On February 19th, the Chicago White Sox will be reporting to spring training with optimism in the air. Second year general manager Rick Hahn may have led league’s best offseason.
In 2014, the outfield was apart of the team’s weaker links. How did Hahn strengthen it? Let’s take a look.
Avisail Garcia (Right Field)
Flashback to the trade deadline in 2013. Hahn traded pitcher Jake Peavy in a three-way deal and got back three players including the Detroit Tigers’ top outfield prospect Avisail Garcia.
Still at just 23-years-old, Garcia has a high ceiling and this is his year to breakout. After an early season injury last year, the young right fielder played in just 46 games and was up and down in that time frame hitting 7 home runs but had just a (.244/.305/.413) slashline.
Projected Year: 20 HR/80 RBI/15 SB (.265 AVG/.315 OBP/.450 SLG)
Adam Eaton (Center Field)
Just four months after the Garcia trade, the Sox were involved in another three-way deal, this time it was for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top outfield prospect Adam Eaton.
Although Eaton had trouble keeping healthy with a few short trips to the 15-day DL, he still managed to lead the league in triples (10) and have a .362 OBP. On top of what he did with the bat, Eaton flew around the outfield, making fantastic plays on a regular basis.
Eaton is going to have more protection in the lineup with Cabrera in the two-hole now, which should lead to him seeing a more aggressive approach.
Projected Year: 3 HR/45 RBI/20 SB (.290 AVG/.350 OBP/.405 SLG)
Melky Cabrera (Left Field)
After yet another disappointing year from Cuban slugger Dayan Viciedo, the White Sox were forced to make a move for a left fielder. Enter Melky Cabrera. The 30-year-old switch hitter will be a welcomed addition to a team who has lacked an ideal two-hole hitter for quite some time.
In 139 games, the “Melk Man” slashed (.301/.351/.458) with 16 home runs and 73 RBI’s. Cabrera will provide a great spark at the top of the order and he and LaRoche should provide great protection for Cuban phenom Jose Abreu.
Another underrated aspect of this signing is the defensive upgrade that he will provide over Viciedo. Cabrera provides a (+2.4) WAR upgrade over his replacement and a lot less headaches for fans. He possesses an above-average arm and committed just two errors in 2014.
Projected Year: 18 HR/70 RBI/8 SB (.285 AVG/.340 OBP/.465 SLG)
Emilio Bonifacio (Utility)
One of the more underrated signings this offseason has been Bonifacio. A large upgrade over Luery Garcia in the utility role, he can play any infield or outfield position. The real question remains: Can he pitch? Garcia can. (That’s a joke).
In 110 games last year between two teams, the Dominican native slashed (.259/.305/.340) with 3 home runs, all while playing 6 positions and DH’ing a game. Bonifacio wasn’t brought in to be a starting caliber player but his versatility can’t be under valued.
It has been said that he will see a mix of playing time in both the infield and outfield with Gordon Beckham as the primary reserve in the infield.
Projected Year: 2 HR/ 15 RBI/ 15 SB (.250 AVG/.285 OBP/.340 SLG)
Fight for the final spot:
Just one year removed from a 129 game season, Shuck has landed on his third team in two seasons. In 2013, he slashed (.293 AVG/.331 OBP/.366 SLG) with two home runs and 39 RBI. At 27-years-old and just a season and a half of service time, the outfielder is the favorite to win the job.
Engel Beltre, Trayce Thompson, Brian Anderson, Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, Michael Taylor, and Christian Marrero are other names that will see time in spring training and have a chance to break the 25-man roster.
There’s no doubt that this new group of starting outfielders will be an upgrade. Eaton will need to show he can string two good years together and stay healthy, while Cabrera will have a tall task duplicating last year’s productivity.
The X-factor will be Garcia. With high expectations last year, an early season shoulder injury held him to yet another sample-size product. This year is going to be a big year for the soon to be 24-year-old and he will have his fair share of good looks at the plate with the dangerous lineup in front of him.
As for the final reserve spots, it will be a wide open battle After losing speedster Tony Campana for the season with an ACL tear and releasing Viciedo, there will be a casting call for the final outfield spot.
Overall, the South Siders have a chance to have a top American League group if their starting three stay healthy and perform the way they should.