Center and Right Field Preview – Have the White Sox Focused on Defense Too Much?

The 2014 season wasn’t exactly kind to Adam Eaton as he spent 32 days total on the disabled list.  The same can be said about Avisail Garcia and his 2014 season. Although Eaton was only on the disabled list for two stints totaling 32 days, Garcia was stuck on the list for a majority of four months with a torn labrum in his left shoulder that happened 8 games into the season.

Eaton was exactly what the White Sox needed a lead-off man to be.  While he didn’t steal a lot of bases, 15 in 24 attempts, but he had a .362 on base percentage hitting the entire time out of the top spot.  He gave the White Sox something they’d been lacking using Alejandro DeAza, a lead-off hitter who’d set the stage for the middle of the batting order.  Instead, when DeAza was in the top spot in previous seasons, he would try to strike out attempting to hit home runs and as a result would leave no one on base for Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, or anyone else who’d hit in the heart of the lineup.

The biggest problem Eaton ran into, other than trying to stay healthy by not letting walls beat him up is having the second hitter in the lineup hit a double play eliminating the chance to get the offense rolling.  The hitters who spent some time in the second spot combined for a total of 57 double plays throughout the season.  That plus the countless number of fielder’s choices supplied throughout the lineup kept the offense sputtering at times when they would finally get runners on base.

However with a 5.2 wins above replacement number and a .338 average with runners on base, Eaton was able to come away with last season knowing he’d done his job.  It also showed he’d taken the step forward the Sox had hoped he would after they had acquired him in the trade with Arizona.  He’ll look to keep his foot forward this season and hopefully he’ll keep his body away from the outfield fences that had him seeing time on the disabled list last season.

Last season was supposed to be the breakout season for Avisail Garcia.  He was supposed to take a leap towards becoming the player everyone has projected the 24-year old to be.  However one play in April changed the route Garcia’s season would take.  He would spend the next four months recovering and rehabbing from a torn labrum in his left shoulder.  He finally returned later in August from the DL quicker than some expected and was able to get work in at the major league level in the outfield and at the plate.  He would go on to hit just .244 last season in a total of 46 games, but that wasn’t as important as him taking advantage of the playing time on a team that wasn’t going anywhere.

The obvious hope for the White Sox is to get to see Garcia the whole season, especially after he’s lost the extra weight he gained at the end of 2014.  Garcia’s been dieting and working out trying to get his speed back to make him once again a projected five-tool player.  If the Sox intend to be successful this season and compete for the division and the World Series, it’ll take Garcia being successful from wherever in the lineup Robin Ventura sees him fitting.  The most likely spot in that lineup will probably be at number five hitting behind either Adam LaRoche or Jose Abreu.

Other than Emilio Bonifacio who is listed as a back up to all the outfielders, Leury Garcia is also among the list to back up Eaton in centerfield.  As a utility fielder in 2014, Garcia only hit .166 in 74 games playing a multitude of positions including one inning in relief during an extra inning game.  The 23-year old Garcia needs to come out firing on all cylinders come the February 24th when the Sox position players report and spring training gets going.  He’s going to have competition for utility player with the acquisitions of Gordon Beckham, J.B. Shuck, and Emilio Bonifacio.  If he does have a mediocre spring, it could be his versatility that keeps him on the 25-man roster coming out of Camelback Ranch.

Non-roster invitee and former Chicago Cub Tony Campana was supposed to be in the mix for a bench role but on February 10th the White Sox twitter account reported that Campana had torn his ACL while training recent to the announcement and would most likely be out for the entire 2015 season.

While the Sox tried to set their roster up with defensive depth in all three positions, it may have come at the cost of offensive depth.  The starters shouldn’t have an issue producing runs, but we’ll have to see what combination of bench players Sox management gives themselves heading into the regular season.   However, for what we as Sox fans have dealt with over the recent seasons, we’ll take the starting three as is and deal with the lack of offensive depth when it becomes an issue.

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