A Deeper Dive into First

This post we’ll be taking a look at first base on both of the major and minor league levels. I’ll start with the man currently playing the position, Jose Abreu. Jose has one more year left on his deal and has reportedly recently drawn interest from the Dodgers, the Astros, and I am sure other teams will be checking in on him. Jose was hurt the last quarter of the season and still had a productive season, he has been said to be a great clubhouse guy and has value to this clubhouse than he does as a commodity to trade. Now it does not take the most talented fielder to play first, as it is understood that it takes the least skill to play a defensive first base, but you certainly don’t want a statute there. Abreu actually ranks 8th in the last 20 years in Fangraphs DEF (defensive runs above average) metric among first baseman.  

The Sox added Yonder Alonso also via trade from the Indians. Yonder has gained immediate notoriety, mostly, due to his being current free agent target Manny Machado’s brother-in-law. He has had a very nice career though, getting rookie of the year votes in 202, and making the all – star team in 2017. He is a redundancy though, he is a primary first baseman that does really like to DH, he has only started a game at DH THREE, yes three, times in his career which started in 2010 in Cincinnati. Jose Abreu also prefers NOT to DH, and only one guy can play first base at a time (checks rule, yup that checks out). Already it is looking very crowded at first base for the 2019 season, but it should clear up after this season as Jose is a free agent and Yonder has a vesting option for 2020, depending on health. Now let’s look at what is in the system behind Jose and Yonder if the Sox move on from them either via trade or not offering him a contract after this season.

The top, and only, ranked natural first baseman in the Sox system is Gavin Sheets, he is a 22 year old second round draft pick of the Sox in 2017 currently playing in advanced A Winston-Salem. Gavin dropped in the Sox top 30 on MLB pipeline from 12 to 15. Gavin has not shown the consistent ability to hit for average but when he does make contact the power is evident, and some scouts question whether he has enough bat speed to punish big league fastballs.At 6 foot 4 inches and 230 pounds Gavin seems like a throwback to the slow plotting slugging first baseman that the rest of the league seems to be slowly moving away from. Gavin has only been a pro for one year so he is still not eligible for the rule 5 draft, so a spot on the 40 man does not have to be guaranteed to him and the Sox have the ability to allow him to marinate in the minors a couple more years, he has been pegged for a 2020 MLB ETA.


So with no first basemen other the the aforementioned Sheets in the system how can the White Sox fill first base that does not include dipping into the free agent market which can be filled with landmines, Well let’s get creative and look at some players that could be primed for a position move down the spectrum. The first is Eloy Jimenez who already plays the least valuable outfield position and has an average fielding grade and arm grade, the potential of this move warrants a deeper look which I will write up shortly. The other option is Jake Burger, Jake missed all of last year after tearing his achilles, twice, last year. While he looked good at third base in spring training last year and could be a lower end starter at third, what if he is slowed a bit going side to side after the surgery, he could be a solid option at first base. The only real option on the free agent market is Matt Adams? Yeah… They really should have looked at C.J. Cron after Tampa waived him earlier this month.


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