- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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With Chicago White Sox spring training set to begin Feb. 15 when pitchers and catchers report in Glendale, Ariz., we’re taking an early look around the diamond.
The White Sox not only got younger in the outfield, they got faster too, and by all accounts they also got better defensively. In terms of power, Garcia has plenty of that, but that doesn’t mean that more home runs will come from this group than what the 2013 outfield contributed.
When it comes to upside, though, the current group eventually has the chance to be far better than what the White Sox fielded in 2013, although there could be an adjustment period before that actually starts to show itself.
Garcia not only was the first move the White Sox made when they started to reshape the roster, he essentially is what the rest of the offense is being built around. The 6-foot-4, 240-poound Venezuela native can run, he can hit for power and, after almost 100 major league games, his .289 batting average is solid but his .725 OPS could use a little work. Best of all is that Garcia is extremely affordable right now and won’t be eligible for free agency until he plays another five seasons.
If Garcia represents the power side of the remodel, then Eaton is now in the fold to help with a disappointing team on-base percentage. The White Sox finished 14th in the 15-team American League in that department last year with a .302 mark. What also appeals to the White Sox is Eaton’s all-out effort in his attempt to maximize his ability. That the White Sox are giddy about this aspect of Eaton’s game tells you exactly what they thought was lacking in recent seasons.
Dayan Viciedo's disappointing production last season mirrored the team’s underachieving ways. After missing time early in the season with an oblique injury, “The Tank” never really got on track. He had 64 fewer at-bats in 2013 than he did the previous season, but his 14 home runs were 11 less than the year before and his 56 RBIs were 22 less. In Viciedo’s first full season in 2012 he posted a .444 slugging percentage and a .744 OPS, and improvements on those marks shouldn’t be out of the question.
Alejandro De Aza is expected to lose his starting center field spot to Eaton, but neither manager Robin Ventura nor general manager Rick Hahn has ruled out a left-field platoon with Viciedo this season. The expectation is that Viciedo first gets every chance to prove himself in April and May. Poor instincts on the base paths and on defense are the biggest reason De Aza lost his starting job.
Outlook: A young outfield will make its mistakes, but Eaton and Garcia need the at-bats to reach their potential as quickly as possible. Eaton has just 88 games of big league experience, while Garcia has 95, meaning the center fielder and the right fielder barely have played a full season when their experience is added together. The quirky part of the team’s outfield personnel is that De Aza ($4.25 million) will make the most money this year while operating out of a backup role. Jordan Danks was playing well late last season, but a glut of first basemen on the roster will make it tough for the White Sox to open the season with five outfielders, meaning his days in the organization could be numbered.