Former White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams refused to use the word “rebuilding” to describe his team. After a dismal season in which key players were traded for budding prospects, current GM Rick Hahn has also eschewed the dreaded r-word. He prefers to describe it more as "accelerated retooling." The belief is that the White Sox can compete while grooming prospects through first-hand experience in the majors. A number of these players have the potential to provide value to fantasy owners this season, while trying to restore a winning tradition on the Southside of Chicago.
Opportunity 10, Talent 7
Abreu is not a traditional prospect, since he came over from Cuba in an offseason signing. White Sox GM Rick Hahn has repeatedly declared that Abreu will get an opportunity to prove his worth against major league pitching right away. With the return of Paul Konerko on a one-year deal, Abreu’s at-bats will not be up there with most first basemen. He will see a majority of the platoon at bats at first base, and can find himself as the designated hitter at times when Adam Dunn requires a day off. Hitting in a friendly home park like U.S Cellular Field, Abreu’s home run numbers could skyrocket. The issue with him, though, is his plate discipline-- especially if Dunn hits behind him in the order, most pitchers will not give him much to hit. Look for Abreu's numbers to be similar to what Yoenis Céspedes put up during his 2012 rookie campaign (.292/23/83/70/16).
Projected Stats: .277/30/85/74/5
When to draft: A Pedro Alvarez type of player fantasy wise, draft Abreu in the late rounds to fill out your bench.
Opportunity 7, Talent 7
Coming over from the Diamondbacks in the Addison Reed trade, Davidson fills a need that the White Sox have struggled with for years: the lack of a power-hitting third baseman. Since the days of Joe Crede, the White Sox have been searching for some sort of offensive presence at third base. What could cut in to Davidson’s playing time this season is the club’s desire to give incumbent Conor Gillaspie one last shot. Gillaspie should get a number of at bats against righties, but Davidson should see the bulk of the duty at the hot corner. Just like Abreu, Davidson will be able to showcase his power in his new hitter-friendly home. His batting average is projected not to be high because of his long swing, but Davidson provides an intriguing option for a little later on in the year, if he proves he can compete at the major league level.
Projected Stats: .255/19/62/57/1
When to draft: Davidson is worth a flier if your team is not deep at the third base position. Keep an eye on him later on in the year, but he is not worth a draft pick in shallower leagues.
Opportunity 3, Talent 4
Semien is an interesting case going into the 2014 season. Trade rumors have surfaced surrounding Gordon Beckham or Alexei Ramirez, and Semien would be the favorite to slide into either position. In the meantime, he is looking to make the big league roster as a utility infielder. Provided significant playing time, Semien can be a quality midseason pickup. With above-average speed, Semien was able to collect 24 stolen bases in the minors last season. In his cup of coffee in Chicago in 2013, Semien showed impressive bat speed. Listed at 190 lbs. Semien has a surprising ability to drive the ball to all fields. This, with his speed, should lead to a fair number of extra-base hits. If Ramirez or Beckham get moved before the deadline, look for Semien to be a worthy middle-of-the-season pickup.
Projected Stats: .288/3/25/38/16
When to draft: No need to waste a draft pick on Semien. Be the first one to jump on him if one of the White Sox’s middle infielders is traded.
Opportunity 2, Talent 5
The White Sox picked up Nieto in the Rule 5 draft from the Washington Nationals. If he does not stay on the major league roster the entire season, he will be sent back to the Nationals per the rules of the Rule 5 draft. Out of all the prospects that have a chance of making it to the majors in the White Sox organization, Nieto is the most intriguing case. People have a general idea what Abreu, Davidson and Semien can bring to the team, but the jury seems still to be out on Nieto. He could be anything from the starting catcher to on his way back to the Nationals' organization. With some experts thinking that Josh Phegley and Tyler Flowers have already showed they can't shoulder the load everyday catching duty in the majors, Nieto may get a chance to shine. He was attractive to the White Sox because of his power and plate discipline, and though he has not played a game over High-A ball, he provides the most upside offensively out of the three options behind the plate. If he wins the job out of Spring Training and you are in need of a backup catcher for your team, take a shot with Nieto.
Projected Stats .275/10/45/68/3
When to draft: A lot of fantasy owners like to use their final pick in the draft for a questionable guy with high upside or on a guy not in the league anymore to get laughs out of their buddies. Nieto is worth your last pick in the draft if he has won the catching job out of Spring Training.
Opportunity 10, Talent 6
Johnson is penciled in as the fourth starter in the White Sox rotation. Even with just five major league starts under his belt, Johnson has shown the poise of a five-year starter. What makes him an intriguing fantasy option is his demoralizing sinker. While his strikeout totals aren't the highest, his sinker will keep runners off the base paths. The only glaring problem with Johnson is that teams now have more film on him so a sophomore slump is possible, but pitching coach Don Cooper has a track record of preventing this from happening to his pitchers.
Projected Stats: 10, 3.99, 1.36, 115, 0
Where to select: Do not draft. Johnson is a viable option for a spot start, though. Late in the season, when your team is decimated by injuries, you might consider Johnson for the stretch run.
Opportunity 6, Talent 6
Petricka will start the season as a long reliever for the White Sox, but he could find himself in the rotation if one of the original starting five struggles. What also makes Petricka intriguing is that he might be an option to close by the middle of the season. White Sox management has proclaimed that they are searching for a young gun to take over as closer for the departed Addison Reed. This is more of a long shot, but it remains on the radar. Realistically, until Petricka develops an effective off-speed pitch, he will accumulate most of his innings in the long-relief role. Keep an eye on what management does, and if you see Petricka take on either a starting or closing role, he will be worth a roster spot, at least for a two-week trial.
Projected Stats: 5, 3.75, 1.25, 99, 1
Where to select: Do not draft. Petricka is another viable option for a spot start. If the guys on the depth chart do not pan out, either in the rotation or in the back end of the bullpen, take a flier on Petricka for the playoff run.