Going into 2013, we knew the White Sox would be a team prone to striking out at a high rate. With guys like Dayan Viciedo, Adam Dunn, and Tyler Flowers in your every day lineup, there's just no way around it. But others haven't helped that cause, either.
After showing spurts of his potential throughout the organization, Alejandro De Aza got his first full-time gig in 2012, as he was the team's leadoff man and center fielder throughout the entire regular season (besides injury-ridden time).
He finished with some very solid stats, hitting .281 with a .759 OPS. He had a very impressive 44 extra-base hits, 26 stolen bases, and always saw lots of pitches while having great at-bats at the top of the order. But all of the sudden, things have changed for De Aza in 2013.
Through 49 games (played 131 in 2012), he has already struck out 54 times (totaled 109 in 2012), which has been his biggest problem. If there's one thing you don't want your table setter to do too much, it's strike out.
His batting average is down to .246 and his OBP to .293 (.349 in 2012), which is nowhere near what it needs to be if he's going to stay at the no.1 slot in the lineup.
Luckily, he's been able to produce runs for the offensively challenged ball club, which is probably the only reason why most aren't calling for Dewayne Wise or Jordan Danks to take his spot.
He already has seven home runs, ten doubles, 22 RBI's, and has scored 28 runs; all numbers that are up from a year ago. But if he's not going to start getting on base more than 29% of the time, he'll still have value in this terribly inconsistent and troubled lineup, just not leading it off.
Unfortunately, the White Sox don't have another prototypical leadoff man to slot in. But they do have someone that I believe can do the job for now.
Let the Missile Lead the Way
A few weeks back, Robin Ventura decided to move Alexei Ramirez into the two-hole in the lineup despite his inability to bunt and stay discipline at times. But to the surprise of many, the move has been pretty successful.
Through his first 83 at-bats in the two-hole, he's hitting .283, which has raised his average on the year to .281. That's much better than he was doing in the six, seven, and eight slots, where he combined to hit .259 through 109 at-bats.
In his career, he's only struck out 13.1% of the time despite having the reputation to be pretty easy to whiff. This year, he's at 12.5%, which is obviously much better than Alejandro De Aza's 29.3%.
De Aza is also only 5/7 in stolen bases this year, while Alexei is 10/11, so you're not losing anything in terms of having a threat on the base paths for your middle of the order run producers.
Alexei showed a lot of power through his first four major league seasons, racking in 172 XBH's (69 HR's) in that time. But last year, though he did have 24 doubles, four triples, and drive in 73 runs, he only hit 9 HR's, as he seemed to all of the sudden be a much less powerful threat at the plate. And this year that's continued, as he only has one HR to go along with his 11 doubles and 10 RBI.
After only walking 16 times last season, he's already drawn 10 of them this season, so his patience, though still not the best you'll find, has certainly been much better.
To me, it's clear that right now, at this very point in time, Alexei Ramirez is a much better option to leadoff the White Sox order than Alejandro De Aza.
Ventura could either hit De Aza eighth or ninth in the lineup to try to get him back to being a more patient, mechanical, and consistent hitter, or he could hit him fifth or sixth (or seventh, I suppose) to encourage him to keep being a run producer and maybe naturally get him going right again that way.
Why Else Make the Move?
If Alexei is leading off, it would allow Robin Ventura to hit third baseman Conor Gillaspie in the two-hole, which seems like a role he's awfully well suited for.
Gillaspie has hit .283 this year for the Sox being mostly in the six and seven slots (15 total at bats hitting 4th, 5th, 8th, and 9th). In fact, in his 50 at bats in the seven slot, he's hit .380 by being a consistent line drive singles hitter. When in the six slot (73 at bats), he's hit all three of his HR's, four of his other eight extra base hits, but only has hit at a .233 clip.
To me, that says one thing: he's much, much, much more comfortable in a contact spot as he would be if he were moved up to the two-hole.
He can't be moved up there, however, with De Aza leading off, as that would put three of the team's lefties (Dunn) in the first four or five spots of the order. With Ramirez leading off, Gillaspie could turn pitchers around at the top of the order without a logjam of lefties forming up there.
Like the De Aza-Ramirez debate, for Gillaspie, I think it's pretty clear that this move would be rather beneficial to him and, in turn, your Chicago White Sox as a whole.