No. 1: Conor Gillaspie, Chicago White Sox
Sep 15, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie (12) drives in a run with a single against the Kansas City Royals in the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Of all the third basemen in the AL Central, Conor Gillaspie (and Castellanos) are the only two players who seem to be locks to start and finish the season as the everyday starter.
Gillaspie was an absolute force in the White Sox lineup for most of last season, hitting above .320 with an on-base percentage better than .370 at the end of July. As the season wore on, however, so did the 27-year-old lefty. His batting average fell roughly 40 points over the next two months, as he posted a .222 mark in August and followed that up with an atrocious .183 showing in September.
According to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com, Gillaspie appeared fatigued at the end of last season. To combat the issue, he writes:
"Gillaspie added a significant amount of muscle in the offeason and took a major step that he had been pondering for some time. Gillaspie quit using smokeless tobacco, primarily because of a side effect. He acknowledged that tobacco acted as an appetite suppressant, and when he needed to eat in the latter part of the season to combat unwanted weight loss, he didn’t have the stomach for it. In fact, Gillaspie credited his ability to bulk up this winter to his new lifestyle change."
While Gillaspie does not expect the added weight to push his home run total from seven in 2014 to 20-30 or more in 2015, he believes the weight will help him endure the grind of a 162-game season — and allow him to continue driving the ball into gaps.
He worked through plantar fascitis this spring, but continued to take the field despite significant pain in the bottom of his foot. He is hitting just .234/.250/.277 this spring and has yet to hit a home run in 47 at-bats.
Consider that a slow start in what could be a full-year of All-Star caliber baseball this season for Gillaspie.