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« As The Bulls Turn: Welcome to the Party, Luol Coming & Going: Cubs Right Fielders »

White Sox Sun Feb 12 2012

Coming & Going: White Sox Left Fielders

It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)

    

Goodbye: Juan Pierre
Last season: .279 BA, 2 HR, 50 RBI, .657 OPS (.329 OBP, .327 SLG)

Hello Alejandro de Aza
Last season: .329 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI, .920 OPS (.400 OBP, .520 SLG) in 54 games

What Happened?

Juan Pierre, the starting left fielder for the White Sox for the last two years, became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia in late January. With the Phillies, Pierre may get the chance to platoon in their outfield somewhere. Meanwhile, Chicago didn't really add anyone; it appears that they will be moving forward in 2012 with Alejandro de Aza, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo in their outfield in some configuration.

How Will the White Sox Miss Pierre?

Never a slugger, and never a contender for a batting title, Pierre's entire career is (was?) based around being a prime-time small ball player. Last year he led the league in sacrifice bunts with 19, and he was sixth in the majors with a 1.05 walk-to-strikeout ratio. In 2010, Pierre led the American League in hit-by-pitches (getting plunked 21 times) and he led the majors in stolen bases, with 68.

You know what you are getting from Juan Pierre: a solid leadoff hitter who doesn't miss many games. He played in all 162 games from 2003 to 2007, and played in 160 games in 2010, and 158 in 2011 for the White Sox. He puts the bat on the ball (only one season with more than 50 walks, and only one season with more than 50 Ks) and has good speed. He doesn't leg out triples like he once did, but he had 178 hits in 2011.

Contrary to all that is the contract he signed for. Was a minor league deal with a stacked Phillies outfield really the best situation for Pierre? Was is that no one else believed in the 34-year old lefty hitter?

What Does de Aza Bring to the Team?

Sure, we're talking about a relatively small sample size (171 plate appearances), but de Aza was a decent option for the White Sox last year. If we took de Aza's 2011 stats and extrapolated them over a full season, he would have finished with 12 home runs, 69 RBIs, 33 doubles and 9 triples, along with 150 total hits. Not bad. But because of his walk-to-strikeout ratio, the 27-year old outfielder would have finished with 51 walks and 102 strikeouts.

Despite the lack of numerical evidence, some feel de Aza is a good fit in Chicago.

Back in August, after de Aza got a chance to play more regularly, former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said "I think he has the tools to be (an everyday player). He makes the plays in the outfield, he makes contact, has good speed and a pretty good arm."

De Aza could play left or center, depending on what they do with Rios, but he is looking like a good option atop the order: He had a .474 on-base percentage in 38 plate appearances in the number two spot in the lineup.

Maybe the best evidence that de Aza will have an impact is a quote from Pierre himself. In mid-October, when the Sox were in flux, Pierre said "[The White Sox] got some young guys you don't know about. And De Aza is ready to go. He spent a lot of years in the minor leagues, and he's coming into his own. These guys might be a couple years off, and you never know if the team wants to go young. Probably the only one I know of is De Aza.

"It's sort of like watching me, only he has more pop."

 
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