After watching seven games in five days during my yearly sojourn to White Sox spring training, I have come away with some opinions and observations (in no particular order):
1. Seems like the calm has been restored with the Sox hierarchy. Combine that with great team chemistry and it’s got to have a positive impact going forward.
2. Adam Dunn‘s presence in the lineup will cause big trouble for opposing pitchers. He’s going to frustrate us, a la Jim Thome, with his strikeouts, but hopefully his mammoth swing at the Cell will produce a 40-50 home run season.
3. I have very high hopes that Gordon Beckham will put 2010 in the rear-view mirror and revert back to the Beckham of two seasons ago.
4. I’d prefer that the Sox stick with Brent Morel and the expected growing pains at third. Mark Teahen is having a great spring at the plate, but with all the firepower in the lineup we need Morel’s defense.
5. Top prospects Jordan Danks and Tyler Flowers, both coming off subpar seasons, have rebounded this spring. My feeling is that there’s a decent chance that both spend some time in Chicago this summer–even before the September callups.
6. Alexei Ramirez, coming off of his Silver Slugger season, will have a monster campaign and establish himself as one of the elite players in the league.
7. I think Lastings Milledge will make the team out of spring training and will make a significant impact as he finally turns the corner in his career.
8. He couldn’t have been much better after being called up last season, but Chris Sale may very well struggle a bit in his sophomore year. That said, he’ll still be a huge plus in our revamped pen.
9. Carlos Quentin is a big key. If he’s the CQ of 2008, the Sox offense will do enormous damage. If he’s the Quentin of last year and/or is injured, the lineup won’t nearly be as formidable.
10. I know what he brings to the party, but I’m not a Brent Lillibridge guy. He doesn’t play as smart as he should.
11. I’m really happy Omar Vizquel is back. He’s a marvel.
12. Ramon Castro could very well be the best backup catcher in the game.
13. I can’t wait for Dayan Viciedo to recover from his injury and join the club at some point this summer. He’s an exciting player to watch with an electric bat. And he’s only 22.
14. I have confidence that the bullpen will come together, I really like its makeup. My guess is that Matt Thornton will be the closer with Sale in a setup role, but there’s a great deal of flexibility so the roles may not be as cut and dried as they have been in the past.
15. Speaking of the pen, look for Sergio Santos in particular to have an outstanding season.
16. Hopefully Jake Peavy will be ready in early April. If not, I can see Philip Humber, once a top pitching prospect with the Mets, stepping in until Peavy is ready or assuming the long man role in the bullpen. Thanks to Don Cooper, he’s made great progress this spring.
17. It’s time John Danks takes a huge step forward and joins the American League pitching elite.
18. Since joining the Sox, Tony Pena has been hot and cold. Here’s hoping he’s more the former than the latter.
19. Eduardo Escobar, who played so well in the Arizona Fall League and will start the season in Charlotte, isn’t yet a candidate for a major league roster spot, but I have a feeling he’ll be in Chicago before too long.
20. The Sox are strong. From the starting staff to the bullpen to the everyday lineup to the bench, I believe they have what it takes to outlast the Twins and Tigers.