White Sox First Half Player Grades: Outfielders

Jul 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton (1) catches a fly ball during the seventh inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 5, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton (1) catches a fly ball during the seventh inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s the All-Star break, which is sort of like an MLB player’s truncated summer vacation. But before they hit the beach or check out the latest blockbuster film, it wouldn’t hurt them to take a look at the White Sox report card.

The Chicago White Sox are 45-43, hanging around in the playoff hunt to be sure but also still stained with the stigma of being here when they were blessed with a 23-10 start and a six game cushion in the AL Central.

The White Sox outfield has been a mixed bag, with some of the team’s most competent bats residing in the corners and a blackhole in center and on the bench. Needless to say, not every player below will be able to kick back next to the soothing waves without being haunted by the poor marks their parents may find in the trash bin.

ADAM EATON, RF (A-)

Jun 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder
Jun 29, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder /

Adam Eaton has been the usual spark plug for the White Sox in 2016. Despite Tim Anderson taking over the leadoff duties, Eaton has paced the offense. The right fielder is hitting .271/.355/.394 with 13 doubles, 7 triples, and 5 home runs.

He’s also swiped 10 bases thus far, meaning he’s on track to post his first 20 stolen base season of his career. Eaton’s power has dipped a bit through the first half, but it’s really not his game. He’s back to a 15.8% strikeout rate from 19.0% last season, which profiles better at the top of the order. Not surprisingly, Eaton leads the team in OBP and hits.

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Probably the most surprising stat in regards to Eaton is that he’s collected 3.2 fWAR, which is almost even with the 3.6 mark he posted all of that season. It’s also 8th among all MLB outfielders, per Fangraphs. 

A lot of this is couched in Eaton’s defensive metrics. Usually down on Eaton, FanGraphs thinks his move from centerfield to right field hasn’t just made him plus, but has actually made him the best defensive player in baseball. 

That’s right. Eaton leads the MLB with a 32.4 UZR/150 and 19 defensive runs saved.Either way, Eaton has absolutely passed the eye test. He’s made highlight reel plays in the way of decent range and has proven a cannon for an arm. The memo on every baserunner’s locker: Don’t run on Adam Eaton.

Sure it would be nice to see Eaton grab a few more extra-base hits but that’s really just grasping at straws when it comes to the straw that stirs the drink. Eaton has historically heated up in the 2nd half (.843 OPS in ’14 and .904 OPS in ’15), so the skies ahead look even brighter.

MELKY CABRERA, LF (B+)

Jun 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) reacts after his home run in the fifth inning of their game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) reacts after his home run in the fifth inning of their game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

Count me down as someone that wasn’t all that concerned with Melky Cabrera’s poor 2015. The switch-hitter rebounded with a .782 OPS after the All-Star break last year and has never looked back.

A chief concern with Cabrera was that he looked like he had all but forgotten how to be effective from the right side. In 2016, Cabrera has a robust .917 OPS as a RHH.

He draws most of his power from the left-side and when you blend the two together you get a .297/.345/.355 slash line with 18 doubles, 3 triples, and 8 home runs. Melky has arguably been Chicago’s best hitter and looks a lot more the the guy Rick Hahn thought he was signing when he made a splash in the 2015 offseason.

Melky will never be anything special in left field, but he’s been passable out there. His glove is certainly not an albatross and as long as he continues to rake, it’s of very little concern.

Melky is back in 2016 and for that he takes home a solid grade.

AUSTIN JACKSON, CF (C)

May 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Austin Jackson (10) hits a single against the Kansas City Royals during the fifth inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Austin Jackson (10) hits a single against the Kansas City Royals during the fifth inning at U.S. Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

Austin Jackson has had to live with the consolation prize designation all season, and it’s not hard for him to become a focal point for ire just because he’s not the likes of Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, or Dexter Fowler.

Jackson was always best suited as a 4th outfielder who could play centerfield in a pinch. Strangely, his largest contribution has been moving Eaton to right field.

The stick has been anemic at times. He’s hitting .254/.318/.343 on the season with 12 doubles and 2 triples in 54 games. Quite honestly, I’ve been surprised by his gappers, but the reality is that is all he’s good for these days. He’s got what I call warning track power and his .088 ISO does all the talking.

Jackson appeared to be coming alive a bit in May (.293/.356/.391) but a torn meniscus placed him on the shelf, where he currently resides.

Jackson could in theory be back around August 1st, but I find it laughable the White Sox are now classifying him as a deadline “addition” of sorts. He had a .573 OPS in April and is coming off of knee surgery. The hot May feels more like an outlier at this point in his career, so once again Jackson is best served as a bench piece.

If he were in Algebra II and on the bench were he should be, his grade might be higher but since the White Sox insist on placing him in calculus on a daily basis, he can’t muster better than a C-grade.

