It’s no secret that the Chicago White Sox have struggled to find an adequate solution in right field since Avisail Garcia’s departure. In 2019, the White Sox trotted out a motley crew of Ryan Cordell, Jon Jay, Charlie Tilson, and Daniel Palka to cover the duties in right field.
Cordell hit .221 with just a .290 OBP. Jay battled injures throughout the season, Tilson hit .229 with just one home run. Meanwhile, Palka recorded just nine hits in 93 plate appearances before being sent down to the minors.
The front office tried to rectify the situation by trading for Nomar Mazara. Mazara struggled in Texas but had shown flashes before. That experiment was a complete failure. Mazara hit .228 and had only one home run.
With plenty of upgrades available during the offseason, the front office played it cheap once again. They brought back the injury-prone Adam Eaton who was coming off his worse season with the Washington Nationals. Eaton was DFA’d on July 6th after posting a career-high 25.1 strikeout percentage with the White Sox.
The Chicago White Sox needs a full-time right fielder and they need it fast.
Any semblance of offensive production he had completely fallen off after April. He ended his second stint with the White Sox slashing .201/.298/.344. A revolving door of outfielders was used to patch up the hole left by Eaton. Tony La Russa inserted Adam Engel, Brain Goodwin, Gavin Sheets, and Leury Garcia as a platoon to fill the void.
Adam Engel was the best option of the bunch but has proven that he cannot stay healthy, making him an unreliable option moving forward. He only played in 39 games this season and while he was solid in those 39 games, he doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence that he can stay on the field.
There are upgrades available in free agency this offseason such as Nicholas Castellanos and Chris Taylor. Both would make an already menacing White Sox offense even more dynamic while simultaneously adding some consistency to their production.
However, if the front office’s past decisions are any indication then the White Sox aren’t going to jump on any high-priced outfielder. George Springer, Micheal Brantley, Eddie Rosario, and Kyle Schwarber were all available when the White Sox settled with Adam Eaton. Eaton was signed early in the offseason as well signaling that Rick Hahn wanted a cheap solution.
If that is the case once again the White Sox may be looking in-house to find an everyday right fielder. Enter Yoelqui Cespedes. Yoelqui is the younger half-brother of Yoenis Cespedes, who the White Sox signed for $2 million dollars in December.
Like his older brother, Yoelqui has the arm talent to be a Major League right fielder. On a 20-80 scale scouts graded arm grade as a 70. That is a very high mark that could even get higher over time.
Since defecting from Cuba, he has been bulking up by adding nearly 20 pounds of muscle over the winter. Without the extra muscle, Cespedes batted .287 in four seasons in Cuba. His bat speed and strength give him some raw power that will play well in a hitter-friendly park like Guaranteed Rate Field. He is ranked the number two prospect in the White Sox farm system for a reason.
His tools draw comparisons to Micker Adolfo who is also an option for the White Sox in 2022. However, Adolfo’s progress in the minors has been slowed by injuries which raise valid concerns. However, Adolfo has ample Minor League experience. Cespedes does not. In high A ball, he hit .278 with a .850 OPS before being moved up to double-A. In Birmingham, he raised his average to .298 in 100 plate appearances.
The White Sox have shown that they are not afraid to promote a player with limited minor league experience. Just look at Andrew Vaughn and Garrett Crochet. However, Cespedes is aggressive at the plate and has a tendency to chase some bad pitches.
He is going to need to gain some better plate disciple to succeed against quality pitching. It is possible the White Sox have him start the first month of the season in their farm system to iron some things out before calling him up.