Analysis

White Sox: Player Projections, Infielders

As we approach Spring Training next week, we will take a look at the White Sox roster and put together some individual performance projections for the 2017 season. Today we will continue with the White Sox infielders for the 2017 season.

The Chicago White Sox will bring the same group of infielders into the 2017 season that they featured when they ended the 2016 season. 2017 was a mixed year for what is a talented infield on paper, with Jose Abreu struggling mightily in the first half of the season, Brett Lawrie missing much of the season with a series of mysterious lower-body injuries, and while Todd Frazier struggled to get on base for the entire season, finishing with a .225 batting average, he still managed to break the White Sox single-season record for home runs with 40 dingers.

Jose Abreu is entering his fourth season with the Chicago White Sox, and possibly his final season given the liquidation of assets taking place on the south side. Abreu has posted three consecutive seasons of 100 or more runs driven in, problem is, his numbers have declined each year since his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign, and while he is still an above average player at first base, and in the middle of the White Sox order, the decline should be a motivating factor in working out a trade for Abreu sooner rather than later.

In his 2014 rookie campaign Abreu hit .317 with 36 home runs, and 107 RBI in just 145 games en route to the Rookie of the Year Award. In his sophomore season of 2015 Abreu posted a batting average of .290, .27 points lower than 2014, while also saw a decline in home runs and RBI, hitting 30 and driving in 101 in 2015. 2016 was more of the same, highlighted by an awful first half for Abreu who hit just 25 home runs while driving in an even hundred runs.

While Abreu has seen his numbers slide gradually, his playing time has went up in each season, playing in 145 games in 2014, 154 in 2015, and 159 in 2016. There has been discussion about seeing the Cuban slugger remain with the club longer than some of the other players expected to be traded in order to continue the redevelopment of the farm-system, and that’s not a good idea if Abreu’s numbers stay on the same trend in 2017. Abreu, over his first three seasons has an April/May batting average .30-.50 points lower than his cumulative batting averages in the summer months of June and beyond.

Abreu has expressed many times before that he has a tremendous struggle with adjusting to Chicago’s frigid spring temperatures, and that will likely continue in 2017, meaning that Abreu won’t begin to heat up until late May or early June, lowering his trade value to teams not interested in a slugging first-baseman, who can only slug five of the seven months per season, and habitually struggles out of the gates.

Jose Abreu 2017 Projections: .290 BA / 24 HR / 95 RBI / 29 2B / 1 3B / 45 BB / 140 K / .340 OBP / 2.9 WAR

Brett Lawrie was a player that drew some instant excitement from the White Sox fan-base, as well as some rapid criticism for some of his antics. Lawrie was either liked tremendously, or not at all for the most part in 2016, with his quirkiness and energy garnering mixed reactions.

The lack of production offensively surely didn’t help Lawrie win over some of those fans irked by his antics, as Lawrie struggled for the majority of the time he was healthy in 2016. Lawrie managed to hit just .248 over the course of his 94 games played before his tragic lower-body debacle’s that have now been attributed to… orthopedic shoes? Yeah, an explanation fitting of the quirky and baffling Lawrie indeed.

Lawrie managed only 12 home runs and 36 RBI during that span of 94 games for the White Sox, and finished with a whopping 109 strike outs over 384 plate appearances, just 35 strike outs fewer than his 2015 total, in nearly double the amount of plate appearances (604). Now healthy (allegedly), Lawrie will look to rebound in 2017, in an effort to drum up some sort of a free-agent market in the offseason, or hopefully a trade market in July selfishly speaking, but I just don’t see it happening at this point.

Brett Lawrie 2017 Projections: .244 BA / 11 HR / 52 RBI / 20 2B / 2 3B / 39 BB / 165 K / .302 OBP / 0.8 WAR

Todd Frazier was a big hit in 2016 with the White Sox fan-base, much like he was in Cincinnati before his trade last winter. While Frazier struggled with getting on base, and had a strike out rate higher than desired, he still played a good third base all season long, was healthy, and mashed 40 home runs (a White Sox single season record for third-baseman), while driving in 98 runs.

The Tom’s River, NJ native will look to build on career high’s in home runs (40), RBI (98), and walks (163) in 2017, while attempting to bring some consistency to his small-ball game for the White Sox. There’s no question that Frazier is capable of producing more than the long-ball, evident by his 43 doubles in 2015 with the Reds, but the strike out rate has to come down in 2017. In 2016 Frazier struck out a career high 163 times, 24 more times than his previous career high in 2014.

In his final season of arbitration eligible years, Frazier will look to not only show the White Sox that he has value if they want to keep him around for a couple of years, but boost his free-agent market value this coming winter if the two sides part ways. As far as the Todd Frazier trade talk is concerned, I think that he is the least likely of the known assets to be moved this season, but that’s a topic for another day this week.

Todd Frazier 2017 Projections: .245 BA / 36 HR / 95 RBI / 28 2B / 2 3B / 55 BB / 120 K / .320 OBP / 1.2 WAR

Tim Anderson will enter his sophomore season in 2017 looking to continue to build upon an impressive rookie campaign in 2016. On June 10, 2016, Anderson doubled down the line in his first major-league at bat for the White Sox, and while he took his lumps throughout the year, he showed that he possesses the ever important ability to make in-season adjustments, an impressive feat for a rookie for sure.

Anderson finished the 2016 season with a .283 batting average, nine home runs, 30 RBI, 22 doubles and six triples. The most delightful surprise from Anderson in 2016 was the strides he made as a defender at the shortstop position, something that was a major question mark during his time in the White Sox farm-system.

Anderson will need to continue to work on his pitch selection and reduce his strike out totals in 2017, but should be able to accomplish that if you take into consideration his proven ability to adjust and improve. Having nearly a full season under his belt, and heading into another Spring Training with the shortstop job his to lose, Anderson should again make great strides in 2017.

Tim Anderson 2017 Projections: .295 BA / 13 HR / 57 RBI / 34 2B / 9 3B / 43 BB / 103 K / .325 OBP / 2.9 WAR

Another White Sox infielder that made solid strides in 2016 was second-year infielder Tyler Saladino. Saladino appeared in 93 games in 2016, starting 41 games at second base in place of the injured Brett Lawrie. Saladino posted a .282 batting average, .57 points higher than his 2015 batting average.

Saladino also posted high’s in home runs (8), RBI (38), and doubles (14), while adding .48 points to his on base percentage. One of the most impressive feats for Saladino in 2016 was his versatility for the White Sox, something that will bode well for him as the primary utility-man heading into 2017. In 2017, Saladino spent time at second base, shortstop, third base, first base, left field, and designated hitter in addition to regular usage as a pinch-hitter, and pinch-runner.

Saladino is a plus defender with an improving offensive game, and tons of versatility for the White Sox, and should challenge Brett Lawrie for the starting second base job this spring, and has a great chance to win that job heading into Opening Day in April if he continues to develop like he did last season. Saladino will be a player auditioning for a role with this team in the coming years with a plethora of talent sure to be coming up behind him in 2018, and 2019. Look for Saladino to play like a man on a mission in 2017.

Tyler Saladino 2017 Projections: .302 BA / 10 HR / 63 RBI / 29 2B / 4 3B / 50 BB / 88 K / .337 OBP / 2.5 WAR

Look for the rest of our 2017 White Sox player projections in the coming days, including looks at the White Sox outfielders, catchers, and the bullpen heading into the opening of Spring Training camps on February 14.

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