J.B. SHUCK, OF (C)

Jun 4, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder
Jun 4, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder /

Here’s yet another player on the White Sox that is being overexposed because of a putrid lack of depth.

Repeat after me: J.B. Shuck is not a starting centerfielder. 

I don’t mean to necessarily harp on Shuck because it’s not his fault he’s been thrust into an impossible position. To be fair, he does have only a 9.2% K-rate. The issue is that he’s mostly sapped of any power, so he’s not the ideal left-handed hitter this roster desperately needs.

His .254/.277/.412 line is frankly uninspiring. Shuck has had a hot bat since taking over for Austin Jackson in center, which is admirable. In fact, his .910 July OPS is nothing short of a dream scenario. It’s simply not sustainable though and it won’t be shocking when he dips to below replacement level as a regular in the coming weeks.

My largest disappointment with Shuck’s time with the White Sox this season has been on defense, where he’s been absolutely abysmal. His routes are sketchy and he looks lost in center. It’s strange because Shuck has historically been solid in the outfield, which was the main reason he was even on the roster, but the script has flipped.

He’s simply been an unimpressive defender. There’s no other way to spin it and that lowers his stock quite a bit.

AVISAIL GARCIA, OF/DH (FAILED)

Sep 9, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia (26) misplays a foul ball hit by Oakland Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman (not pictured) for an error during the second inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 9, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia (26) misplays a foul ball hit by Oakland Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman (not pictured) for an error during the second inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

When Jose Abreu was tearing up the league in 2014, White Sox Executive Vice President Kenny Williams made sure to point out that Abreu wasn’t even the spark that set off this whole reshaping process or even the most crucial cornerstone.

That designation for some in the organization belonged to Avisail Garcia, the key return in the 2013 Jake Peavy deadline deal.

To his credit, Garcia looked promising in his short stint with the White Sox after his acquisition. Then his 2014 season was marred by a torn labrum injury and the outfielder made a miraculous return late in the season, a nod to his strong will and work ethic.

That’s really the core of the issue though. By all accounts, Avisail Garcia is actually working on his game; even diligently so. Yet, this is a results driven business and the results have been nauseating. Seriously, grab a trash bin.

This Garcia was said to be a natural hitter. His plate discipline was lagging behind but he had solid plate coverage, a good eye, and simply needed more reps. This Garcia had the frame of a 30 home run hitter; he just needed to tap into his raw power. More importantly, this Avisail Garcia was said to have a floor. He was said to be an exceptionally athletic 22 year-old who had the raw speed to both play on the basepaths and in the field, offering dreams of a plus defender in a corner.

He was a -1.1 fWAR player in 2015, a supposedly decisive year for him. With a -0.6 fWAR in 2016, he’s actually on pace to be even worse. Garcia was slow out of the gate, but went through a two-week period where he ripped the ball. He looked like he had turned a corner, maybe, just maybe.

Since then, Garcia has cratered. His strikeout rate now hovers at 25.4 percent. He hit .244/.322/.256 in June. He has a .120/.214/.160 line in July. The power is nonexistent. His groundball rate has skyrocketed to 54.7%. He has zero loft in his swing, which means he can’t tap into his one true tool, which was the aforementioned raw power.

His only other discernible skill, hitting lefties, has vanished. He has a .178/.275/.267 line vs. southpaws in 2016.

With Justin Morneau set to arrive after the All-Star break, ready to serve as DH, Garcia’s days are perilously numbered. The White Sox could wait on Garcia if he had a floor. They could wait for a power conducive approach that may or may not develop. They could wait on the 25 year-olds potential, but so could and maybe even should the Atlanta Braves or Cincinnati Reds. As a self-described contender, the White Sox can wait no longer.

Avisail Garcia receives an “F”, not for his lack of effort, but for the simple fact that it’s amazing he’s still in school.

JASON COATS, OF (Incomplete)

Jun 4, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Jason Coats (36) is helped off the field by trainer Herm Schneider (left) during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 4, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Jason Coats (36) is helped off the field by trainer Herm Schneider (left) during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

I thought I’d give Coats a blurb simply to highlight how strange it is that he’s even on the roster.

Coats tore up Triple-A (.335/.399/.567) before being promoted to the White Sox in early June. His profile is that of a fourth outfielder and he doesn’t exactly have any standout tools.

His calling card has been that he’s playable in most facets of the game, and offers a decent glove. That could be valuable as a bench piece or even as a temporary Avisail Garcia replacement that could tread water for the time being.

Next: White Sox First Half Player Grades: Starting Pitchers

The weird thing is that the White Sox aren’t deploying him at all. It would probably best serve Coats to get regular playing time in Triple-A, even if he may be destined to Quad-A status for his career. The bottom line is that I’m not going to grade 29 plate appearances. Coats couldn’t even get playing time when both Melky and Jackson were sidelined, so his role here is questionable at best.