Key Additions—Adam Dunn,
Key Losses—Bobby Jenks, JJ Putz
Lineup—You will soon find out that I am a huge fan of Adam Dunn, so adding him to this lineup is a big boost. With Dunn and Konerko in the middle of this lineup, that is 2 solid run producers. While I still see some question marks in what AJ Pierzynski can bring you behind the plate, and what they will get out of Brent Morel at 3rd, all in all I like how this offense shapes up. Just imagine what would happen if Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin return to form. However, what they may have in a lineup they completely lack in defense. Rios is no longer a great center fielder, and Pierre has a very weak arm. But I do believe from top to bottom this is the best lineup in the AL Central.
Rotation—I think this rotation all depends on the ability of Jake Peavy to stay healthy. If he is, then he slides up and gives them a bona-fide ace at the front end of the rotation. If not, they will really need Gavid Floyd and John Danks to have big years. But my thoughts are that Peavy will bounce back and give them a big year, thus moving everyone down a notch. And when you have the always steady Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson is your #5 with his stuff, you have to believe you are in good shape. All in all, along with the best lineup, I believe this is the best starting pitching in the division.
Bullpen—So far I have had a lot of good things to say about this team, but the bullpen is where I think they will have problems. Yes, Matt Thornton has had a 3 very solid years, but making the transition to closer will test him further. Do I think he can do it, absolutely, but the problem with letting Jenks go means not only does Thornton move up a spot, but everyone else moves up a spot, and that causes trouble. With a rotation made up of 3 guys who will struggle to go late in games, those 7th/8th inning guys will be crucial, and I just don’t believe they have the arms in the bullpen to be effective on a nightly basis.
Impact Rookie–Chris Sale, LHP. A year ago at this time, Sale was climbing up draft boards at Florida Gulf Coast University. Now he’s a 21 game MLB vet with 4 saves under his belt. Sale will be Thornton’s toughest competition for the closer spot, but like Thornton in his years with Seattle, walks could be a problem.
Outlook—As I mentioned above, the bullpen for this team scares me quite a bit. I just don’t see how they are going to get the consistency that is needed. But adding a hitter like Dunn and having Peavy for what they hope will be a full year should be enough to compete in the division. Of course, you never know what Ozzie Guillen is going to pull, but all in all the lineup and rotation enough to believe in them going into 2011.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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