At first glance, the outfield appears to be the strength of the Sox. Magglio Ordonez is about as solid all around as you will find in the game today. He was nearly dealt in a blockbuster trade during the off season, but the MLB Players Association vetoed the deal. Carlos Lee hopes to carry the momentum from his 2003 campaign which saw him hit 31 homers and finish with a batting average close to .300. Flanked by Ordonez in rightfield and Lee in leftfield, Aaron Rowand appears to have the beat on the centerfield job. The White Sox starting crew is very potent, however, there are no players with significant major league experience to back them up. Joe Borchard played in 16 games last season and was unable to hit over.200. The health and performance of the starting three could make or break the White Sox season.
The infield looks very similar to last year. Joe Crede will start at the hot corner on opening day. Jose Valentin will start at shortstop and look to improve his batting average. He hit 28 homeruns in 2003, but his batting average dipped into the .230's. The other half of the doubleplay combination will be Willie Harris. The big question regarding Harris is whether or not his bat will be able to keep him in the majors. Youngster Juan Uribe will be chomping at the bit to take over, should Harris falter. Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas will split time between first base and designated hitter. The White Sox are hoping that "Big Frank" can repeat his performance of 2003. However, there are reports that he may not be happy, Rumor has it that he has not spoken to Ozzie Guillen since he was named manager. Chemistry will be crucial to the success of this team, so you can expect them to iron out their differences in Spring Training. The starting catcher has not yet been determined. It will depend on the Spring training battle between youngster Miguel Olivo and aging Sandy Alomar, Jr. It appears that Olivo is the favorite, but as we all know, anything can happen in the spring.
The pitching staff was dealt a major blow when Bartolo Colon signed with the Anaheim Angels in the off season. Colon's departure will pave the way for Mark Buehrle to become the number one starter. Esteban Loaiza hopes to duplicate a 2003 season that saw him win 21 games. The last three spots in the rotation are anyone's guess, but John Garland and Scott Schoeneweis figure to be two of the three. Youngsters Felix Diaz, Dan Wright, and Jon Rauch will battle for the number five spot. The bullpen is a definite strength for the Sox. Damaso Marte and return to solidify the relievers. The addition of Japanese right hander Shingo Takatsu will only help matters. The White Sox are hoping Billy Koch can return to the form that made him one of the premier closers early in his career. If he continues to struggle, look for Marte to return to the closer role.
Overall, the Chicago White Sox have some major off season losses to overcome. That, along with a first year manager, will result in a step backwards from the 2003 season. The 2004 season should answer a lot of question. Magglio Ordonez' contract status is a huge question mark. Will the Sox be able to lock down the future of the franchise for years to come? Another big question will be the performance of Frank Thomas and whether or not he and Ozzie Guillen will be able to co-exist.
Prediction: 78-84 3rd Place in the American League Central