Forget the Academy Awards celebration in Hollywood next month. The best Oscar party this season could be staged in right field for the Chicago White Sox.
Oscar Colas, who hit .314 with 23 home runs and 79 RBI across three minor league levels last season, is poised to add his name to the White Sox wild carnival ride that has existed in right field for more than a decade.
Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Dayan Viciedo, Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, Nomar Mazara, Gavin Sheets, and others have all taken turns on the right field merry-go-round since Jermaine Dye left. But instead of grabbing the brass ring, most of the riders simply spilled popcorn in their laps.
The impending arrival of the 24-year-old Colas to the major leagues, though, might change all that. He exploded into White Sox fans' consciousness last spring and summer, sending rockets into the skies that could be seen from Winston-Salem, Birmingham, and Charlotte all the way to the south side of Chicago.
The Chicago White Sox are expecting a lot from Oscar Colas in 2023.
It was a minor league performance reminiscent of Eloy Jimenez in 2018 (22 homers, 75 RBI, .337 at Double-A and Triple-A) and Luis Robert in 2019 (32 homers, 92 RBI, .328 at Single, Double and Triple-A). Both Jimenez and Robert were brought to the big leagues to stay following their breakout seasons.
But instead of the excitement and anticipation that greeted the arrivals of recent organizational talent like Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, and Michael Kopech, Colas' emergence so far, it seems, has been covered with equal parts apathy and apprehension with only a touch of hope and promise.
That might be due to the fact the Sox didn't make a big trade for him like Jimenez and Moncada or a big deal about his signing (like Robert).
Colas was quietly signed just last January 2022 with little fanfare. Also, to be sure, White Sox fans and even the media are understandably a little more cautious and slightly jaded about the emergence of so-called generational talent after the disappointment of last season.
Colas is also stepping into a difficult situation in right field that has become the poster child (along with second base) of what is wrong with the White Sox front office.
Fans and media, it seems, wanted right field to be solved by a flashy free agent signing or trade and not yet another prospect being thrown into the spotlight before he might be ready.
But all the White Sox have given its fan base to calm their concerns this off-season is Colas and a parade of non-roster invitees that includes Jake Marisnick, Billy Hamilton, and Victor Reyes.
And that was on top of the last three years when we were gifted Nomar Mazara, Adam Eaton, and A.J. Pollock. Right field is clearly a worn-out merry-go-round filled with stale popcorn and old gum on the seats.
Well, sweep away that old popcorn. Scrape off that gum. Fire up the merry-go-round, start playing the happy music and hold on for what might be the ride of your life. Colas is coming fast and furiously and it is perfectly fine to get excited.
New White Sox manager Pedro Grifol has already gone on record stating that Colas, the latest great White Sox hope, will be given every opportunity to grab the brass ring.
All you need to know about the White Sox's belief in Colas is that they only went out and got the likes of Marisnick, Hamilton, and Reyes this off-season to join the outfield party.
Ask yourself this. Have the White Sox been wrong about a big-time prospect in recent years? True, there are no World Series titles just yet, but Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, and Luis Robert, not to mention Tim Anderson and Andrew Vaughn, aren't exactly the second coming of Bee Bee Richard.
Richard was deemed the heir apparent at shortstop to Luis Aparicio in 1971 at the age of 22 and was out of Chicago by 1976 and out of the big leagues by 1977.
Colas is clearly the best option in right field right now. Sheets has hit 26 homers with 87 RBI over 537 at-bats the last two seasons combined and if Colas does that this year he will likely be Rookie of the Year.
But the problem with Sheets is that you can't put all those 537 at-bats in one season because opposing teams, for some reason, won't agree to just throw right-handed pitchers his way.
The Sox clearly don't even trust him enough to see if he can hit lefties. Sheets has only 59 career at-bats against left-handers and has just nine hits (.153).
He's struck out 21 times and walked just five times and none of his 26 career home runs have come against a lefty. Sheets, don't forget, was also on the roster a year ago at this time and the Sox felt it necessary to go out and get Pollock.
The Sox easily could have found another Pollock and Eaton this off-season to soothe its fan base and seemingly address a need. Players like Pollock and Eaton, with impressive resumes they can never duplicate again, are always available.
But the Sox, obviously proponents of the theory that you shouldn't go out for hamburgers when you have filet mignon at home, have had their fill with hamburger.
Colas, the Sox evidently believe, can serve as the third entrée in what can become an outfield of prime cuts of beef along with Andrew Benintendi and Robert.
