We’ve spent all season being pumped about how Rick Hahn overhauled half of the offense in one offseason of work, but the first look at a lineup reminded me of something I had forgotten…
…the other half.
All this hope and change and there’s still Dayan in the No. 5 hole. On the plus side, if this is not a genuine make or break season for Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers (well maybe not him, the cupboard is BARE) then there never will be one and they will play here forever.
One or the other.
Between Alexei Ramirez plugging up the No. 2 hole again and his counterparts at first base, this lineup is very centered on Jose Abreu being a bust or not. As Aaron Gleeman of HardballTalk summed up in his season preview, they’re “better–and a whole lot more interesting–but still nowhere near good.” While we’ve all been briefed about reasonable expectations for Abreu and how just slightly above-average offense for his position would be a Godsend, this instant rebuilding looks a lot better if he’s a cornerstone right out of the box.
Surely some of the confidence the White Sox have about bringing Abreu to his potential stems from the foundation they have in place to aid his transition. The latest in a series of great looks at vital, non-public members of the White Sox organization by Dan Hayes focused on Abreu’s interpreter/handler/transition aide/manager of cultural development Lino Diaz.
Diaz serves as Abreu’s interpreter and is the guy he can call for any problems he has acclimating to his new home. But where his value really stands out is smoothing the relationship between Abreu and the coaching staff. Rather than just raw translation from English to Spanish, Diaz is a former player who can communicate baseball instructions in the specifics that make it easily understood by Abreu.
Encouragingly, Jose Quintana swears by Diaz’s counsel, who has played a part in his transition from potential PED washout to being the guy everyone overrates for his high makeup. But this task is pretty unprecedented for the White Sox development staff. They’re not helping some unknown youngster find a strength to stick around as a big leaguer, they’re managing player who enters the league and the country with enormous expectations and pressure to perform. Abreu has to develop rapidly both as a public figure and as a player facing the highest level of scrutiny possible, and he has to complete the task brilliantly to drag the Sox out of what should otherwise be a multi-year hole.
Which is to say that it would be awful nice if that man in the No. 3 spot pitched in as well. Avisail Garcia, like Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton, was a prospect ranked in the 70’s and 80’s by Baseball America during his last eligible year as a prospect. Garcia has much more raw ability than either of those two, so the reason he’s lumped in with them is the uncertainty around his ability to bring his potential to fruition. Like Abreu, Avisail can hit the ball to the moon, but can also leg out a bunt single in his next at-bat. Between his plate discipline and how often he whiffs completely, there are unfortunately a lot of statistical indicators saying early on that he’s doomed for failure.
That’s the heart of this White Sox order. It’s built with lottery tickets, and if we look beyond that, there are old ideas like ‘Alexei Ramirez at the No. 2. hole’ and ‘Dayan Viciedo–middle of the order masher’ bouncing around, and we’ve seen how much fun that can be.
This is an exciting season, but also a precarious one, and one that can only be fun due to just how bad 2013 was. Crazy, fringey hope is better than no hope at all.