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Hoge’s White Sox Mailbag: Is .500 The Ceiling?

Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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By Adam Hoge-

(CBS) The White Sox have only won two games since our last mailbag and have now lost 10 of their last 13 games.

Usually such a losing streak would bring out the kind of questions that would make Chris Rongey think about quiting his job. Fortunately, you guys came through with some great questions this week (as always, all questions are left unedited):

13-15 through 28 games. What is the ceiling for the White Sox? – Matt, Bridgeport

Actually, make that 13-16 with this afternoon’s loss to the Indians.

When I pegged the White Sox for 86 wins this season, I did so with the assumption that Adam Dunn and Alex Rios would improve and the pitching would be more than adequate. So far, Dunn and Rios have both been much better and the starting pitching has been great. Unfortunately, the bullpen has been surprisingly shaky and the lineup has what I consider to be 3.5 holes.

I never expected Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel to be great this season, but we’re witnessing how devastating it can be to get zero production from the bottom of the order. Meanwhile, you still don’t have a serviceable No. 2 hitter as Alexei Ramirez’s .217 OBP is actually worse than Morel’s . 225 OBP (Ramirez’s .436 OPS is better than Morel’s .436 OPS but both numbers are bad).

Ramirez traditionally heats up as the weather warms up, but he’s still not a prototypical 2-hitter. I’ve mentioned it in previous mailbags, but there really aren’t a whole lot of fixes in the organization and it’s doubtful (at least right now) that they go outside the organization for the kind of help that can have an impact right away.

What’s scary is that the White Sox have had one of the best starting pitching staffs in baseball so far and are only 13-16. Now they are losing Chris Sale to the bullpen. What happens if the pitching falters? Philip Humber and John Danks are already trending downward.

Here’s one minor tweak that could help the offense: Adam Dunn has greatly benefited from Paul Konerko’s protection behind him, but should the White Sox considering switching them in the order? Despite nine home runs and a .962 OPS, Dunn only has 23 RBIs because three of the four hitters in front of him are rarely getting on base. Konerko is by far the best hitter on the team and would be on base for Dunn a lot more than Dunn is on base for him. Of course, then you lose the protection for Dunn. Just something to ponder…

do you think sale will ever be a starter again and if not how much did this hurt Kenny ‘s plans? – @Scott_j_k

I know Chris Sale wants to be a starter again and I know the White Sox want him to be a starter as well — just not this season. It’s all up to his elbow though. As Sale put it Friday night, some people just can’t do it. Only time will tell if Sale can do it or not, but as long as he is able to stay off the disabled list, the White Sox will have a talented arm somewhere on their staff. If he can’t start, then yes, that certainly does change the plans Kenny Williams had for his rotation. Sale could be a good one for a long time. Hopefully he still will be.

thoughts on why Zach Stewart was not given a shot at the fifth starter’s role? – @thek_line

This is a question I’m also wondering. If the White Sox were home, I would have asked Robin Ventura this already. When Williams traded for Stewart last summer, it sounded like they considered him a future starter, but if he’s not getting a look at the fifth starting spot now (especially when they don’t have an obvious option) then I don’t really know what their plans are for him.

Before pitching an inning Sunday, Stewart hadn’t thrown since Wednesday, meaning he theoretically could have started Monday night’s game instead of pitching Sunday. The problem is that would have left them shorthanded in the bullpen Sunday and Stewart also threw last Tuesday so the back-to-back days may have made him unavailable to start. With Thursday’s off-day, the White Sox might not go with a fifth starter until May 15, which gives them time to stretch out Stewart if they are considering him.

I think Zach Stewart is the most obvious candidate to take over the fifth starter role and if he doesn’t, that will certainly say a lot about what the White Sox think about him.

Let’s just say the sox are in the race nearing the trade deadline. What do you do if you are Kenny Williams? – @duece420

I get as creative as possible. The White Sox can’t add payroll. They simply can’t. So if Beckham and Morel still aren’t hitting in July (and the White Sox are still somehow in contention), then Williams will have to find a reliable veteran at a low cost. Think Geoff Blum-esque (except he’ll have to play everyday).

The other problem is that the White Sox are in the midst of replenishing their farm system so they don’t want to give anyone up. And honestly, they can’t afford to give anyone up — especially position players. The White Sox only have four regular position players under the age of 30 on their major league roster and two of those players are Beckham and Morel. At this point, Dayan Viciedo is probably the only young player White Sox fans have hope for, although De Aza could still be a reliable leadoff hitter for a few years.

With that ugly truth taken into account, would you rather see the White Sox add a somewhat decent player to help win this year or add a much better prospect in a trade that might involve Jake Peavy?

That brings us to the next question…

are the White Sox ever going to develop some legit hitters? Seems like it’s been since CLee and Maggs. – @IIIWoodD

This is a fair question. There are currently only five hitters on the entire team that were brought up through the White Sox system and three of them were signed internationally. Beckham and Morel were the only draft picks and so far they haven’t worked out. Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo and Eduardo Escobar signed free agent contracts from other countries and while Ramirez has been serviceable, the verdict is still out on Viciedo and Escobar (and no one really expects Escobar to be a “legit” hitter).

The rest of the White Sox hitters have come via trade or free agency from other teams and the ones that were brought in as prospects (namely Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge) haven’t done much yet. It’s been a while since the organization developed a great hitter on its own.

If you are looking for a future candidate, Jared Mitchell is looking great in Double-A Birmingham and is currently fourth in the Southern League with a .964 OPS. Now completely healthy, he’s still a legitimate prospect.

Send your White Sox questions to Adam at ahoge@cbs.com or tweet them to him at @AdamHogeCBS.

adam hoge 2012 small1 Hoges White Sox Mailbag: Is .500 The Ceiling?

Adam Hoge

Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.