Monday, January 9, 2012
Projected Sox lineup has familiar ring
By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Going over the options for a Chicago White Sox lineup in 2012, there isn’t a whole lot of change from what was on the field in 2011.
It goes back to the point from general manager Kenny Williams that while he might be calling this a rebuilding phase, it wouldn’t be “all the dominoes falling” as it might with a team that is calling up the Triple-A club and bidding all its veterans a farewell.
The biggest change, of course, comes in the outfield where Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo will get their chance to shine. So just where do they fit in the batting order?
In looking at the top of the order, the most interesting change isn’t who will be leading off, but where De Aza will be playing on defense. Last month, new manager Robin Ventura said there have not been any discussions about moving Rios to left field, but we’re predicting it happens at some point and probably sooner rather than later. De Aza might not even be in center by Opening Day, but when Ventura ultimately does put him there, it will give the White Sox their best defensive alignment.
De Aza is, by no means, a prototypical leadoff man and nobody realistically expects him to deliver a .400 on-base percentage like he did last year, but if he can improve on Juan Pierre’s .329 on-base mark from a year ago then it’s a win.
Unless Beckham tears the cover off the ball in spring training, Ramirez figures to be back in the No. 2 hole. Konerko might be marked for a return to the cleanup spot if there was actually another option for the No. 3 hole.
Why put Dunn back in the cleanup spot when he showed last season that he shouldn’t be anywhere near it? Ultimately that job could belong to Viciedo, but expect Ventura to protect his young slugger by not placing too many expectations on him right off the bat.
If Dunn is in the cleanup spot then Rios makes sense batting fifth only because it breaks up the left-handed bats leading to Pierzynski in the No. 6 spot. But Flowers figures to get plenty of playing time too, especially because it doesn’t make much sense to have a young talent rotting away on the bench. If and when Flowers plays, he would probably bat lower in the order than sixth.
Viciedo might start the season in the No. 7 spot, but expect to see him batting fourth, fifth and sixth at various times this season.
A new manager means that everybody gets a fresh start, but Beckham still might be hurt by his struggles the past two seasons so he figures to bat eighth most of the season.
Morel rounds out the lineup, but that doesn’t mean a .366 slugging percentage will cut it again this year. Morel was sitting on two home runs and 22 RBIs before September started. He hit eight home runs and had 19 RBIs over the final month and will need to show more of that in 2012.