White Sox

White Sox season review: First base

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White Sox season review: First base

As the White Sox head into the winter following a 76-86 offseason, CSNChicago.com will examine the past, present and future of each position group at 35th and Shields. We'll look at first base today.

Depth chart

1. Jose Abreu: 6 years/$68M (2014-19)
2. Adam LaRoche: 2 years/$25M (2015-16)
3. Mike Olt: 1.156 MLB service time

What went right

Jose Abreu proved to be a lineup mainstay in Year 2 with the White Sox. The 28-year-old became only the second player in major league history to hit 30 or more home runs and drive in 100 or more runs in his first two seasons, joining Albert Pujols with that designation. His contract escalates to pay him $10 million in 2016 after earning $7 million in 2014 and 2015, but after a 3.0 WAR season he should remain one of the better power-hitting bargains in the majors.

[MORE: White Sox season review: Catchers]

Abreu was hampered by a finger injury that saw his OPS bottom out at .804 on June 8, but he hit 21 home runs with a .298/.354/.518 slash line in 2012 games after that point.

What went wrong

That Abreu avoided a sophomore slump was a welcome sign for an organization that doesn't have much depth behind him.

Adam LaRoche didn't adjust well to the American League, posting a full season career-worst .634 OPS. Interestingly enough -- and small sample size alert here -- he hit eight of his 12 home runs and had a .746 OPS in 45 games as a first baseman, and hit below the Mendoza line with a .560 OPS in 74 games as a designated hitter. He wasn't mashing the ball enough for the White Sox to consider possibly disrupting Abreu's rhythm and playing LaRoche at first base more, but for a guy who hadn't played in the American League or DH'd much in his career, it's worth noting that split.

[MORE: White Sox season review: Bullpen]

If we're splitting hairs, Abreu wasn't as good as he was in 2014, hitting six fewer home runs with an OPS 114 points lower than his rookie year. Defensively, he continued to grade out poorly, though below-average first base defense is something a team can live with (compared to, say, poor up-the-middle or third base defense).

Down on the farm, 22-year-old former first-round sandwich pick Keon Barnum only hit nine home runs with a .712 OPS in his repeat year at advanced Class-A Winston-Salem. In Class-AA Birmingham, 24-year-old first baseman Dan Hayes -- not to be confused with our own Dan Hayes -- posted a .388 on-base percentage but only hit seven home runs with a .360 slugging percentage.

The future

This is the most stable position on the White Sox with Abreu under contract through 2019. The 28-year-old may still need to move to designated hitter sometime in the future, though that’s not an imminent change. From an offensive standpoint, the White Sox can pencil Abreu in for 30 home runs, an .850-.900 OPS and 100 RBIs for the next few seasons.

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

As the White Sox have added young Cuban stars in the making in Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, Jose Abreu's long-term role on the team has shifted.

The 31-year-old first baseman has been looked at as something of a mentor for the two young Cubans. He seems to be delivering on that so far.

Abreu picked up Moncada from the airport when he first was called up to the White Sox last July. Now he's helping Robert in the batting cage.

The Cuban trio is expected to play a big part of the White Sox future in the coming years. 

Robert has already stated his goal of making it to the majors this year to join Abreu and Moncada, but that may be an overly ambitious goal. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on him throughout 2018 as he marches towards the White Sox roster and his Cuban teammates.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Tim Anderson opens up about his struggles in 2017 and why he wants White Sox fans "to know the real me."

Anderson dives into his personal tragedy from last season when his best friend was murdered in Alabama. 

He talks with Chuck Garfien about the dark days that happened, how counseling helped him, his new leadership role in 2018, if he'll draw more walks this season, "bringing swag to the South Side" with Yoan Moncada and much more.

Listen to the full White Sox Talk Podcast right here: