Right now, it seems like Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, and Alex Rios are locks for the White Sox starting outfield, and then Andruw Jones has a good chance of being the 4th outfielder. That leaves Alejandro De Aza, Jordan Danks, Josh Kroeger, and Mark Kotsay as the four candidates for the 5th outfield spot. So far, the 25-year-old De Aza is making a strong case in spring training, with a 13/33 line (.394 avg), 4 XBH, and 3 BB.
With Jones currently set to receive the majority of PAs at DH, that leaves quite a few PAs open for another outfielder after the three starters. That means that this decision will be important for the White Sox, as this final outfielder could be an injury away from a starting role and could potentially be the first player off the bench.
De Aza certainly isn’t as good as his spring line so far, but he’s a very interesting player. He didn’t play at all in 2008, but he had a decent season in Double-A as a 22-year-old in 2006 and then had an excellent season in Triple-A upon his return in 2009, putting up a 130 wRC+ in 300 PAs. Thanks to this minor league performance, De Aza is projected to be a near average hitter this season. He has a good defensive reputation and is extremely fast. As such, De Aza is probably a +5 or better defender in the corners and near average as a CF, and that’s a conservative estimate.
With that offensive and defensive profile, De Aza projects as a roughly average player for next year. This kind of player certainly doesn’t grow on trees, and the fact that they were able to steal him for the Florida Marlins is surprising. CHONE projects De Aza for 1.2 wins in only 325 PAs, or 2.2 wins in a full season of work.
Mark Kotsay is old and bad, Jordan Danks likely isn’t ready for the show after a 95 wRC+ in Double-A, and Kroeger is a Triple-A lifer. De Aza is young and has solid tools, and could step in and be productive if any of the starting three go down. Watch for De Aza this summer, as he could have a big impact at the major league level.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.