What should the Sox expect out of De Aza?

What should the Sox expect out of De Aza?
January 12, 2012, 10:56 pm
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For some reason, not everyone has been sold on Alejandro De Aza this offseason. That's a head-scratcher, because there wasn't a whole lot else De Aza could've done to prove himself in 2011.

He stayed healthy, coming to the plate over 600 times between Charlotte and Chicago. He posted a .378 OBP with 43 extra-base hits in Triple-A, then had a .400 OBP with 18 extra-base hits in the majors. And De Aza did all of that while playing excellent defense. What more, exactly, could De Aza have done?

The White Sox shouldn't expect to see that .329.400.520 line De Aza had in 2011 repeated in 2012 (if they do, he'll deserve some MVP votes). De Aza had just 171 plate appearances in the majors last year, hardly an ideal sample size. His .404 BABIPstands as unsustainable, too.

But the good news is that even with a regression, De Aza should be a valuable player for the White Sox. A look at what Bill James and Dan Szymborski (ZiPS) project:

Proj.GAVGOBPSLGBBKHRSBCSwOBAOPS James79.291.353.45020435136.350 (wOBA) ZiPS139.271.328.406381008221194 (OPS)
Thoughts:

-- James has De Aza as a backup or a starter who gets hurt. Given his history of injuries and recent status as a fourth outfielder, that's not illogical, although only 79 games would mean De Aza would suffer a serious injury or make multiple trips to the DL.

-- But James has De Aza doing very well for himself in those 79 games, with nearly a 1:2 walk-to-strikeout ratio and a very encouraging OBP. If De Aza can stay healthy and be in the neighborhood of James' numbers, he'll be a fantastic asset for the Sox.

-- Szymborski isn't as high on De Aza as James is, but a .328 OBP may still be the Sox best option to lead off.

-- Szymborski also projects defense and has De Aza as "very good" as a left or right fielder and "average" as a center fielder. "Very good" outfield defense coupled with that line Szymborski projects would equate to nice value for the Sox.

-The caught stealing projections aren't encouraging, but neither appears to be as egregious as Juan Pierre's stolen base mishaps from 2011.