As we approach Spring Training next week, we will take a look at the White Sox roster and put together some individual performance projections for the 2017 season. Today we will continue with the White Sox outfielders for the 2017 season.
The White Sox outfield will like many positions on the diamond, look the same as it did in 2016 for the most part, the exception of course being the absence of Adam Eaton. The 2016 Gold Glove Award finalist was dealt to the Washington Nationals this winter in exchange for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning as the White Sox liquidated two of their most prized assets in Eaton and Chris Sale in an effort to revamp a long-neglected farm system.
Rookie Charlie Tilson will replace Eaton in the outfield, and give way for Avisail Garcia to return to right-field after being limited to mostly designated-hitter duties in 2016, in what will be Garcia’s final stab at sticking with the White Sox. So let’s start with the one-time promising prospect Avisail Garcia.
Garcia, 25, is entering his fifth season with the Chicago White Sox, and is running out of time to prove that he could be a part of the future, posting lack-luster results amidst once lofty-expectations, with Garcia once being compared to former teammate Miguel Cabrera. Garcia gave the White Sox fans plenty of reason to be hopeful in 2013 when he was acquired in the Jake Peavy trade, appearing in 42 games for the White Sox while posting a .304 batting average and hitting five home runs while driving in 21 runs for the Sox, but an injury shortened 2014, followed by a less than stellar 2015 and 2016 has left Garcia in the cold as far as fan opinion is concerned.
The White Sox gave the former top-prospect a one year deal worth $3 million dollars this offseason, giving the Venezuelan native one more shot at working his way into the future on the south side. The problem is, Garcia just doesn’t do anything very well. He is a below average outfielder, limited to playing right-field, and a below average hitter, with below average speed. None of his tools have turned out to be good enough to have any sustained future as an everyday player at the major-league level. I see Garcia staying right about where he has been over the past two seasons, and unfortunately for him, I don’t see him sticking around on the south side beyond the 2017 season.
Avisail Garcia 2017 Projections: .255 BA / 14 HR / 56 RBI / 22 2B / 2 3B / 33 BB / 120 K / .305 OBP / 0.6 WAR
Charlie Tilson will head into camp next weekend looking to come back strong after having his major-league debut cut short in 2016 thanks to an unfortunate injury suffered in his first game in a White Sox uniform, and the Wilmette, Illinois native will likely be the White Sox starting center-fielder come Opening Day.
Tilson, 24, was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals last summer in exchange for veteran reliever Zach Duke. Tilson went one for two in his major-league debut last August in Detroit before losing the remainder of his season to injury while diving for a ball in center-field, but has no major-league experience outside of that game. In 2016 in 100 games with the Memphis Red Birds, the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate, Tilson posted a .282 batting average with four homers and 34 RBI, while recording 16 doubles, eight triples, and 15 stolen bases.
The youngster also showed excellent patience at the plate, striking out only 51 times while earning 33 free-passes in 2016. Tilson is seen as a plus defender with excellent speed in the outfield as well as the base-paths. I believe that healthy and motivated to make his case to remain the White Sox center-fielder moving forward, Tilson will have an impressive rookie campaign in 2017.
Charlie Tilson 2017 Projections: .273 BA / 5 HR / 53 RBI / 23 2B / 7 3B / 45 BB / 78 K / .352 OBP / 1.4 WAR
Melky Cabrera, will begin the season as the White Sox starting left-fielder, but who knows how long he will remain on the south side, given his consistency over the course of his career, he could be a valued commodity near the trade deadline this season.
Cabrera has been a a delightful staple of consistency in the White Sox outfield over the course of the last two seasons, that were otherwise largely filled with disappointment. Hitting .273 in 2015, and .296 in 2016, the veteran entering his 13th major-league season will likely produce at the same clip for the White Sox in 2017, and almost surely be moved at some point between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
In fact Cabrera could be the most sought after White Sox trade asset outside of Jose Quintana at this point, quietly posting All-Star level production in 2016 for the White Sox, and showing no signs of decline at this point, the switch-hitting outfielder could be the final piece for a team missing a middle-of-the-order bat heading into their pennant race in 2017.
Melky Cabrera 2017 Projections: .292 BA / 15 HR / 84 RBI / 26 2B / 4 3B / 45 BB / 72 K / .344 OBP / 3.1 WAR
Outside of the three projected starting outfielders the White Sox severely lack depth in the outfield at this point, featuring the likes of Leury Garcia, and non-roster invitees Wily Garcia and Cody Asche heading into Spring Training. The Outfield is likely set for the 2017 season, with an opening as the fourth outfielder up for grabs between Leury Garcia, Wily Garcia, Cody Asche, and Rymer Lirano this spring.
Look for the rest of our 2017 White Sox player projections in the coming days, including looks at the White Sox catchers, and the bullpen heading into the opening of Spring Training camps tomorrow.