Season preview: Outfield

A move back to right field could be a reason for Alex Rios to smile. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The White Sox may have the most underwhelming group of outfielders in the major leagues after trading Carlos Quentin and not bringing back leadoff man free agent Juan Pierre.

Cost-cutting put GM Kenny Williams in an unenviable position; he’s now using retreads and wannabes to replace the No. 1 and 3 hitters from last season’s lineup.

The team waited until mid-February to sign former Cub Kosuke Fukudome as a backup for all three outfield stops. Fukudome and Brent Lillibridge may get as much playing time as the starters.

Alex Rios will be the key to solidifying right field. The Sox hope returning him to his natural position will kick-start what once was a solid career. Rios had a brutal 2011 season, hitting .221 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. His performance at the plate aside, Rios’ defensive drop-off was infinitely more surprising.

Alejandro De Aza will replace Rios in center. De Aza came out of nowhere last season to claim a regular spot in the outfield. The former Florida Marlin played well enough in spring training to win the job and leadoff role in the batting order.

Management was happy to finally see some improvement in leftfielder Dayan Viciedo at the end of spring training. Switching from right to left has been a defensive nightmare for the 23-year-old Cuban. Up until the final week of camp, Viciedo looked like he never played the game, as he approached each contest with a startiling lack of energy.

Lilibridge has become a fan favorite, and why wouldn’t he? He got the job done at six positions and showed surprising power (13 home runs in 186 at-bats) last season. Fukudome may end up with 400 at-bats as a defensive replacement and starter against certain bottom of the rotation pitchers.

Three keys to success

• Rios returns to his 2010 performance levels as he responds to a return to right field.

• DeAza hits .290 and steals 30 bases while playing a solid centerfield.

• After a terrible spring training, Viciedo puts up 25 home runs and plays at least average outfield defense.