Quick, who leads the Chicago White Sox in games played in right field this season? If you guessed Adam Eaton, you have been paying very close attention to the position as he leads all players with 55 games.
That is an important stat when you consider the revolving door that the position became as a result of injuries. This forced manager Tony LaRussa to do some juggling of his lineups regarding his outfield.
The extended periods on the disabled list for Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Adam Engel, who was considered to be the team’s starting outfield at the beginning of the year, produced opportunities for a number of players to make contributions and those who stepped in did have positive impacts.
While each position did see guys be effective throughout the season, the return of Jimenez and Robert solidifies left and center fields respectively as the team heads to the playoffs. Right field, however, could be up for grabs with Engel’s health status being a big question mark. Eight different players have started eight or more games at the position this year.
Engel’s issues have led to him only playing 35 games this season, starting only nine in right field. When healthy, he did play center 25 times out of necessity for Robert’s absence but the team could do that because they had guys who were capable enough to cover right field.
The Chicago White Sox has a lot of options for right field in the postseason.
There’s an adage in football that if you have two quarterbacks you have none. In the White Sox case, that could apply here as they had 11 guys play right field this season, leaving the position wide open if Engel is a no-go.
Brian Goodwin (43 games) and Leury Garcia (33 games) have done the lion’s share of manning the corner outfield spot but with Goodwin dealing with back issues and Garcia not providing a lot of power (five home runs), the White Sox may be looking at other options to start.
One of those players could be Gavin Sheets. Not only has his play possibly earned him a spot on the playoff roster, but it may be good enough to pencil him in to start. He has played 13 games in right and for the year has posted a .252/.328/.516 line to go along with 11 homers in 155 at-bats.
If he isn’t an option LaRussa wants to use in the field, he could pencil him into the designated hitter spot regardless of who he goes with in right. The White Sox could use another powerful bat from the left side to compliment switch hitters Yasmani Grandal and Yoan Moncada. Sheets can be the guy to provide it.
Andrew Vaughn played very well this year in left as Jimenez’s replacement, but since returning from a back issue of his own last week, Vaughn has recorded just two hits over five games and could find himself relegated to pinch-hitting duties for the postseason.
As for Garcia, he has been the team’s Swiss Army knife, capable of playing numerous positions as needed. He has been used in the outfield 57 times and the infield 58 times. Overall, Garcia is hitting .270 this season but over the last 28 days, he has been on fire posting a .337 average with a .884 OPS.
That type of hitting the bottom of the order could provide nice dividends and be a good table-setter for the top of the order. Other guys who patrolled the outfield currently on the 40 man roster include Billy Hamilton, Danny Mendick, Romy Gonzalez, and Micker Adolfo.
Matchups may play a factor in who takes right field on a game-by-game basis and it’s possible La Russa may opt to go with a platoon system to address it. But, if he wants to have a consistent presence in the lineup, he could have a tough decision on his hands.