Doug Padilla wraps up his spring training preview with a look at the outfield.
The Chicago White Sox are going to need to answer plenty of questions in 2012, but the outfield is perhaps the area where they will have to answer the most.
What will Alex Rios do after a brutal 2011? What kind of production can Dayan Viciedo deliver in his first full major league season? Can Alejandro De Aza match what he did in the second half of 2011 all while holding down the leadoff spot?
Also to be answered are where these guys will actually be playing. Viciedo figures to be the starting right fielder, but new manager Robin Ventura has admitted that Rios could end up playing left field while De Aza plays center.
Expect Brent Lillibridge to get plenty of outfield time as well as the backup to all three outfield spots. Kosuke Fukudome also figures to get some time, while also serving as a left-handed pinch-hit option off the bench.
The first goal should be to at least match the production from last year’s outfield. Getting more production from center field shouldn’t be a problem. A consistent full season could allow De Aza to at least match what Juan Pierre offered last year. Viciedo, though, will have a challenge equaling Carlos Quentin’s production while facing major league pitching for an entire season.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012
If Rios can deliver more like he did in 2010, Viciedo settles into an early groove and De Aza gives a repeat performance, the outfield would be one less worry for Ventura. Using De Aza in center field would seem to give the White Sox their best defensive alignment. Lillibridge will continue to raise his cult-hero status if he can do what he did in 2011, all while getting more at-bats. Fukudome has the carrot of a $3.5 million 2013 option dangling in front of him and will need to make the most of his limited chances off the bench.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO IN 2012
A lot could go wrong here, especially if Rios continues to eat up payroll while helping to sink the offense, not to mention the defense. Viciedo is going to have his productive stretches, but he will also have periods of struggle and the shorter they are the better. If Viciedo can’t keep his strikeout numbers down there could be problems. One way De Aza could have issues is if he alters his game to fit the leadoff role.
KID TO WATCH
Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker are the outfielders of the future, while Jordan Danks is a solid offensive season away from getting a chance. But Jared Mitchell is somewhat at a crossroads as he tries to distance himself from the torn ankle tendon he suffered in the spring of 2010. After not being invited to major league camp last spring, Mitchell is back this year and will be given a clean slate in front of a whole new group of coaches.