White Sox season preview: Outfield
March, 29, 2013
By Doug Padilla
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhComing off a productive season, the Sox's outfield returns intact but might look a lot different by the end of the year.Take a look around the Chicago White Sox outfield because it probably won't be the same after this season.
Fanned out from left to right will be Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza and Alex Rios, back to take the field together on Opening Day for the second consecutive season.
But the winds of change already have started to blow. Jared Mitchell will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte but will be banging on the door soon enough with a major league debut that is expected to happen at some point this season.
Next on the way in the years to come are Keenyn Walker and Trayce Thompson, followed after that by what could be the most talented outfielder of them all. Courtney Hawkins is just 19, but oozes with talent.
Viciedo is primed to have that breakthrough season everybody has been waiting for and it could come in what figures to be his last season in left field. If Paul Konerko departs when his contract expires at the end of the season, Viciedo could end up moving to first base in 2014. It's at least an option for the White Sox.
De Aza could be in position to deliver more as well after finishing his first full season in the major leagues last year. His run with the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic wasn't Earth-shattering by any stretch, but he already has been through high-pressure at-bats and the season hasn't even started yet.
While Viciedo, Konerko and Adam Dunn figure to supply the pop this season, what Rios delivers could very well decide how far the White Sox are able to go and if they can indeed pose a threat to the heavily-favored Detroit Tigers in the American League Central.
Rios has become known for his on-again, off-again seasons of late and the track record suggests a slip in 2013. Nobody on the coaching staff is buying it, though, especially manager Robin Ventura who has shown his confidence by giving Rios the No. 3 spot in the order, at least at the start.
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS
Viciedo isn't being asked to carry the offense, but he could end up doing just that. When you hit 25 home runs and drive in 78 at the age of 23 and those around baseball almost yawn at the results, it confirms an unlimited ceiling. Even the slightest bit of improvement against right-handed pitching means those run-producing numbers Viciedo showed last season get even better. Nobody is saying 35-100 is coming this year, but it's in there somewhere.
One reason the White Sox think Rios won't disappoint this season is because of the adjustments he made to improve in 2012. Rios' work with the coaching staff, especially hitting coach Jeff Manto, wasn't just to get him out of a temporary slide, it was to push him toward long-term success. Sure there's a chance Rios wilts under the pressure of the No. 3 spot, but there is also the notion that the protection of Dunn and Konerko behind him, and De Aza or Jeff Keppinger on base in front of him, is just what he needs.
While seemingly everybody else on the White Sox roster faded over the final month of the 2012 season, De Aza still had something left in the tank. His .848 OPS during September and a handful of days in October was easily his best of the season. Knowing what it takes to get past the dog days can only serve De Aza well to not only finish strong again, but to still produce when fatigue arrives in the first place.