The lineup on the South Side of Chicago is anything but set at the present moment. The White Sox have three playing time wars being waged, with center field, second base and the hot corner all up for grabs. The third base tussle features a former top prospect whose star has dimmed, a utility man imported from the Bronx, and a young Cuban signee. Let’s begin with the fallen farm product.
When the White Sox plucked Josh Fields with the 18th overall selection in the ’04 amateur draft, he was expected to be the heir apparent to Joe Crede. The Oklahoma State product didn’t overwhelm anyone during stints at High-A Winston Salem in 2004 (.285/.332/.445) or AA Birmingham in 2005 (.252/.341/.409), but he remained well-liked by scouts and rewarded that faith with a more powerful .305/.379/.515 line with AAA Charlotte in 2006. Some caveats do apply, however. Charlotte is a tremendous power park (inflating HR production by 32% from 2006-2008), so his park adjusted line was a more tame .299/.374/.484, and he did whiff nearly 30% of the time.
Fields opened the 2007 season back in the International League (batting .283/.394/.498 with a 16 BB%), but he found himself in the majors that summer as Crede hit the DL and eventually the surgeon’s table with a balky back. The 6-1, 220 pound Fields showed plenty of power in a park that smiles upon righty pull-hitters, posting a .236 ISO and 23 home runs in 418 PA. His control of the strike zone was unrefined, however, as he punched out 33.5% of the time and posted an 8.6 BB%.
Instead of building upon his respectable big league showing, Fields turned in a season to forget in 2008. Sent back to Charlotte, he batted .246/.341/.431, showing patience (11.8 BB%) but also an alarming propensity to swing and miss (35.5 K%). Fields battled a right knee injury that required offseason surgery, and found himself grabbing pine in favor of the hacktastic Juan Uribe when Crede’s back went kaput once again. Both of those fellows have since moved on, and Fields appears to have the upper hand on the job at this juncture.
The 26 year-old bears resemblance to Arizona Diamondbacks third-sacker Mark Reynolds. Both are right-handed batters with pop and adequate walk rates, but both are also afflicted with contact issues and can be neutralized by quality same-side breaking stuff. Fields has roped southpaws in the big leagues (.309/.363/.667 in 136 PA) and in the minors (.283/.389/.504), but his work against righties (.202/.279/.368 in 342 big league PA’s, .265/.348/.439 in the minors) hasn’t been anything to write Ozzie Guillen about. As such, he might end up in a platoon with Wilson Betemit.
Most projection systems peg Fields to post league-average numbers at the hot corner in 2009: CHONE forecasts a .247/.331/.435 line, while PECOTA doled out a .236/.324/.437 prognostication. Fields isn’t a bad fallback option if he secures a starting job, but he’s probably more acceptable regular than exceptional player.