December 16th, 2014

Upgraded Models On Display This Coming Spring

Take a stroll along the 2015 Major League landscape and you’re likely to find the offerings sure look different. Stop in the showroom and kick the tires of the Chicago White Sox newest model. Everything looks upgraded. More bells and whistles. More chrome. All the latest technology. Early test drives this coming spring should show obvious upgrades in class and style. Effective, efficient market driven changes.

The White Sox owned the first portion of the Winter Meetings last week in San Diego. They began retooling their product with the acquisition of free agent first baseman/designated hitter Adam LaRoche. An outstanding defensive first baseman, LaRoche offers more length to the lineup and gives the club an additional power source to compliment Jose Abreu. With the losses of Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn to retirement, the White Sox will have LaRoche and Abreu as interchangeable parts between first base and designated hitter. It will help them both.

Pitching upgrades really set the new edition White Sox into a new category. Having David Robertson available to close games on Chicago’s south side will give the team confidence heading to the ninth inning with a lead. He’s reliable. And consistent. The bullpen also benefits from the experience of newly acquired free agent Zach Duke, a lefty who has found a home in the pen. Perhaps another lefty reliever is still out there to be added to the relief corps.

With Jeff Samardzija on the club, the White Sox have upgraded their rotation. Teams will now have to face a very formidable top three starters of Chris Sale, Samardzija and the underrated Jose Quintana. John Danks and Hector Noesi probably round out the starting five at this early date. Sale, Quintana and Danks are left handed. A nice bonus. Carlos Rondon looms somewhere. Rotation? Bullpen? And Erik Johnson is a big, strong starter as well. So the White Sox now have some pitching depth. New backup catcher Rob Brantly adds a different dimension to the catching corps.

The addition of outfielder Melky Cabrera might be the most significant upgrade of all. He brings a very potent bat to the lineup and should help set the table behind Adam Eaton. Opposing pitchers will have to navigate Eaton, Cabrera. Abreu, LaRoche and Avisail Garcia each and every day. Two of those first five hitters add new life and a new look to the new model. I really like what the White Sox have accomplished. And I don’t think they’re finished. Perhaps Dayan Viciedo will find a new home before the start of the new model year. I would guess the club still has some other changes in mind.

If the White Sox got a face lift, the Miami Marlins have undergone an entire reconstruction. The model that rolls off the lines in February/March will put the club in an entirely different conversation. Contenders. Not pretenders. The club is loaded.
For those that have followed me in the past, the Marlins are one of the teams I have been excited about for the past two seasons. I have felt they have some of the best and brightest young stars in the game. Not just Giancarlo Stanton. I’m talking Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Adeiney Hechavarria. Not to mention Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, and Nathan Eovaldi. Exciting, young stars on the horizon. Add in Dee Gordon at the top of the order and the paint gets a bit brighter and shinier. If he gets on base consistently, think of the pressure he will put on the defense before the longer lumber strolls to the plate. If he can get on base consistently. With Michael Morse in the middle of the lineup, Stanton gains a bit more protection. A good thing.

If Dan Haren elects to pitch for the Marlins and not retire, the starting rotation will be lengthened with his experience and ability. The addition of Mat Latos gives them a strong starter at the top until Fernandez returns from his rehabilitation. Jared Cosart is still only 24 and has a chance to blossom into the pitcher many projected to become an ace. Of course Alvarez continues to improve. Tom Koehler at the back end of the rotation is very capable as well. The team lacks a left handed starter. But Justin Nicolino may respond to that need. Or Adam Conley.

Aaron Crow enters the bullpen picture as a middle reliever, and his experience will be welcomed, I’m sure. Steve Cishek is a very under the radar closer.

The new model Marlins are for real. They want to win. They have a very capable front office with good scouting and development personnel. If ownership keeps building upon this new model, the net result will be scary for the National League East. These guys are pretty darn good.

Tomorrow: Other National League club improvements.

Thank you for reading my work at MLBPipeline and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.