Dave Cameron laid out the methodology behind the rankings last Friday. Remember that the grading scale for each category is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.
2012 Organizational Rankings
Chicago’s 2011 Ranking: #14
2012 Outlook: 43 (21st)
Boy, things looked a lot better last season. Armed with the highest payroll in team history and fresh off of signing Adam Dunn, the White Sox were the pre-season favorite to win the AL Central. Dunn responded to his new team with a historically bad .159/.292/.277 slash line. Dunn’s failure at the plate was far from the only issue. All of the White Sox high profile acquisitions cratered last season. Alex Rios looked completely lost at the plate — hitting .227/.265/.348 — and Jake Peavy pitched 111.2 innings with a 4.92 ERA. On top of those issues, Gordon Beckham once again failed to live up to his promising rookie season, and Juan Pierre received 711 underwhelming plate appearances. Thankfully, Paul Konerko continued to defy Father Time — posting the fourth best season of his career at 35-years-old.
Because of those struggles, the White Sox dropped ten spots in our rankings. While the AL Central still is regarded as a weak division, the White Sox will likely need all of those players to rebound if they hope to contend. After an off-season identity crisis in which Kenny Williams uttered the term “rebuilding,” the White Sox changed course and gave John Danks an extension. There will be a lot more pressure on both Danks and Gavin Floyd to perform this season since the dependable Mark Buehrle departed during free agency. Behind those two, the rest of the rotation is questionable. Peavy can’t seem to stay healthy since coming over from San Diego, but his 3.21 FIP last season offers some promise. Phil Humber was a big surprise early last season before fading down the stretch. Chris Sale will be making the conversion to starting pitcher this season, but there are questions about his arm slot and his durability.
The bullpen will need to rebound after losing Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays and Sale to the rotation. The addition of rookie Addison Reed and Hector Santiago — who has been lights out this spring — should help.
The Detroit Tigers may have separated themselves from the pack with their off-season signings, but the White Sox could surprise people if their high-priced acquisitions experience a major resurgence. While those players are likely to improve — mainly because they can’t get any worse — the White Sox may find themselves also chasing the Indians and Royals by season’s end.
2013+ Outlook: 33 (29th)
The White Sox have virtually no future talent in their organization. Due to owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s refusal to go over slot in the draft, the White Sox haven’t come away with many impact players. While cost restrictions can explain some of their troubles, the team consistently made awful choices in the first round. Gordon Beckham once looked like the future of this team after a promising rookie season, but he failed to post an on-base percentage over .300 last season. Dayan Viciedo will take over for Carlos Quentin in the outfield this season. While he has some power potential, his free-swinging ways might remind Sox fans of Juan Uribe. Tyler Flowers was once a strong catching prospect, but his star has dimmed over the past couple of seasons. Brent Morel had a poor debut, but his strong September has made him a breakout candidate this season. While he’s not necessarily young, Alejandro De Aza emerged as a solid center fielder last year.
Chris Sale may be the most exciting young player on the team, but there are some legitimate questions about how the 22-year-old will handle his conversion. He’s already proven to be an effective reliever, but it’s nearly impossible to build a great team around relief pitchers. Unfortunately, the White Sox already have 23-year-old Addison Reed to solidify their bullpen. Reed may develop into a top closer, but he’s still just a reliever. The rotation is still relatively young, but the entire offense is based around aging veterans who — outside of Konerko — have already experienced some serious decline.
Based on their bleak future, there’s a really good chance things will get a lot worse in Chicago before they get better. And since Kenny Williams refuses to rebuild, it’s going to be awful tough for this team to infuse their system with talent immediately. In a year or two, the White Sox could easily have the worst team in baseball unless they find a way to bring in premier young talent.
Financial Resources: 51 (tied for 12th)
The White Sox play in a big market, so it’s not unusual that they perform well in this category. According to Forbes, the White Sox are the tenth most valuable franchise in baseball. While Jerry Reinsdorf has spent a significant amount of money on the team in the past, he hasn’t been as willing to commit to the team after last season’s debacle. Williams convinced Reinsdorf to increase the team’s payroll last season in order to sign Adam Dunn. When that strategy backfired, Reinsdorf refused to put any more money into the team. As a result, the White Sox barely spent any money on free agents this off-season. In January, Williams had already admitted the team’s payroll for 2012 was already “tapped out.”
Williams and Reinsdorf have often said they will spend more money on the team if more fans come to the games, but the White Sox ranked just 21st in attendance last season despite playing in a major market. If the team gets worse and attendance continues to decline, it’s unclear whether Reinsdorf would be willing to invest a ton of money in a bad product.
Baseball Operations: 42 (25th)
Due to their poor drafting record, and recent failures in free-agency, the White Sox baseball operations didn’t fare well in our ratings. While the White Sox likely have a strong statistical department, Kenny Williams is regarded as a GM that relies on his scouts more than the stats. In the past, this has worked to his advantage. John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton were all acquired through trades in which the White Sox gave up little talent. They were also able to turn Jose Contreras into a useful pitcher for a couple of seasons and — as a result — he was a major factor in the team signing Alexei Ramirez.
In more recent years, Williams’ moves have worked against him. Neither Jake Peavy or Adam Dunn have lived up to their expensive contracts, and waiver claims for Alex Rios and Manny Ramirez have not worked out. Williams also should have shown more patience with Javier Vazquez and Nick Swisher — both of whom were shipped out for virtually no return. Unless Williams can recapture his old magic — and the team finally starts making competent decisions in the draft — the White Sox will continue to struggle in this category. The team somehow managed to hold onto Assistant General Manager Rick Hahn, who is very highly regarded around the league.
Overall: 44 (24th)
It’s a tough time to be a White Sox fan. The team already experienced a precipitous drop in the rankings this season, and there’s a good chance things are going to get worse before they get better. The White Sox attempt to go “All In” last season was a huge failure that exposed some significant problems within the organization. Until the team recognizes those flaws, they will continue to make the same mistakes. This team is in dire need of a rebuild, but they are the most ill-equipped organization to undergo that task.
Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.