the outfield is the fourth and final edition of the white sox 2017 season previews. the usual suspects, minus one, can be expected but an old face may be looking at new responsibilities.
The 2017 White Sox outfielders will sprint out to their positions on Opening Day with one missing piece: Adam Eaton. Eaton was the spark plug of the offense during his time with the White Sox and there is no doubt in my mind that his absence will be noticed immediately. Melky Cabrera will be returning in left field but the other two spots will be somewhat of a revolving door throughout the 2017 season.
LF – Melky cabrera
For those outside of the White Sox fanbase Melky Cabrera quietly had a great season in his second year with the White Sox. Melky posted a batting average of .296 in 151 games in 2016, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 86 runs. He also had a slash line of .345/.455/.800. It has been fun to watch Melky patrol left field for the White Sox, especially following the confusing fiasco that was Dayan Viciedo. While it would have been understandable if Sox fans had been skeptical of Cabrera’s history with performance-enhancing drugs that really has not been a point of contention through two years with the team.
Melky has delivered solid production with no doubt or real skepticism of any kind. Cabrera has been the topic of a few trade rumors so far this offseason but nothing serious has been presented just yet. In order for the White Sox to succeed even the slightest bit in 2017 Melky needs to continue being the run producer he’s been so far for the White Sox.
CF – leury garcia
Leury Garcia has been a beloved part of the White Sox roster for the last couple of seasons. Leave it to them to watch a bench player garner a cult following over the course of a year. Leury played in 18 games for the Sox in 2016, batting .229 with a walk and 13 strikeouts. Once Spring Training gets going and reports start to trickle out regarding player progress it will be easier to determine what exactly Garcia’s role will be with the Sox in 2017.
As the depth chart now stands it looks like Leury Garcia will play right field while Avisail Garcia, currently listed as the starting right fielder, will be the team’s everyday designated hitter. If Garcia does indeed start in center field for the Sox it will be interesting to watch him adjust from 18 games in 2016 to an everyday center fielder in 2017. It will be a completely different frame of mind for him and Spring Training will be more important this year than ever before.
RF – Charlie TILSON
The White Sox depth chart currently lists Charlie Tilson as the starting center fielder, though with Leury Garcia also on the team it would seem more likely that Tilson slots over to right and gives Garcia the center field spot. Acquired in a trade with the Cardinals that sent Zach Duke to St. Louis, Tilson was injured in his first game with the White Sox last season and had to miss the rest of the year while recovering. Tilson is a speedster, having stolen 46 bases in 134 games with double-A Springfield in 2015. Should Tilson stay healthy in 2017 he will add a speed element that the Sox have been lacking since the days of Scott Podsednik.
Tilson should be high on everyone’s radar. The Sox didn’t have to give up much to get him and his potential to be an above average hitter and defender makes him an interesting piece for sure. Tilson has an opportunity to really show what he’s capable of and become Adam Eaton 2.0 for the Sox in 2017 and beyond.
Tim Moran recently published a piece profiling White Sox #12 prospect Adam Engel, an outfielder with blazing speed. Engel has been with the White Sox organization since 2013 and is a player I’ve tried to keep my eye on as much as possible. You can read more about him in Moran’s post but Engel is a dark horse candidate for a bench spot if he performs well in Spring Training.
Similar to the White Sox infield, the outfield won’t look too much different in 2017. The loss of Eaton will be forgotten once the prospects we received for him join the big league club. I know I’ll shed a couple tears every time I button up my black alternate Eaton jersey, or pull on my 1983 throwback.
Speaking of jerseys, is it too early to buy a Luis Alexander Basabe shirsey?