That's how far his stock has slipped, at a stage of his career during which one would expect significant growth. A wrist issue limited him in 2013, and the Chicago White Sox appear to be forgiving enough to grant him their second-base gig again, but there aren't any hints of an imminent step forward. Even worse: Beckham was a more productive hitter against right- than left-handed pitchers, as well as more so on the road than at home, in 2013; though those career splits have been somewhat balanced. That's not a good thing, because it means he's a weak mix-and-match, and therefore more AL-only than mixed commodity.
2014 Outlook: Quintana has the reputation of being a pitch-to-contact soft-tosser, but in reality his fastball averages a respectable 90 mph hour and his strikeout rate has been above league average two of the past three seasons. Even so, Quintana is a bit of a risk since he works in the unforgiving U.S. Cellular Field. In fact, Quintana's 2013 xFIP of 3.86, which followed a 4.33 mark the previous season, warns an ERA correction is likely on the way.
2014 Outlook: The second longest-tenured player with his current team behind only Derek Jeter, Konerko returns to one of the most cluttered first base/DH pictures he has seen in his 16 years with the Chicago White Sox. Jose Abreu's arrival threatens to cut into Konerko's playing time somewhat, but that's a decision that makes some sense, as Konerko begins 2014 at the age of 38 and riding a three-year pattern of declining OPS. Back issues might have made his career decline appear more extreme in 2013 than was reality, but even with a mild rebound, Konerko is more AL-only than mixed asset, and he has more of a look of a daily-league, play-against-lefties type, having batted .313/.398/.525 against southpaws last season.
2014 Outlook: While last season has to be considered a disappointment for Viciedo, as his homer output tumbled, his doubles and triples went up, so the change in isolated power wasn't as steep as hitting 11 fewer homers might suggest. More worrisome for fantasy purposes is at present, Viciedo could fall into the wrong side of a platoon. This could actually present a buying opportunity in deep leagues, since a trade (Alejandro De Aza) would push Viciedo back to full time. In addition, if Adam Eaton struggles, De Aza could slide back to center, availing more time for Viciedo.
2014 Outlook: Considered more of a fallback option at third base for the White Sox than a prime candidate to start, Semien nevertheless shouldn't receive the "ho-hum" approach in deeper fantasy leagues. He's capable of chipping in a few homers and steals, averaging 19 and 20 per 162 games played in his minor league career. At the very least, Semien should make the White Sox as a utility infielder, so consider him a back-of-your-roster option in those AL-only formats.
2014 Outlook: Johnson, one of the Chicago White Sox's top pitching prospects, rode a combined 1.96 ERA and 0.99 WHIP to a five-start, late-season stint with the big club, where despite shaky command numbers he outperformed his peripherals. Those who look at his 5.40 FIP might assume some correction is coming; but understand that he's still a pitcher adjusting to life in the bigs, and that his stuff suggests that improved K and walk numbers might be coming, helping ease those worries. Johnson might need his matchups watched initially, as he's a pitcher on a noncontender in a homer-friendly ballpark, but he's worth a stash in AL-only formats.
2014 Outlook: Despite losing the job to Josh Phegley late last season, Flowers is the leading candidate to be the White Sox's opening-day catcher. He's got some pop but a horrendous contact rate puts your batting average, and his job, in jeopardy.