Reasons to care about Adam Eaton’s elbow
Shortly afterward, he threw this ball. // Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Brand, spanking-new (not proud of this) White Sox centerfielder Adam Eaton sought to clear concern Thursday about the elbow in his throwing arm and where it lies in the healing process after a March UCL tear.
"From Dan Hayes:“Throughout the rest of the season the confidence grew back in it and the strength of it came back,” Eaton said. “It hasn’t been an issue this offseason. I haven’t thrown at all, but you can kind of feel it here and there during the injury and throughout the offseason it has been a lot better.”"
The assurances become necessary when Eaton gets into the details of his 2013, which become rather grizzly. Beyond simply a tear, Eaton recalls re-aggravating his injury near the end of his rehab in May, which he describes as “it kind of blew up on me again.” Little setbacks and popping through scar tissue are normal for these type of surgeries, but Eaton acknowledges that a routine of sitting idle, then letting it all loose didn’t seem like the optimal way to ease his arm back to full-strength. If he’s even there yet.
Here was Eaton at the end of September 2013. Not eye-popping, but functional…and what on Earth is this Nationals guy doing:
As Dayan Viciedo could show or tell, a big throwing arm is the least important element of a good defensive outfielder. But for Eaton, who is capable of handling the coverage demands of centerfield but likely lacking the footspeed and length to be an asset at the position, his throwing arm is likely the one tool that could push his defense to above-average, and his ability to call back to its halcyon days is up in the air.
The halcyon days:
This is a pretty horrible sample, since I found only two interesting clips of Eaton pre-injury, and have a better shot of the throw I am less interested in (when he gets to load up for a half hour first), than the throw that indicates some ability to reel off darts on the run.
Deeper, more regular examination is required, because the scouting opinion is a bit split. John Sickels praised Eaton’s throwing arm back in 2012, but Hayes’ piece quotes MLB.com’s Bernie Pleskoff being unimpressed by it. If I had to hazard a guess, I would imagine that the load-up process seen in his better throws is telling, and that he needs to get all of his smaller frame behind his throws to produce above-average results.
Additionally, the health of Eaton’s arm will be revealing to the mindset behind the trade. Arizona has been regularly criticized, including with the Matt Davidson trade, of bailing out on prospects who do not fit their organizational approach. Eaton is not such a case, and his availability is a bit of an oddity that would be more happily explained by “Diamondbacks GM Josh Towers is under pressure to show immediate improvement” than “Eaton is not healthy and they were not sure he would ever return to his old self.”
If nothing else, it’s nice to have an interesting question that can actually be answered by watching White Sox baseball.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan