The fate of a player’s season can change in a moment, in the seconds it takes for ball to hit bat and fly into the outfield, for an outfielder to make a spectacular diving catch, only to remain on the ground writhing in pain.
Avisail Garcia of the Chicago White Sox had one of those moments yesterday in his team’s loss to the Colorado Rockies. Garcia made a diving grab in the bottom of the sixth inning and tore the labrum in his left shoulder. The White Sox placed him on the 15-day DL and announced that he will have season-ending surgery to repair the labrum within the next few weeks. Garcia had a .267/.353/.467 line with two home runs and four RBI so far this year.
There was no doubt that right field would be Garcia’s for the majority of the 2014 season, save for the occasional off day. This early injury changes that, drastically so.
With Garcia now out for the entire year, the White Sox will probably play a game of musical chairs in the corner outfield slots for the remainder of the season.
The team’s depth chart currently lists center fielder Adam Eaton as second to Garcia in the right field hierarchy. However, as long as Eaton continues to patrol center field like the ghost of Aaron Rowand, his defensive range and grit best serve the Sox there. He also doesn’t have a lot of experience in right; of the 790.2 defensive innings Eaton has played so far in his career, just 28.1 of them have been in right field.
The White Sox began the season using a left field platoon of Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza. With Garcia gone, that platoon will stretch to include right field, with the addition of Jordan Danks, who the White Sox recalled from Triple A Charlotte to fill Garcia’s spot on the roster.
After putting together an impressive .333/.378/.738 line in spring training, Danks got off to a weak start with Charlotte, with a .182/.259/.364 line, one home run and four RBI in 22 at bats. Even so, he is one of the White Sox’s best defensive outfielders whose main problem in his young career has been a lack of consistent playing time at the major league level. Since debuting as a midseason call up in 2012, he’s had just 227 major league at bats spread out over two seasons, and has a career line of .229/.303/.344.
Between De Aza, Viciedo and Danks, Danks has also spent the highest percentage of his major league career in right field. About 30 percent of Danks’ 590.1 career defensive innings have been in right, compared to 6.8 percent of De Aza’s (222.1 of 3290.2 innings) and 7.9 percent of Viciedo’s (173.1 of 2187.1 innings). If he can find a consistent stroke at the plate, Danks should earn most of the playing time in right.
Though it’s always a challenge for a team to lose a star player, there are some positives. Danks proved his big-league value in spring training, and will finally have the chance to play in the White Sox outfield on a regular — or at least semi-regular — basis. He needs to make the most of this unexpected opportunity.