The smell of freshly mowed grass is beginning to accumulate in Glendale, Arizona. White Sox pitchers and catchers will report in two days and begin the grind to another AL Central title. However, the fate of the White Sox will be decided in Spring Training as the White Sox invite their 40-man roster along with non-roster invitees to see who will best fit the mold for Robin Ventura and his coaching staff. Spring camp is also a good way to evaluate the Sox at each position and how they did in the offseason trying to upgrade that position. This will only address the hitters as I will do the pitchers at a later date.
At catcher, barring a move before camp breaks, Sox fans will see Tyler Flowers handling the pitching staff. Flowers does not currently command the confidence of many White Sox fans but Rick Hahn has defended the catcher and says he has faith in his abilities. Flowers, in past seasons has shown flashes of Adam Dunn-like country power. Sox fans have seen him absolutely obliterate foul balls and if he can translate that power to hitting balls on the fair side of the foul poll then the Sox might be on to something. Backing up Flowers will be minor league journeyman Hector Gimenez. Gimenez has had 20 at-bats in his major league career, so I won’t even bother trying to project or predict what kind of major league player he will be. With the unknown of Gimenez however I would expect Flowers to get a lot of playing time similar to the way A.J. Pierzynski hogged the playing time at catcher when he was in his prime years. The Sox really didn’t make much of an effort to upgrade at catcher despite options being available and options that continue to be available.
The Sox infield continues to stay static with team Captain and face of the franchise Paul Konerko manning first base, youngster Gordan Beckham taking second, and the Cuban Missile, Alexei Ramirez, at shortstop. This infield has been the same since Beckham became a regular in 2010. So this is no surprise. However, third base is in flux. Rick Hahn intends to give Brent Morel every chance to win back the third base job after he lost it last season due to poor production at the plate, though Hahn will claim it was due to his back injury. Three different men occupied third base last year: Morel, Orlando Hudson, and Kevin Youkilis. In order to try to stabilize the position should Morel bust again, Hahn added utility-man Jeff Keppinger who can spell any infield position to backup both Morel and Beckham. Though I do not see Beckham having a breakout year, ever, I can see Morel significantly improving this year. Or at least one can hope. Fans should be glad that Hahn did address the third base issue in some way by adding Keppinger, so that is a plus as well. Let’s also not forget the Big Donkey, Adam Dunn, who should continue to build on his success from last year. I expect his numbers to stay relatively the same considering he is the epitome of an all-or-nothing hitter.
The White Sox outfield is full of familiar faces in 2013 as well, with all three starters returning to the lineup in 2013. Dayan Viciedo will man left, speedster Alejandro De Aza will be in centerfield, and Alex Rios will patrol right. Though this outfield isn’t exactly suited for its defensive abilities it will be a force to be reckoned with on offense. If Alex Rios can repeat last year’s success and Viciedo can learn some plate discipline, the White Sox lineup will continue to be one of the AL Central’s best. However, there is still a battle to be won in the Sox outfield. Who will be the fourth outfielder? Currently the battle looks to be between the veteran, DeWayne Wise, and the youngster, Jordan Danks. Wise seems to be the favorite as he has continued to fight for a major league job throughout his career, but the Sox should really look at giving Danks an opportunity this season because he has more of a future with the team than Wise when you consider age instead of production. The Sox really didn’t need to address this position in the offseason as it is fine where it is as of now.
As spring training comes nearer and nearer, we as baseball fans get more excited to see the position battles, the drama, and heroics of our favorite teams. The way the White Sox lineup looks now, I am not to worried about the team producing runs, I am more worried about the consistency of the run production as the players we have now are know to be streaky, however a new season brings new trends, and maybe that is a trend that won’t continue into this year. For now though, let’s all just look forward to that beautiful fresh-cut grass.
