Friday, April 19, 2024

White Sox Face A Familiar Offseason Challenge In Right Field

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The White Sox front office faces a familiar problem as the offseason rolls along. Who is going to play right field? With no viable replacements in-house it is time for the White Sox to invest in a right fielder. 

White Sox right fielders collectively ranked last in OPS and committed the second most errors in the MLB. It was the culmination of playing people out of position, not developing any outfield talent, and patchwork acquisitions over the last decade. 

The last time the White Sox had a productive homegrown right fielder was when Magilo Ordonez was playing for the team back in 2004. After hitting the jackpot with a risky Jermaine Dye acquisition, the team has struggled to find a long-term solution. 

Outside of a few productive seasons of Carlos Quentin, Avisail Garcia, and Adam Eaton, right field has been an eyesore for the team. The White Sox last five opening-day starters in right field include Romy Gonzalez, AJ Pollock, Adam Eaton, Nicky Delmonico, and Daniel Palka. 

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As things currently stand Gavin Sheets is in line to be the opening-day starter next season. The White Sox simply can’t afford to play Sheets in right field any longer. Sheets was a non-factor at the plate and a liability in the field. The 27-year-old had a Fielding Run Value of -6 which ranked in the MLB’s 13th percentile. He also had an  Outs Above Average of -2. 

Not all of this was on Sheets. The White Sox set him up for failure. Sheets is a first baseman by trade and playing the outfield can place extra strain on a player’s legs who is not accustomed to playing the position every day. It is something that Andrew Vaughn admitted affected his hitting late in the season when he was forced to play left field in 2021. 

Sheets played 75  games in the outfield last season and his splits tell a similar story. In April he hit .302 with a .822 OPS. In September he hit just .162 and his OPS fell to .463. Before the All-Star break Sheets was slashing .220/.298/.374 after the All-Star break those numbers fell to .178/.223/.271. 

Sheets is supposed to be a power hitter and an argument could be made that playing in the outfield is affecting his power. Sheets hit 10 home runs, which was the fewest of his career. In 2021 he managed to hit 11 despite playing in 64 fewer games. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the bulk of his time was spent at first base and DH that season. 

Playing Sheets in the outfield is not only costing the White Sox runs defensively but it is also affecting his power. Without Sheet’s left-handed power, he is a useless player to have in the lineup. He does not hit for average, or draw walks at a high enough rate to justify the poor offensive output. 

Sheets ranked in the bottom three percent in the league in  Expected Batting Average (.210), Weighted On-Base Average (.261), and Expected Weighted On-Base Average (.267). 

The next best option in the organization is Oscar Colas, who proved he was not ready to be a major leaguer last season. Chris Getz has already said that the organization expects Colas to start the 2024 campaign in Triple-A Charlotte. 

Colas lacked plate discipline, striking out in 27 percent of his MLB plate appearances. In 263 plate appearances, he managed just 53 hits, five home runs, and 19 RBIs. While he does possess a strong arm, his defense in right field also left a lot to be desired. 

Unfortunately when you look at the White Sox farm system their highest-rated outfield prospect is George Wilkow a 17-year-old in Single-A Kannapolis. Since they have proven time and time again that they struggle to develop talent it is time for the White Sox to spend on a viable solution.

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