Will Adam LaRoche bounce back in 2016?

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Southside Showdown’s Chicago White Sox 2016 spring training coverage continues as we examine the possibility that Adam LaRoche has a bounce back season in 2016, and if not what avenues could the White Sox explore for production out of the designated hitter position.

Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Without delving too far into the dismal season that Adam LaRoche had in 2015 for the White Sox, I want to briefly go over just how bad it was, and why that can not happen again this season if the White Sox plan on competing in a tough American League Central division. In 2015 LaRoche posted career lows in almost every statistical category possible including a .207 BA, 12 home runs, 44 RBIs, 21 doubles, and 89 hits over 127 games. Tack on a whopping 133 Ks compared to just 49 walks, and you can see why he ended up with a horrendous OBP of just .293….Yes, that is an on-base percentage of .293…

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The White Sox made their goal this winter to again improve areas of concern through free-agency and trades with the intention of competing, motivated by the belief internally that they are in fact just a few pieces away from such. To their credit, whether you agree with the strategy or not, in terms of completing their goals set forth they did an excellent job this offseason.

With that in mind, if LaRoche is not able to return to form early on the White Sox need to explore other means of production at the designated hitter position. Unfortunately there really is no statistics that can support the theory that he will bounce back in 2016. LaRoche is 36 years-old and has had a decline in his production over the past few years.

So if the White Sox decide to go in a different direction at DH, whether it be in the spring or whenever they do so, who do they turn to? More than likely it will be an internal option that will have to be the solution given that the chances of any other team in the league taking on LaRoche’s $12.5 million dollar salary along with his lack of production,  for anything more than a bag of peanuts in return is slim to non-existent. So here’s a few in-house solutions that the White Sox could consider if need be:

Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

J.B. Shuck

The 28 year-old outfielder had a quietly productive 2015 season with the White Sox after sticking with the team out of camp as a fourth outfield option. In 79 games Shuck hit .266, although those most of his games played were no more than a pinch-pinch hit appearance he did a pretty good job of coming off of the bench when needed. In his limited role Shuck had 15 RBIs, 7 stolen bases, 8 doubles, and 2 triples. One real solid statistic is that he stuck out just 16 times in 165 plate appearances in 2015.

Carlos Sanchez

Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

In all likelihood Sanchez is out of a starting job in 2016 with the acquisition of infielder Brett Lawrie, so maybe he gets a look at the designated hitter spot at some point this year. While Sanchez struggled early-on in 2015, he started to show some pop and some more discipline at the plate towards the end of the season, raising his average considerably in the later part of the year. If he can increase his ability to get on base, he has above average speed on the bases, the White Sox could be able to get some nice production out of Sanchez.

Alex Avila / Dioner Navarro

Avila and Navarro will compete for the catchers position during spring training, and to this point it is a situation that is still very much up in the air as far as who will get the brunt of the playing time behind the plate in 2016. However it plays out, the player who receives the lesser-regular catchers role could spend some time at the designated hitter position. It will benefit them to get some extra at-bats for the games that they do start behind the plate, and at the same time they will still be fresh considering that they would not be playing defense while playing DH.

Of course there is probably a multitude of different scenarios that can play out between now, and the hypothetical time that the White Sox elect to explore alternate avenues, but as for now these seem like the most likely and viable scenarios without going outside of the organization. Ideally this discussion will not be revisited as result of Adam LaRoche proving most, my self included, wrong and having a productive year in 2016. If I was a betting man, which I am…I’m not putting my money on that happening.

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