Doug Padilla recaps the White Sox and looks at what changes might be in store for 2014.
A group that played defense as well as anybody in 2012 was nowhere near that good just one year later. Kevin Youkilis came to the White Sox during the 2012 season and settled the left side of the infield. This year, Jeff Keppinger was unable to take control of the third-base spot, while Conor Gillaspie showed flashes of solid defense early but wasn't able to maintain it. On the right side, Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko both spent lengthy stays on the disabled list with injuries.
The good: When he was healthy, Beckham showed that he could be ready to be much more consistent at the plate, but that star potential that was being talked about when he broke into the league no longer is mentioned. When Gillaspie was acquired in a trade with the San Francisco Giants in spring training, he looked like a solid left-handed bat off the bench. He showed that if he continues to develop he can be much more than that. He admitted early that defense has never been his strength, but showed enough solid plays to make it clear that he should get better in that area. Nobody was touting Joe Crede as a solid defender either and he developed into a steady, if not spectactular, fielder.
The bad: It was obvious to see the defensive miscues on the infield that spelled doom for the White Sox, like Alexei Ramirez's 22 errors, which led all American League shortstops. The real issue is that nobody on the infield rose to the occasion offensively. Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn started all but 16 games at first base and yet White Sox first basemen finished ninth in the American League in home runs with 23 and 12th in RBIs with 77. Their 62 runs scored were 13th. At second base, the White Sox had a .306 on-base percentage, 11th in the AL, while at shortstop (essentially Ramirez), they were 12th in RBIs with 51. The biggest trouble spot was at third base where the 60 runs scored were 13th in the AL and the .287 on-base percentage was 12th. The White Sox only had 15 home runs from their third basemen, but four teams (Royals, Twins, Yankees and Angels) were actually worse.
Who's next: Marcus Semien was impressive as a September call-up and could push Gillaspie for playing time at third base next season. Keppinger is expected to revert back to his expected role of utility man. Could the White Sox be interested in trading Beckham this offseason? And if they do, what could they get in return for him? Semien, a natural shortstop, also has a little second base on his resume, while Keppinger can play there as well. If the free agent Konerko doesn't return, Dunn is expected to take over at first base full time.
2014 outlook: It doesn't seem like it can get any worse for the White Sox, but that's not just the story of the infield, that pertains to the entire roster. More is needed from Ramirez offensively and defensively. Early in his career, Ramirez was pushing his way into Gold Glove talk. At this point, the White Sox would be satisfied if he simply got his defense back to the middle of the pack.