Friday, April 11, 2014

Jordan Danks Should Be Starting in Left Field Over De Aza. It's That Simple.

Jordan Danks is a power hitting lefty who deserve a chance

     The Avisail Garcia injury is depressing. In fact, it's too depressing to write about. Beyond the analysis and pontification there remains a simple fact: He will be sidelined for the entire 2014 season. There is only one silver lining to this injury, and that is outfielder Jordan Danks. Danks got an extended look at the MLB level last year, hitting .231 in 179 plate appearances. The average isn't pretty, and Danks struck out a fair bit, but he did hit 5 home runs during that stretch. He is also a lefty. Jordan Danks was impressive during Spring Training. In fact, he was one of the Sox's best hitters. Danks posted a .333 avg. in 45 plate appearances in Arizona, while knocking out 5 long balls, and posting a robust 1.116 ops. Albeit, this is an extremely small sample size, but nonetheless Danks built on his time in the majors. It was disappointing when Danks was optioned to Triple-A-Charlotte during camp, especially when he is the definition of a stellar fourth outfielder. But what if he could be more?
         Originally, it would have taken the trades of either Alejandro De Aza or Dayan Viciedo for Danks to see the big leagues in 2014, but with Avisail Garcia going down, he has found himself with yet another opportunity. Robin Ventura told the media that Dayan Viciedo will see the majority of Garcia's playing time in right, while De Aza will become a regular in left. This would relegate Danks to the fourth outfielder's spot. This is the wrong decision. While De Aza came out of the gate hitting, the left fielder slugged three home runs over his first two games, he has reverted to his old ways. He's hitting .160 with 6 strikeouts in 9 games. The strikeouts are an effect of his power hungry approach, which is one of the fundamental reasons why he was terrible in the lead off spot last year. More glaring than De Aza's offense, is his tendency to produce mental miscues on the field and on the basepaths. He was the poster child for the White Sox's base running issues last season, and has yet to steal a base in 2014. Even more troubling is the fact that he misjudges fly balls, and has posted a -2.0 DWAR in his last two seasons as a regular.
         On the other hand, Jordan Danks is a natural center fielder and would be an above average defender in left field. Danks committed only one error in his 69 games played in the field last year. So his defense isn't the issue. While it's no secret that Danks has struggled against left handed pitchers, he has shown flashes of competence. The best example was when he hit .333 overall during his frequent playing time in August. Combine that small sample size with his most recent spring, and it's possible to envision a higher ceiling for Danks than a fourth outfielder. Finally, age becomes the deal breaker. Danks is 27 years old, while De Aza turns 30 today (Happy Birthday!). This makes Danks more of a candidate for a long term role, as he is young enough to still possess some upside, and can grow with the rest of Rick Hahn's developing core.
         In 2015, you can almost guarantee that Adam Eaton will be in center, and a healthy Avisail Garcia will be in right. Left field is more of a question mark. Dayan Viciedo benefits from Avisail Garcia's injury, because he will get one more audition to show that he is more than just raw talent. Jordan Danks should get a similar opportunity to prove himself. De Aza is getting expensive, while Jordan Danks is still in his pre-arbitration years. For 2015, it makes sense to open the year with either Dayan Viciedo or Jordan Danks in left, until Trayce Thompson, Micah Johnson (if he shifts to the outfield), or down the road Courtney Hawkins are ready to take their place. In the meantime, De Aza can be used as a trade chip, while he still has value. In hindsight, the best time to trade him would have been the third day of the season. Regardless, the outfielder could still net the Sox a marginal prospect, and a major-league ready reliever. What's intriguing about trading De Aza now is that he could be traded for the rotational depth and current bullpen mainstays the White Sox are lacking. Either way Jordan Danks should be starting in left field over De Aza. It's that simple.