Thursday, January 6, 2011
White Sox's 3B plan looks familiar
By Doug Padilla
White Sox prospect Brent Morel made a good impression with his defense at third base last season.
What does the Angels’ inability to land free agent Adrian Beltre have to do with the White Sox?
Well, for starters, it could provide a cautionary tale.
Like the White Sox will do this season, the Angels went young at third base in 2010 to fill a void while figuring that their hot-shot prospect could hang out at the bottom of the order for a while until he found his way.
Brandon Wood might eventually turn into the big-league player he has been projected to become, but last season he was simply overmatched with the Angels. His .382 OPS was the worst of any player with at least 200 at-bat since Frank O’Rourke’s .325 mark in 1912 for the Boston Braves.
Wood was eventually yanked as the Angels starter, but Wood still dragged the team’s third basemen to a .573 OPS, the lowest in baseball.
So the Angels ended up looking into Beltre, but didn’t think he was worth the six years, $96 million he received from the division rival Texas Rangers. Could the White Sox find themselves in a similar situation next offseason?
Brent Morel is the hot-shot prospect that is the leading candidate to take over the starting third base job for the White Sox in 2011. Like Wood, Morel is considered a fabulous defensive presence on the left side of the infield. And Wood was even considered to have an even bigger upside than Morel.
But not all news is bad. Yes the White Sox will expect solid defense from Morel and will let him find his way near the bottom of the order -- just as the Angels did with Wood -- but there are some differences that could work in the White Sox’s favor.
Wood’s potential was based on his power potential. But with that long power-producing swing there were holes that American League pitchers exposed. Morel has a more controlled approach, capable of hitting balls back up the middle, or at least where they are pitched. He even flashed some power to center field when he was called up last season.
Another positive for the White Sox is that unlike the Angels, they could actually have other third base options that can not only take over if Morel fails, but can also push the youngster in spring training. Mark Teahen, Dayan Viciedo and Omar Vizquel all are options at third.
All three have their downside, from Teahen’s inconsistency to Viciedo’s inexperience to Vizquel’s age, but the White Sox certainly won’t be caught empty-handed.
Ultimately, going young at third base can have its issues. The White Sox, though, seem to have other directions they can head. It's all on Morel, though. The trick will be to not let the kid feel like he has so much weight on his shoulders.