Pre-Season Sox Stock: 1st Basemen/Designated Hitters

(Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

(Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

For more than two decades, the positions of First base and designated hitter have been the nuclei of the White Sox lineup. In the 90s, it was Frank Thomas. In the 2000s, it was Paul Konerko. Both of those players hit more than 400 home runs while wearing Sox pinstripes. The throne now belongs to Jose Abreu, who after one of the most prolific seasons ever by a rookie appears to be following in the footsteps of his predecessors.

This past off-season, the Sox improved on their first base position even more by signing veteran lefty Adam LaRoche, who figures to be a great power complement to the righty Abreu. Despite the organization’s recent track record of prolific right-handed hitters, it has actually been quite a while since the team had a left-handed hitter of similar stature. Perhaps all the way back to the days when the team’s current manager played third base. Nevertheless, if LaRoche can post another season like he has done many times throughout his career, the Sox will feature a very good combination of first basemen in 2015.

Major League Stock: Up and Rising

Considering the fact that Abreu had such a good season a year ago as a rookie, there is reason to believe that he can have an even better season this year now that he knows what to expect from Major League pitching. Let’s not even begin talking about the sophomore slump possibility until we see some evidence that it might happen. Abreu went his entire rookie year without any significant, prolonged slumps.

When pitchers made adjustments, he made adjustments. He was always a step ahead of the opposition. I think that an MVP award is more likely than a sophomore slump.

As mentioned in the intro, LaRoche could certainly be a perfect fit. He and Abreu could be the lefty-righty power combination in the middle of the lineup that the Sox hoped to have for the last four years with Adam Dunn and the aging Paul Konerko. Maybe LaRoche won’t hit 30 home runs this year. Maybe he wont drive in 100 runs. But If he can manage to merely replicate another campaign of a consistently productive career, I think everyone will be happy.

Minor League Stock: Down and Constant

Despite the organization’s power at the Major League level, the Sox are just about scraping the bottom of the barrel for first base prospects. Part of the reason they allowed Dunn to hit in the low .200s and strike out rapidly for the last four years was because they didn’t have anyone to replace him. Andy Wilkins is the closest thing that the team has to a promising prospect, and that label could be a stretch after Wilkins had a very sub-par stint as a September call-up last year.

However, he did post a stellar season at the Triple-A level in 2014, hitting .293 for the Charlotte Knights while launching 30 home runs and driving in 85 runs. I would like to see him get another chance in the big leagues sometime in the near future.