White Sox spring preview: Infield

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
9:00
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Gordon BeckhamDennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireThe White Sox need Gordon Beckham to make the same strides offensively as he did defensively last season.
With spring training fast approaching, Doug Padilla previews the White Sox roster by position.

The good news is that Gordon Beckham sounds confident as spring training approaches. The only problem is that he sounded just as confident before the 2011 season began.

When it comes to the Chicago White Sox’s infield in 2012 much of the intrigue revolves around whether Beckham stops regressing and delivers the kind of season his talent suggests he can.

To his credit, Beckham turned himself into a solid defensive second baseman. He now needs to make the same strides at the plate.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhPaul Konerko had his fifth All-Star season in 2011, batting .300 with 31 home runs.
Third baseman Brent Morel figures to get his fair share of attention this season as Robin Ventura takes over as manager. Nobody expects Morel to extend his huge September over the course of an entire year, but working with a former third baseman in Ventura, along with a full year in the major leagues under his belt, should yield more consistency.

A slow start on defense got shortstop Alexei Ramirez off on the wrong foot and although he recovered, he never managed to take the next step in his development, appearing to plateau instead. Captain Paul Konerko keeps on delivering and is one of the few White Sox players who wouldn’t disappoint by repeating his performance from last season.

Eduardo Escobar, Brent Lillibridge and even Dan Johnson could see time on the infield as backups.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012


The remarkably consistent Konerko wouldn’t hurt the club with a slight dip in production, but only if Morel, Ramirez and Beckham all take a step forward this season. Morel still appears to have room to make huge strides and if Ventura can bring it out of him, the club can get much-needed run production from the bottom of the order. Beckham, though, is the real key toward making this group work.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012


If Beckham hasn’t shown something by the middle of May, the White Sox will be left scrambling for other options. Escobar could be the answer, but he still needs plenty of seasoning. Could Lillibridge handle the load at second base and deliver in a full-time role like he did as a backup last season? If Ramirez gets off to another slow start with the glove and Morel continues to rush himself on throws, the high hopes for a solid left-side defense will be dashed.

KID TO WATCH


A scenario exists where one Ozzie replaces the other this season. Shortstop Ozzie Martinez, whom the White Sox received as part of the compensation when Ozzie Guillen went to the Miami Marlins, has an outside shot at landing a backup infield role. The Puerto Rico native has 66 career major-league at-bats but in those he has nearly as many strikeouts (15) as hits (17).

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.317 36 107 80
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208