Just 31 of Colas' at-bats have come at Triple-A and that is a red flag. But he still found the time to hit a pair of homers, two doubles, drive in four runs, and hit .387.
He hit wherever the Sox put him last year, with seven homers and 42 RBI in just 244 at-bats at Class A Winston-Salem and 14 homers, 33 RBI, and a .306 average at Double-A Birmingham.
It's been suggested the White Sox move Jimenez to right, a cruel proposal for one of their fragile works of art who has the potential to bust into a million pieces with every ball hit his way.
One of the reasons for the signing of Benintendi to play left field was to keep Jimenez out of harm's way. Jimenez without a doubt certainly has the bat to play right field but that bat can't catch a fly ball or prevent him from pulling every muscle in his body chasing a drive into the gap.
The White Sox also have not had much success in recent years moving left and center fielders to right. They did it with Quentin in 2010, Rios in 2012 and Viciedo in 2014. All three spent just one or two years in right before they were moved elsewhere (Rios to the Texas Rangers, Quentin to the San Diego Padres and Viciedo to Japan, where he has played from 2016 to this day).
Eaton moved from center to right in 2016 and found himself with the Washington Nationals in 2017. He came back to the Sox in 2021 to play right and was released a few months into the season.
So, history tells us, a move to right field in Chicago means you might want to start packing your bags. Jimenez deserves better than that.
The biggest red flag with Colas is whether or not he is indeed ready for a full-time role in the big leagues. He has, after all, played just one season in the United States. Colas, though, might be more ready that Jimenez was in 2019 and Robert in 2020 even though they both had multiple minor league seasons to their credit.
Colas is, after all, 24 years old while Jimenez and Robert were both 22 when they debuted in the big leagues. Colas also has extensive experience playing in Cuba and Japan since he was 17 years old.
And he's hit wherever he's played with 51 homers, 195 RBI, and a .296 average over five seasons and 1,137 at-bats. He'd have even more game experience but he sat out the entire 2021 season orchestrating his departure from Cuba.
The Sox have hurried players from Cuba and other countries outside the United States to the major leagues before with various degrees of success. Alexei Ramirez, from Cuba, didn't spend a day in the White Sox minor league system when he debuted in Chicago in 2008 at the age of 26.
Jorge Orta, from Mexico, was just 21 when he broke into the big leagues in 1972 after just 53 games at Double-A that same season. Jose Abreu, of course, walked right into the Sox lineup in 2014 after 10 seasons in Cuba.
But he was already 27 in 2014. Ramirez, Orta, and certainly Abreu were hands-down success stories. Another success story to a lesser degree was Viciedo. He played four years in Cuba and spent just a year and a half in the Sox minor leagues before he debuted in Chicago in 2010 at the age of 21.
But he also spent the bulk of 2010 and 2011 in the minor leagues before coming up for good in 2012 at the age of 23, hitting 25 homers and driving in 78 runs.
Colas' ceiling right now looks like it might flirt with that of Abreu. But his basement might be Viciedo and that, while not a fantasy scenario, also wouldn't be a disaster.
Viciedo was right-handed while Colas is a lefty but they have similar body types (Viciedo was 5-11, 240 while Colas is a bit taller and thinner).
They also share a disdain for the base on balls. Viciedo hit 66 homers and drove in 211 runs over parts of five seasons and 1,675 at-bats for the Sox. But he also fanned 388 times and walked just 95 times.
He also, as a result, never hit much for average (.254). Colas has struck out 274 times and walked just 94 times in his career so far against, admittedly, mostly inexperienced pitching.
Even last year he fanned 120 times and walked just 38 times when those inexperienced pitchers were frightened to pitch to him.
But he should fit right in with a White Sox lineup this year that is already well stocked with home run-conscious, swing-and-miss hitters who treat a walk as if it is ketchup on their Chicago dog.
Nobody, of course, wants to stage an Oscar party without a statue somewhere in the room. That is the risk the Sox will take on this year if the task proves too big for Colas. The Sox, in their haste to capture lightning in a bottle, might be putting too much pressure on Colas too soon.
This will all be new to Colas, who not only has to be the answer in right field but also help fill the void left by the departure of Abreu to the Houston Astros.
Andrew Vaughn will replace Abreu at first but he's been on the team for two years. He's just moving to a new position, not really replacing anybody. Colas is a key addition to the team the very same off-season Abreu was a subtraction.
That won't go unnoticed by Sox fans, many of which already have labeled this off-season a failure if there is no shiny statue at the White Sox Oscar party this year.