Who Will Roam the White Sox Outfield?

The White Sox are obviously a fan of position battles and creating drama because not only do they have a situation brewing between their first base and DH candidates, but their outfield is overflowing as well. Things had been very simple until the team decided to complicate matters when they acquired Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks as part of a three-team trade in mid-December. That had a domino effect and someone is going to be the odd man out, or at least see their playing time severely reduced.

We’ll start with Eaton, who by all accounts is going to be the every day center fielder and likely leadoff hitter. After a ho-hum debut in 2012 over a small sample, he was a popular sleeper last year until he hurt his elbow and ended up playing only half a season. While he has shown good speed in the minors, his MLB stolen bases totals have been underwhelming, totaling just about 11 if extrapolated over 600 plate appearances. He also hasn’t shown the excellent plate patience or high BABIP skills either.

The upside is there though if his various skills can translate and he’ll be moving to another good offensive environment. With a touch of power as well, he has the chance to be an all-around contributor and he should come cheap this time.

The acquisition of Eaton directly affects Alejandro De Aza, who patrolled center field for most of last season. De Aza also played left field, but there’s another incumbent there in the form of Dayan Viciedo. So while Eaton’s job appears safe as long as he hits, left field is seemingly up for grabs. De Aza is going to be 30 this year and has been a pleasant surprise for the organization as a full-timer these past two seasons. He has been a solid 2-3 WAR player, so he’s not an obvious candidate to just move into a reserve role. He’s also an attractive fantasy option, offering both power and speed. In fact, he’s not all that different than Eaton in that regard, as his 2012 season serves as a reasonable upside projection for Eaton this year.

De Aza is a lefty, but he hit much better against southpaws last year so there’s no platoon opportunity here. Viciedo, on the other hand, is younger and has that tantalizing power upside, but even with that power, he’s still been less valuable offensively than De Aza given his unwillingness to take a walk. He’s essentially been a replacement level player the last two seasons since his defense is poor. There’s also the fact that he’s been significantly better against left-handed pitchers than righties throughout his short career.

While it would be difficult to push a 25-year-old into a platoon role, a goal of winning would require that very thing. But who to platoon him with is the question. Both Eaton and De Aza are lefties but him them well, so it would be silly to bench either. Perhaps Viciedo platoons with Adam Dunn in the DH role, but then you have the issue of what to do about Paul Konerko, who has also historically hit lefties well.

Right field is a bit easier as Avisail Garcia, another outfielder acquired as part of a three-team deal, should be out there full-time. Garcia has some power and speed, but his best skill might be his ability to post high BABIP marks. He’s never posted a mark below .333 at any minor league stop, so despite mediocre power and contact ability, he should contribute positive value in batting average.

It will be interesting to see what the White Sox do with their too many players for too few positions problem as all players involved are relevant in fantasy leagues. Early drafters will probably just want to avoid Viciedo, De Aza and Dunn until their playing time situation clears up.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

11 Responses to “Who Will Roam the White Sox Outfield?”

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  1. Simon says:

    Is it not much more likely that all four of them get about 500 ABs, assuming that nobody is injured or inept?

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    • SeaBass says:

      You mean injured AND inept?

      Let’s face it, the White Sox have been good at being inept the past couple of years.

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  2. mauro1 says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Nice article. My guess is De Aza is gone by the the start of the season. The sox aren’t in a position to keep a 3 million dollar player on the bench. He’s more useful than Vicedo but older, injury prone and probably has less upside. Also, the sox are counting on Viciedo to help with Abreu’s assimilation into the US

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    • Gabes says:

      De Aza’s actually making 4-mil, but I agree with your thought. I don’t see him moving this spring though as the market doesn’t seem to have materialized. If they get an offer during the season, I can see them moving him for prospects.

      Looking forward to 2015, when Dunn and Konerko come off the books, it makes sense to slide Viciedo to DH and put De Aza into LF, where his defense plays better and he’ll still be making arbitration salaries, so I don’t see him moving as a foregone conclusion.

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  3. mauro1 says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Pod, how high are you on Avi garcia’s upside this year?

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    • FanGraphs Supporting Member

      Ya know, last year I was laughing at the hype surrounding Avisail, I just couldn’t understand it. But after projecting him, I kinda like him from a fantasy standpoint. I’m projecting 16 HRs and 11 SBs batting .274, which isn’t great or anything, but respectable all-around contributions. Unfortunately, if he suffers some bad BABIP luck, his value is going to tank.

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  4. benagain123 says:

    Worse outfielder defensively — Melky, Dayan, Ibanez ?

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  5. Ted says:

    One piece of information you need on De Aza, to really capture what the Sox think of him: his actual play in the field belies his numbers. After some decent play in CF in 2012, he was awful last year. He is a mess on the basepaths. I’m thinking out-of-town stupid and De Aza’s handedness will enable Rick Hahn to trade a guy at high perceived value again, like he did with Reed and Santiago.

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