It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.
I feel like I should emphasis how bold of a prediction this is by typing this all in bold, but that would be as obnoxious as a Ndamukong Suh presser.
De Aza, 27, could be another case of a man who is a late bloomer. Alejandro De Aza was a force for the Chicago White Sox in 2011. In 435 plate appearances in Charlotte (AAA), De Aza put up an .872 OPS. De Aza also included 22 stolen bases in his time with the Knights. With his fantastic play in Charlotte, De Aza got the call up to the show, in which De Aza just showed off.
In 171 plate appearances for Chicago, De Aza had a .920 OPS, a 9.7 UZR, and a 2.8 Fangraphs WAR (fWAR). His high OPS was aided by an abnormally large and unsustainable .404 BABIP. It’s pretty obvious De Aza isn’t a 900 OPS bat. I am not expecting him to be a .900 OPS bat. I do think it’s reasonable he is an .800 OPS bat, and with his elite defense, should be the White Sox best player in 2012.
I know you must be reading this and wonder how I can say this with Paul Konerko on the roster. It’s pretty easy, actually. Konerko is a first baseman, slow as molasses, and doesn’t neccessarily have positive range at 1st base. Konerko is the team’s best hitter. That isn’t really debatable.
Hitting doesn’t translate to playing. De Aza can do it all. He can hit, field, run, get on base, and hit with some power. His only competition is Alexei Ramirez, who lead the White Sox in fWAR at 4.9. Ramirez’ WAR is aided by his excellent range in the field. Baseball Reference has Ramirez worth only 3.3 wins. Further proving that Fangraphs is obsessed with fielding a bit too much.
Bill James has De Aza’s projection to be about 240 plate appearances with a line of .291/.353/.450. It’s pretty clear that De Aza is going to get more than 240 plate appearances with the White Sox in 2012. With more games, De Aza’s line will likely weaken. My projection for De Aza would be around .270/.340/.440 with 30+ stolen bases and 10-15 runs saved defensively. I firmly believe De Aza is going to be a 4 win player. Both on FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
I was so thrilled to learn a few weeks ago that Williams is leaning towards De Aza at lead-off. After two blatantly obvious (except to Ozzie Guillen and Joe Cowley) putrid seasons of Juan Pierre, De Aza is going to be a breathe of fresh air.
I will be sure to bring this article back up in June to prove I am right. Or never speak of it again if I am wrong.