Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thinking Like Kenny: Left Field Options

We all know that when it comes to free agency this winter the White Sox aren't likely to make much of a splash. Instead the team will try to find a couple of reasonably priced players to plug in for 2012, and one area the team is likely going to be looking to replace is Juan Pierre's spot in left field.

More specifically, Pierre's spot in left field and his place as the team's lead-off hitter. There aren't a lot of options out there in free agency, and though it's also possible that the Sox find Pierre's replacement by trading Carlos Quentin or Gavin Floyd for him, I decided to look at the free agent pile and see what Kenny might be thinking.

Which is the key. I'm not looking for what players I want to see the Sox go after -- GIVE PUJOLS A BILLION DOLLARS AND HAVE HIM PLAY LEFT -- but instead will invade the dark recesses of Kenny Williams' mind.

I will not stay out of White Sox business. Instead, I will covertly become White Sox business.

Going through the options out there on the market, there's one name that stuck out to me as a player that Kenny would definitely be interested in: David DeJesus. DeJesus didn't play left field at all in Oakland last season, but he did spend plenty of time out there while he was with Kansas City and it may actually be his best position. In over 1,200 innings playing left field with the Royals in 2009 he had an UZR of 15.7, which is easily the highest UZR he's had at any position in any season.

Of course, what will likely matter more than anything to Kenny is the fact that he's a former Royal, and Kenny loves his former Royals.

Now the questions that remain here are whether or not DeJesus will be cheap enough and what kind of deal he's looking for. He'll be 32 next August, so if he's looking for something long-term, I don't think Kenny will kick his tires for very long.

What about DeJesus hitting lead-off?

Well, he's not exactly your prototypical top of the order guy, but keep in mind that Juan Pierre wasn't either. Pierre's career OBP is .345 while DeJesus' is .356. The main difference between DeJesus and Pierre, however, is DeJesus isn't a stolen base threat and he strikes out more often than Pierre. Of course, he also has a lot more pop in his bat, as he has a career slugging percentage of .421 compared to Pierre's .363.

So by Kenny's ideal of what a lead-off hitter should be, DeJesus may not be his perfect candidate, but considering the only other lead-off type that plays left field terribly and can steal bases is 37-year old Johnny Damon, Kenny might just have to "settle" for DeJesus.

The good news is, DeJesus could work out. He had a down season in 2011 as his .240 batting average and .323 OBP were both career lows. Of course, what stands out a bit is his BABIP was also a career low of .274. This could be explained by the fact that DeJesus hit a lot more fly balls last season (37%) than he has in his career and Oakland is no place to be hitting a lot of fly balls.

So it's possible that his luck will improve in 2012 and he'll put up numbers more in line with what he produced before venturing to Oakland.

If it doesn't end up being David DeJesus, there is one other dark horse possibility. I'm not saying I agree with the idea, but I also wouldn't be shocked if Kenny Williams thought about giving Grady Sizemore a chance should he be available for what the White Sox deem a reasonable investment.

If the Sox could sign Sizemore to a one-year deal that was incentive-based, then Williams might pull the trigger on trying him in left field and on top of the order. He may feel that by moving Sizemore to left field it'll be easier on the knees that have kept Sizemore out so much the last couple of years.

Sizemore did spend the majority of his time in Cleveland batting lead-off, and though his speed is gone, maybe Kenny would want to give him another shot.

Sizemore will only be 29 when the 2012 season starts, and he's still a guy that averaged 25 home runs and 78 RBI from 2005 to 2009 and had an OBP of .368 in that span. Now, obviously, I don't know if Grady could still be as productive following the injuries, but if he comes cheap enough, Kenny might consider the low-risk, high-reward signing.

Again, the options for what Williams is looking for are limited, and with the team not looking to spend a lot of money this winter, these may be Kenny's best bets.

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