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: 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: 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: 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: Danks stayed healthy enough in 2014 to pitch in his highest innings total since 2010, as he logged 193 2/3 innings in 32 starts. Despite that, he still put up numbers more in line with his past few seasons rather than earlier in his career, when he posted three straight sub-4.00 ERA years from 2008 to 2010. His 2014 campaign featured a 4.74 ERA, almost exactly in line with his 4.76 FIP, with a 6.0 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. After an exciting start to his career, these numbers seem to be more aligned with what owners should expect out of the almost 30-year-old. So while he figures to get the opportunity to slot into the rotation as the No. 4 starter, his fantasy upside is limited.
2015 Outlook: Duke is one of the latest starters-turned-relievers to find massive success out of the bullpen, and he was able to parlay that success into a $15 million deal with the White Sox this offseason. Despite gaudy numbers with Milwaukee last season, there will be no mistaking the lefty's role with the Sox, as they also signed David Robertson to a multiyear deal to take over the closing duties. However, Duke could still be useful in deeper mixed leagues if he is able to duplicate his 2014 numbers. The veteran lefty ranked in the top 20 in both groundball rate and strikeout rate among relievers last season, and that excellence led to a 2.45 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. While he was very stingy against left-handed hitters, he also held righties to just a .240/.288/.298 slash line, so Duke should not be pigeonholed as a situational reliever. The switch from the National League to the American League and the move to U.S. Cellular Field are valid concerns, but his ability to miss bats and keep the ball on the ground should aid him in the transition.
2015 Outlook: Petricka spent time on the White Sox's closer carousel last season, racking up 14 saves along the way. At each level since his arrival at Double-A, he's walked at least four batters per nine innings, while his two seasons on the south side of Chicago have featured a sub-7.0 K/9. The White Sox's offseason spending spree pumped the brakes on the aforementioned carousel, as David Robertson will take over the ninth inning. Unless he begins to miss bats more frequently, there are better targets than Petricka in leagues where holds are rewarded. The White Sox likely will use him in middle-inning situations with runners on base, as Petricka's ability to induce grounders at a high clip (career 63.3 percent in the big leagues) makes him a viable option to work out of jams with double plays.
2015 Outlook: Putnam thrived in his first full season in the majors last year, finishing 2014 with a 6-3 record, 1.98 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 54 2/3 innings in 49 appearances out of the bullpen. His 7.6 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 were mediocre for a relief pitcher, but he made up for it with an excellent 53.1 percent ground ball rate. Putnam also allowed just two home runs, and he held his opponents to a 15.2 percent line-drive rate. By the end of the season, he often found himself pitching in the eighth inning, and he sporadically picked up six saves throughout the year, in addition to 16 holds. Following his impressive rookie season, the 27-year-old Putnam is set to work as one of Chicago's top setup men, in front of new acquisition David Robertson. While he doesn't have the velocity or strikeout rate that one typically associates with a closer, Putnam would likely be one of the top candidates to replace Robertson should the former Yankee be sidelined by an injury.
2015 Outlook: The Mariners designated Noesi for assignment just days into the season and promptly traded the right-hander to Texas, where he made three appearances before getting DFA'd again. Noesi was finally afforded some stability after joining the White Sox on a waiver claim, as he remained in the rotation for the rest of the season, making 27 starts. The results certainly weren't great (4.39 ERA, 1.33 WHIP), and his 4.85 FIP from his time with Chicago even suggests he overachieved. His biggest issue last season was the long ball -- he gave up an AL-leading 28 homers, 19 of which were surrendered in 101 2/3 innings at U.S. Cellular Field -- and it's hard to imagine him correcting those issues given his fly-ball tendencies (40.5 percent FB rate for career). He may very well open the season with a rotation spot, but Noesi's susceptibility to hard contact and middling strikeout (6.4 K/9) and walk rates (3.2 BB/9) make it hard to be even slightly optimistic.