Poetry in Pros: White Sox Indispensables

Poetry in Pros: White Sox Indispensables
March 28, 2011, 9:38 pm
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Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted: 2:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

Last November, CSNChicago.com counted down the top 30 Chicago White Sox, taking into account each players value to the team in 2011 and beyond.

With an offseason to add and subtract players and a nearly-completed spring training in the books, heres an update to that list, this time focusing only on how crucial each player is to White Sox success in 2011. (In other words, how lost are the White Sox without them?)

The Indispensables

1. Gordon Beckham, 2b
Beckham topping the list seems nutty at first blush. But the third-year man is being put in a position of great responsibility, be it as the best fielding second baseman on the club, the crucial No. 2 hitter on a team full of non-No. 2s, and his status as an up-and-coming hitter (a hot second half of 2010 and an .896 OPS this spring) who could well surpass Alexei Ramirezs offensive output in 2011.

2. Paul Konerko, 1b
Indeed, there is little reason to believe that Konerko can duplicate his 2010 campaign this season. And unlike a year ago, PK has a legitimate backup in Adam Dunn behind him. But in the ideal lineup, Dunn is busy designated hittingwhich leaves Mark Teahen at first base. Konerko may be a subpar fielder, but the step down both offensively and defensively to Teahen makes Konerko indispensable at the first sack.

3. Alexei Ramirez, ss
There may be no player more crucial to White Sox success than Ramirez. But in terms of being irreplaceable, Omar Vizquel has proven that at least for short stretches, he can still throw some leather at short, and swing the bat as well.

4. Alex Rios, cf
Rios anchors the White Sox outfield as a fielder who eats acreage and can throw the pill as well. Sans Rios, the White Sox are faced with moving Juan Pierres weaker arm to center, or spot-starting Brent Lillibridge or Lastings Milledge. All of those options are a significant step down, especially defensively, where the corner outfielders feed off of Rios range.

5. Adam Dunn, dh-1b
Teahen is also the primary backup at DH. Which is the only place you really want him to be the primary backup.

6. Juan Pierre, lf
The baseball world isnt so kind to Pierre, highlighting how many outs he makes per season and chiding his laughably soft arm in left. So why is he indispensable to the Chisox? Hes the only legitimate leadoff hitter (Milledge? Vizquel?), he gets to everything in left and then some, steals bags to set in motion manager Ozzie Guillens speed offense oh, and he plays in nearly every inning of every game. Hes so taken for granted, even a Pierre champion like me has probably ranked him too low on this list.

7. Matt Thornton, closer
Yes, Thornton is the closest thing the White Sox have to a proven closer, and hes been aces almost since the day he first fastened on a White Sox cap. But the truth is, no one knows if he can handle the closer roleand if he doesnt, the White Sox have options. Sergio Santos is a closer-in-training, rookie Chris Sale sports a live arm, and Jesse Crain closed all through his tour of the minors. Thornton is the most crucial arm on the White Sox this season; indispensable as a closer, no.

8. Jake Peavy, starter
Yeah, its the guy on the shelf hogging all the attention again. But a healthy Peavy has the potential to anchor a very strong White Sox rotationa fact borne out by his performance as the teams best starter three or four times through the rotation until his shoulder tendinitis flared up. Without Peavy, the White Sox are forced to grab a begging bowl and long wistfully for the days when Freddy Garcia suited up for them.

9. Sergio Santos, reliever
Santos is no longer the sweet The Club story from a year ago, but a viable live arm with closer potential. Any notion that the third-year pitcher was due for a setback (as fellow young gun Sale was shackled) can be dismissed, as Santos was Chicagos strongest pitcher all spring (nine games, 0.00 ERA, .097 batting average against, .194 on-base percentage against, 10 strikeouts in 9 23 innings). Despite never being seriously looked to as Chicagos closer, Santos earned the right to be the first option behind Thornton to finish games.

10. Edwin Jackson, starter
Wait a minute, Jackson and not John Danks, or another rotation member, is the most indispensable healthy starter? Last year, Jackson was the White Soxs best starter in the second half and brings a consistency and electricity that fellow righty Gavin Floyd does less often. Danks is the White Soxs most valuable starter, but Jackson spreading his entire 2011 campaign out like his second half of 2010 is the difference between a playoff berth and sitting at home watching the Minnesota Twins get swept out of October once again.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.