Eaton good: He may have been a star on the South Side, but this crash test dummy of a ballplayer just had a helluva World Series for Washington. (@si_mlb)
If you thought there were old familiar names in the infield, just wait for the outfield. The top three players in SSHP’s vote were Adam Eaton, Alex Rios, and Carlos Quentin. You all guessed the first two correctly, but the third will be a surprise. Without further ado, here are the best outfielders for the White Sox in the 2010s.
Outfielder No. 1 — Adam Eaton
Eaton was the obvious choice. He was with the White Sox for three years and he played extremely well. His play was apparently good enough to net a huge prospect haul from the Nationals: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, and Dane Dunning. However, Eaton was an integral piece to winning the 2019 World Series, so the Nationals are in no way miffed they parted ways with those three pitchers. Eaton was a White Sox from 2014-16 in what was probably one of the more toxic clubhouses in baseball — Ozzie Guillén, of all people, has said nobody liked Eaton. Of course, the most memorable Eaton moment was when he called Drake LaRoche a leader — yep, a pre-teen, a leader — in an MLB clubhouse. So, something is clearly wrong between the ears, but his play for the White Sox was great. He had 13.5 fWAR in three seasons with the Sox, including a 5.9 fWAR year in 2016, his last. He finished in 19th place in MVP voting that year, largely because his defense improved significantly with a move to right field. Each of his three seasons were in the top five for single-season fWAR among Sox outfielders over the decade, including the very best in fWAR season (2016). Unfortunately for Eaton, his success on the field will not be the first recollection of his time in Chicago.
Outfielder No. 2 — Alex Rios
Yes, you read that right, Alex Rios and all his inconsistencies placed second on the list of best White Sox outfielders of the decade. Over his 3 1/2 years this decade with the Sox, he collected 8.1 fWAR. He started out the decade with a much-improved 3.3 fWAR mark compared to his half-season in 2009. However, Rios gonna Rios, and he flopped in 2011 —with a minimum of 300 plate appearances, Rios’ 2011 fWAR of -1.4 was the worst of any White Sox outfielder this decade. However, Rios still somehow climbed back up to second among all South Side outfielders in the 2010s, and I am not sure if that says more about Rios or the other outfielders the Sox had the past 10 years. The next season was much better, though, for Rios and the White Sox; in 2012, his fWAR (4.0) was the third-best in a single season among all White Sox OFs in the 2010s. The following year, the Sox shipped Rios off to Texas for Leury García, who has not come anywhere close to Rios’ fWAR value since joining the White Sox. Like Eaton, Rios would also go on to win a World Series (with the Kansas City Royals) but unlike Eaton, his value dropped precipitously.
Outfielder No. 3 — Alejandro De Aza
A lot of old and fun names will appear in this series, and Alejandro De Aza probably takes the cake. The best years of his late-blooming career were with the White Sox from 2011-13. He was neither an offensive or defensive juggernaut, but he was just average enough at both to be about a two-win player per fWAR during his prime. De Aza had some speed, a little pop, and good enough bat-to-ball skills to be an everyday starter for about three seasons. During his prime years, he slashed .278/.343/.764, which is not too shabby. He actually had more power than I remembered, even having a 17-homer season in 2013 (maybe that year is just forgettable for some reason). The Sox got all they could out of him during those three years and shipped him off to Baltimore during the 2014 season, where he went on a 20-game tear. Unfortunately for De Aza, that was his curtain call, and he became more or less a replacement-level player after that.
Designated Hitter — Paul Konerko
Did I add the DH spot to shoehorn in a White Sox all-time great? In short, duh, who wouldn’t? Paulie ended his career with the White Sox in a not-so-great fashion, at least in terms of his play. In his last two seasons, Konerko collected -2.5 worth of fWAR, so he should be closer to 30 overall for his career. However, from 2010-12 he was still pretty good. Konerko placed fifth in MVP voting in 2010 and then 13th in 2011 (boy, would Phil Rogers be mad about that now). He also went to the All-Star game in each of those seasons, thanks to a slash line of .304/.384/.530 for a 144 OPS+. That three-year stretch was his late-career resurgence, but Paulie fell hard after that. He is now up for the Hall of Fame for the first time. He will not get in, and may not survive longer than one year, but it would be nice to see him stay on the ballot so he and Mark Buehrle can share space in voting for the 2021 class.
Next up: Pitching!