Wednesday afternoon Rick Hahn made the decision to retain outfielder DeWayne Wise for one more year at a price tag of $700,00 for the season. Last season, Wise had one of his best seasons as a major leaguer, belting eight home runs and driving 30 runs in a season that saw him play for the Yankees and end with the White Sox. It is also important to note, as every White Sox related entry about DeWayne Wise does, he saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. Already knew that? Well then… now that that is out of the way, let’s delve deeper into what Rick Hahn was possibly thinking when he pulled the trigger on this deal.
The White Sox starting outfield currently consists of Alex Rios, Alejandro De Aza (who is abitration eligible), and Dayan Viciedo. Alex Rios has just came off an outstanding year, which was a breath of fresh air compared to the numbers he had been putting up in season’s past. The question with him is whether or not he can replicate his production or not, and if he can, do the White Sox sell high and deal him or do they continue to pay his contract and keep him as a core member of the team. The uncertainty about what to do with Rios could have lead to Hahn signing Wise as insurance.
In left field, Dayan Viciedo seemed to figure it out last year. Right in front of our eyes he seemed to become more patient and let pitchers make bad pitches instead of making himself try to hit good ones. Viciedo is still very inconsistent and is also a liability defensively in left field, but his offensive numbers will allow manager Robin Ventura to continue running him out to left as long as he continues to hit. If Viciedo were the weak link, Hahn probably just wanted a suitable defensive replacement for late in the game.
To round out the starters in the outfield we have Alejandro De Aza, the center fielder. De Aza was a major factor in the success of the 2012 White Sox, and contigent upon the White Sox reaching an agreement with him during arbitration, he should continue to be a major table setter for the Sox for years to come. Last season, De Aza batted a respectable .281 while hammering nine home runs and 50 runs batted in. Now for a lead-off hitter, that is very impressive (excluding Mike Trout, that guy is something else). Let me also mention that De Aza also provided something that the White Sox often lack, a base-stealer. Former general manager Ken Williams often built his team to fit the small dimensions of U.S. Cellular Field: which meant loading up on power hitters and hoping that they all don’t go cold at the same time. This philosophy often lead to the team overlooking the importance of good base-stealer, but now that the Sox have De Aza, who they believe can take an extra base, and hopefully score a run we might not have scored had someone like Paul Konerko or Dunn been on base (sorry boys, no offense). This guy isn’t going anywhere.
Now that I have gone through and addressed our starting outfield, it seems that DeWayne Wise was not signed to be one of our starters (if you follow baseball or the White Sox and knew that all along I apologize). But Wise is still expected to be a contributing member of a big league club and thus would probably be a fit on the 2013 White Sox as a fourth outfielder. Thing about that is he isn’t guaranteed that job as Jordan Danks has been nipping at the fourth outfielder job’s heels for almost a year now. The question is-who should get it?
The case for DeWayne Wise retaining the fourth outfield spot follows: it would get Jordan Danks more time to polish himself in the minors, it would give us a veteran presence on the bench, and we know what we are getting with Wise. I do agree with most of the previous arguments… except for one. I feel as though Jordan Danks is as polished as he is going to get at this point. He can basically taste the majors, and is at a point in his career where he is tearing up the farm and then going up the majors and hitting setbacks. I feel as though with some patience and coaching Danks can work through his struggles and become one of our starters one day, but he needs major league at-bats and the retention of Wise is going to make winning a major league roster spot all the harder.
The case for Jordan Danks has already began to be made in the above paragraph, but if you didn’t really read that last paragraph, then I’ll sum it up with a word and a video. Potential. Danks is on the cusp of becoming a true major leaguer and we can’t let a late career surge by Wise jeopardize the development of Danks, who will have a much bigger role in the future-with the Sox. Not to mention that four of the Sox top ten prospects are outfielders and could really use the spot in Triple-A that either Wise or Danks will be using to develop faster so we can have them for the future or so we can display them as trade bait.
All in all, I see this move by Hahn as purely a depth issue. While it does give himself and Robin Ventura a lot of options in the outfield, I do hope that it doesn’t come back to bite them as far as Jordan Danks development goes.
Grade: C- (Not the splash we were expecting or hoping for)