What do the White Sox have at each position after the 2014 offseason? The picture has gotten a bit clearer with the recent cuts and reassignments. Let's take a look at the White Sox's corner outfield positions to see how it stacks up for 2014 and beyond.
The big league corner outfield is manned by the three-headed monster of Avisail Garcia, Alejandro De Aza, and Dayan Viciedo. Avisail Garcia came to the White Sox in July of last season in a three-way trade with the Tigers and Red Sox. While his base running and defense in right field have both been fine, his approach at the plate is a work in progress. The heat map below shows Garcia's swing rate since his White Sox debut on 8/9/2014.
The zones highlighted in red show areas where Garcia swings aggressively. You can see that includes the enter strike zone as well as some areas outside of it. Hitting coach Todd Steverson will need to work with Garcia on improving his plate discipline for his immense potential to come into fruition. Fortunately, it appears that work is already underway.
Viciedo and De Aza form a platoon in left field. The 29 year-old lefty, Alejandro De Aza, is expected to get the bulk of the work against right-handed pitchers in 2014. While De Aza's bat was passable for a center fielder (97 wRC+) his defense and base running left a lot to be desired in 2013.
His defense should no longer be an issue with his move to left field. However, it remains to be seen if White Sox fans will be exposed to as many base running gaffes as occurred last year. De Aza is off to a good start though with three home runs already in 2014.
Viciedo forms the other half of the left field platoon. Like Garcia, Viciedo has also struggled with an over-aggressive approach at the plate. In 2013 the league average swing rate was 46.4%. Viciedo's swing rate was 54.4%. While Viciedo is still young at 25 years-old, all of his value is tied to his bat. He doesn't provide any positive value defensively in left field or on the bases. Thus far in his career he has not shown an ability to consistently produce at the plate either.
Charlotte and Birmingham
The only corner outfielder listed on the Charlotte Knights roster is Denis Phipps. However, the center fielders on the roster will also be spending time in the corners. Phipps spent his entire career in the Reds organization before receiving a non-roster invite to Spring Training by the White Sox this offseason. At 27 years-old Phipps is a non-prospect but serves to add additional outfield depth. He has only had eleven big league plate appearances thus far in his career.
Michael Earley and Josh Richmond, the two corner outfielders on the Birmingham roster, have similar stories. Both are in their mid twenties; Richmond is 24 and Earley is 26. Both of them hit decently until they reached Double-A. Both are still in Double-A.
Kannapolis and Winston-Salem
Jason Coats and Courtney Hawkins man the Winston-Salem corner outfield. Jason Coats is the lesser known of the two. He is 24 years-old and getting his first taste of High-A. Last year in Low-A he didn't hit all that well given his age (.271/.320/.426). He also spent some time in center field where, based on fielding percentage, he wasn't very good (.920). It was a very small sample though.
Courtney Hawkins was the White Sox first round draft pick in 2012. He is a five tool player but struggled mightily last year in his first go at Winston-Salem (.178/.249/.384). One of the biggest issues was a Dunnian level strike out rate. He struck out in an insane 37.6% of his plate appearances in 2013. Even though he has only appeared in four games thus far in 2014, his strike out rate is identical to last year at 37.5%. If Hawkins can make more contact he could be a force in the middle of the lineup.
In Kannapolis, Carl Thomore and Kale Kiser are splitting time in left field this season. They are 21 and 23 years-old respectively and neither has shown any ability to hit, which is a large part of a corner outfielder's value.
In right field will be 23 year-old Jacob Morris who was drafted by the White Sox in the 24th round of the 2013 draft. He hit well in Rookie ball, as would be expected of a 22 year-old, with an .872 OPS. He is a good baserunner and plays competent defense as well.
Great Falls and the Dominican
The Great Falls Voyagers roster does not any high end corner outfield prospects. Of the five outfielders on the Great Falls roster, only three have actually been issued a number, Michael Carballo, Justin Jirschele, and Dane Opel. While each of these three outfielders is still relatively young, none have shown any ability with the bat.
Micker Adolfo and Hanleth Otano highlight the Dominican crop of White Sox prospects. Adolfo was signed to a $1.6 million deal in July of 2013. While Otano was one of a number of international signings in 2012.
With some youth at the major league level, there isn't a rush to get any of the younger players in the system to the big leagues. It will be interesting to see if one of De Aza or Viciedo gets traded. If Viciedo sticks around the big question will be, will he ever live up to his potential with the White Sox? After a really tough 2013 season, Courtney Hawkins still appears to be struggling with contact. If he can get over this hurdle he could move up quickly though the minor league system.