Will the Chicago White Sox offense be offensive? Only time and a 162-game schedule will determine that.
The perennial slugging South Siders are mostly gone, replaced by new, sleek and more refined position players. Those new players can rake, but also take an extra base and score from first on a double.
The go-go is back for the White Sox. However, the question remains: Will their run production be enough to pass the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central Division race? Last fall, owner Jerry Reinsdorf, general manager Kenny Williams and assistant general manager Rick Hahn all decided to go along with manager Ozzie Guillen's new plan to rotate the designated hitter role between a number of different players. Guillen's idea was to use the position as a possible rest spot for players such as Carlos Quentin, A.J. Pierzynski andPaul Konerko. Guillen felt that by resting some of his better hitters and still getting them in the lineup, they could be more productive rather than having to have a total day off. After outfielder Johnny Damon turned down their offer to sign as a free agent, the White Sox settled in on their new plan.
The top of the White Sox order will be fun to watch. The consistent Juan Pierre brings his small ball game to the American League, which fits perfectly with Guillen's run-and-gun offensive mentality. Pierre could score as much as 120 runs with Gordon Beckham, Quentin and Konerko hitting behind him. The designated hitter combination of Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay brings a diverse element of power and contact hitting.
Jones' offense may be the biggest surprise in spring training for the White Sox. It seems as if he has found the ability to hit for power again while reinventing his entire game. Jones has been one of the hardest workers this spring, and signs of the former superstar player he once was have reappeared. Kotsay is a singles and doubles hitter who brings an important left-handed bat to a lineup that is in need of more left-handed hitting. Kotsay, Pierzynski and Mark Teahen will be expected to drive in some runs and try to make up for the lack of power from the left side.
Don't be surprised if the White Sox hit 175 home runs. Pencil in the middle infielders, Alexei Ramirez and Beckham, with 23 each. Konerko, Quentin and Alex Rios all are capable of hitting 25 to 30 home runs, and the combination of Jones and Kotsay should be good for 25. Before you say that's not going to happen; remember, U.S. Cellular Field is the easiest home run park in the American League. As far as comeback seasons go, both Rios and Quentin must have big seasons in order for the White Sox to score enough runs.
Offensive strengths: The White Sox are a solid contact hitting team that should be able to play long ball and small ball equally well. Ozzie has the team that he wants!
White Sox offensive weaknesses: No left-handed RBI pop leaves the White Sox lineup unbalanced against the big boys in the American League.
White Sox win!: The club hits 175 home runs; Quentin and Rios lead the way with a combined 60 home runs.
White Sox lose!: Pierre starts showing his age by slowing down on the bases and Beckham suffers through a sophomore slump. Both Rios and Quentin fail to carry the load.