White Sox Talent Tops Cubs in 2011

For a baseball fan nothing says spring like pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp. Even though the weather in Chicago doesn’t feel spring-like yet, seeing video of local reporters in Arizona makes us willing to tolerate it more in February than we do in December or January. As much as I hate to say it a review of the Cubs Depth Chart and White Sox Depth Chart reveal the talent on the south-side trumps that of the Cubs in 2011.

Starting Pitching
Cubs: Dempster, Zambrano, Garza, Silva, Wells
Sox:   Buehrle, Floyd, Danks, Peavy, Jackson
Top Talent: White Sox

The Cubs top 3 starters have the potential to be great and the trade which acquired Matt Garza from the Rays brought some excitement to Cub fans over the winter. But Zambrano is a continual question mark and the final 2 spots have tentative starters at best, making this a flawed rotation. Once Peavy finishes his rehab, the White Sox starting staff will be considered one of the deepest in the league. Though last year’s statistics from Buehrle, Floyd and Peavy don’t stand out as exceptional, the talent is proven and, with even more hitting power behind them, they will rack up wins this year.

1st Base
Cubs: Carlos Pena
Sox:   Paul Konerko
Top Talent: White Sox

Since Carlos Pena’s 2007 season where he hit .282 with 46 homers, his batting average has drastically declined (.247, .227, .196). Analysts often say players improve in the year before a contract ends. This would bode well for the Cubs since they only gave Pena a one year deal but last year was also a “walk” year for him and Carlos hit below .200. Pena may improve on his 2010 numbers but not enough to be the true 3rd or 4th spot hitter the Cubs really need. When the White Sox resigned Paul Konerko it shocked everyone including Paulie himself. The 1st basemen has been the epitome of consistency for the Sox since 2000 and, even at 35, he’ll remain a middle of the order threat for several more years.

2nd Base
Cubs: Blake DeWitt
Sox:   Gordon Beckham
Top Talent: White Sox

Neither Beckham nor DeWitt had a good 2010, statistically speaking. After being traded to the Cubs last year Dewitt struggled (.261 average, 4 home runs in 53 games). He will compete for time with Jeff Baker and, even if he wins the primary starting job, will be average at best. In LA he failed to develop into a star after being a highly touted prospect. Last year’s below average performance with the Cubs makes me believe he’ll continue to struggle this season. Gordon Beckham’s regression after a very good first partial season with the White Sox in 2009 can be more attributed to a sophomore slump than a downward trend. He showed his commitment to improving this off-season by attending “Camp Cora”, an off-season infield mini-camp led by bench coach, Joey Cora. Beckham will have a bounce back year and should be the Sox second baseman for the foreseeable future.

Cubs: Starlin Castro
Sox:   Alexei Ramirez
Top Talent: Cubs

The White Sox rewarded Ramirez’s solid 2010 season (.282, 18 home runs, 13 stolen bases) with a new 4 year, $32.5 million contract extension. Ramirez has some of the key attributes needed for a shortstop: above average range in the field and a good hitter in the lineup. To take the next step as a hitter though he will need to increase his walks and decrease his strikeouts which both trended the wrong way from 2009 to 2010. As confirmed by the Castro vs Jeter marketing campaign the Cubs expect Starlin to be an immediate star the north-side. He was called up from the minor leagues early last year and immediately showed amazing arm strength and great range in the field. His power numbers were lacking but he finished with a solid .300 batting average and showed the potential to eventually become a middle of the order hitter. The White Sox have a good player at shortstop but a simple eye test tells us Castro has the potential to one day meet the high expectations of sharing a billboard with Yankee star, Derek Jeter.

Third Base
Cubs: Aramis Ramirez
Sox:   Brent Morel
Top Talent: Cubs

Brent Morel is the big unknown on the White Sox. Will he play well enough to keep his job all year? Will Omar Vizquel end up making the most starts at the position again this year? Will the Sox give Teahen another shot after his defensive challenges in 2010? With all these questions the only known here is that the White Sox, if still in contention, will likely be shopping for a replacement at third base come this summer’s trade deadline.  The Cubs hope for a resurgent year by Aramis Ramirez before he enters free agency in the fall. Last year his defense regressed and his batting average dipped below .250 for the first time since 1999. It is likely Ramirez will never return to his old form but Cub fans hope he can stay healthy enough to give them a chance in a tough Central division. Despite not being the star he once was, Aramis provides the Cubs with more talent at the position than the 2 or 3 guys who will fill the void with the Sox.

Cubs: Geovany Soto
Sox:   A.J. Pierzynski
Top Talent: Cubs

A.J. Pierzynski was brought back to the White Sox this season because neither Ramon Castro nor Tyler Flowers proved ready to become the everyday backstop. He is consistent but not outstanding as a hitter and calls a solid game behind the plate. With A.J. the team has a veteran leader that will keep the plate warm until Castro or Flowers is ready to take over. Soto had a bounce back season in 2010 after only hitting .218 in 2009. At this stage in his career, Geovany has far more upside than his south-side counterpart and should be the Cubs catcher for years to come.

Cubs: Soriano, Byrd, Colvin
Sox:   Pierre, Rios, Quentin
Top Talent: White Sox

Last season Tyler Colvin and Kosuke Fukedome both finished with 358 at bats. This year barring early struggles, I expect Colvin to become the primary right fielder for the Cubs. Byrd started strong but hit only .250 last September and totaled 12 home runs after hitting 20 in 2009 with Texas. Soriano continues his decline as a defensive left fielder and a power hitter. He is no longer a stolen base threat after totaling just 14 in the last 2 years. On the south-side the combination of Juan Pierre, Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin will roam the White Sox outfield this year. In his first full season with the Sox, Rios played well and should continue to thrive while being protected by hitter like Konerko and Dunn. Pierre shows no sign of slowing down on the base paths racking up a career high 68 stolen bases last year but Quentin still hasn’t defined what kind of career he will have. His batting average numbers have been low the last two years (.236 in 2009 & .243 in 2010) after a break out season in 2008.  With power, speed and good defense the White Sox outfield is more desirable than the Cubs this season but not by much.

Designated/Pinch Hitter
Cubs: Kosuke Fukedome
Sox:   Adam Dunn
Top Talent: White Sox

There is no debate when considering if Dunn or Fukedome will have more impact to their respective teams. Dunn, the high priced free agent, will fit right in as the Sox designated hitter. No power hitter has been more consistent than Dunn who has hit 38-40 home runs per year since 2005. In a hitter friendly ball park like U.S. Cellular, Dunn could increase those totals and propel them into the playoffs in 2011. Unfortunately Fukedome no longer brings the same kind of excitement to Cub fans. His defense has always been noteworthy but he has lacked the power, speed and a solid batting average that was expected of him when coming to the majors from Japan. In his last season with the Cubs we can hope for a productive defensive replacement and occasional lead off hitter.

Some talent remains on the north-side but most of it is either aging or too unproven to count on this year. With talent like Colvin and Castro the Cubs will eventually contend in the NL Central but not this year. On the other hand the White Sox have the right combination of talented veterans and young prospects to challenge the Twins in the A.L. Central in 2011.


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