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5 for '14: Newcomer with biggest impact?

3/27/2014
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Adam Eaton figures to wreak havoc with his speed and get the most at-bats out of the leadoff spot, while Jose Abreu will display the unique talent to hit for both power and average.

Yet, the new Chicago White Sox player who can have the biggest impact could be Avisail Garcia, using his ability to play outfield defense to complement his tools on offense.

Technically, Garcia isn't "new," having come to the White Sox at the end of July last season when Jake Peavy was moved to the Boston Red Sox in a three-team deal, but in terms of the team's new roster reshuffle -- and the youth movement that went along with it -- Garcia is at the core of the fresh-faced White Sox group.

When considering that Eaton is 25, Abreu is 26 and future third baseman Matt Davidson just turned 23 this week, the 22-year-old Garcia is actually the youngest of the young core. He won't turn 23 until June 12.

Despite his youth, he has already played in 95 major league games, with division series, league championship series and World Series experience under his belt in 2012 with the Detroit Tigers.

Last season's three-team trade actually landed the White Sox the five-tool player they have been chasing in recent drafts. The acquisition was made all the more impressive by the fact that not only was Peavy expendable, the White Sox were also able to shed every penny of the $20 million he was still owed through the end of this season.

Opportunities to make moves like this don't come around often, and with a division rival in the Tigers, no less.

But by joining Eaton, Abreu and Davidson, Garcia won't have the sole pressure of a young player trying to match and surpass the production of his veteran teammates. He can grow along with Abreu in the middle of the order, and early indications are that he could end up providing lineup protection for the Cuban slugger.

Key for Garcia moving into this season is that his 95 big league games give him a head start because he knows what to expect. Abreu has never played for a team that didn't call Cuba home. While Eaton's major league experience is slightly less at 66 games, his first crack at the game's highest level came as he was just healing from an elbow injury.

Not to be ruled out when it comes to a young player making a serious impact is Erik Johnson, who won a rotation spot this spring and is scheduled to pitch out of the No. 4 spot ahead of John Danks. In three minor league seasons that have spanned five different teams, Johnson has a 2.21 ERA over 43 appearances (41 starts), so he clearly has a solid track record.

All signs, though, point to Garcia as the new youngster to lead the way. If the Venezuela native does have an area that needs serious improvement, it's his plate discipline. He walked just five times in 161 at-bats with the White Sox last season and just nine times in 244 total big league at-bats in 2013. And remember, high strikeouts and a low walk rate are what the team is trying to move away from.

What helps in that area is that Eaton and Abreu are known to work counts and take walks. Their presence allows Garcia to worry less about changing his game to fit a particular need and simply focus on what he does best.

Three things to watch for

  1. For a player with such blazing-fast speed, Eaton's relatively low stolen-base numbers don't exactly suggest a guy who runs at every opportunity. In the minor leagues, he was successful in about 76 percent of his steal attempts, which is solid but should be better for somebody so fast. Alexei Ramirez had a 76.9 percent success rate last season. One suggestion for a career best of 38 steals in a season is that Eaton's former organization, the Arizona Diamondbacks, was more conservative in that department. Expect the White Sox to take more chances.

  2. Abreu's work ethic is about as good as it gets. He arrived to spring training weeks early and was a stickler about staying with his work routine. But Abreu has never experienced a 162-game season before, so fatigue could be a factor down the stretch. In Cuba, teams play a 90-game schedule, with another 28 games scheduled between teams made up of the league's top players. A little "me time" on occasion might not be a bad thing.

  3. It didn't take Garcia long to settle into his surroundings last season, and getting those two months out of the way in 2013 could help him to get on track early this season. From Aug. 9 to the end of the last season, Garcia led the team in batting average (.306) and slugging percentage (.452). He was also second in RBIs (21) in that time frame, second in on-base percentage (.329), tied for second in home runs (five) and fourth in runs scored (19).