White Sox

Robin Ventura: White Sox OF Adam Eaton is 'probably the best right fielder in the game'

Robin Ventura: White Sox OF Adam Eaton is 'probably the best right fielder in the game'

Robin Ventura is grateful to have Adam Eaton on his team.

The White Sox manager had high praise for his 27-year-old outfielder, moments after he made a potential game-saving catch in the White Sox 6-2 win over the Oakland A's on Saturday.

"He's a good outfielder. I know right now he's probably the best right fielder in the game," Ventura said. "For us, we asked him to kind of switch over every once in a while, to center field, depending on the matchups."

Eaton's .989 fielding percentage this season ranks fifth among American League right fielders and ninth among major league right fielders.

Since his arrival on the South Side in 2014, Eaton's defense has always been strong. Quietly, he's posted a 5.8 WAR per 162 games since joining the White Sox, according to High Heat Stats MLB.

Eaton credits bench coach Rick Renteria and first base coach Daryl Boston for helping him transition to right field while elevating his game.

"You can sit here and go over all these things that you need to be ready for a game and where we’re going to play guys and what to expect as far as how we’re pitching to him and what we think is going to happen," Ventura said. "When you get that, you have a little more confidence going out there.

"Really for me, the credit goes to (Eaton) for being able to accept going over to right and kind of go for himself and become good at it. And to be as good as he’s been, that’s been the biggest part."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]​

When the White Sox signed center fielder Austin Jackson to a one-year, $5 million deal in the offseason, an adjustment was inevitable in the outfield.

In spring training, Ventura experimented by having Eaton move to right field, and it stuck when the regular season began. 

For a guy who, entering the season, had only played four career games in right field, it's turned out quite nicely for Eaton and his club.

"Being in right I think he just gets better jumps. There’s something about being able to use your arms strength and things like that," Ventura said. "In right, I don’t know if it’s the fearlessness of going into a corner. Either going back on a wall or going over by the stands.

"He just seems to have a little bit more of that in right field where he can get to a ball, stop and be able to turn around. (Eaton) has better throws to home plate just angle wise. Sometimes that fits the eye a little bit better in center field. For me that’s been the biggest thing. He just gets really good jumps on those."

White Sox Talk Podcast: Will the White Sox call up Jimenez and/or Kopech this season?

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AP/USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Will the White Sox call up Jimenez and/or Kopech this season?

With Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech dominating in Triple-A, we tackle the No. 1 question on the mind of every White Sox fan: Are either or both of the White Sox top prospects going to play in the majors this year?

Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Slavko Bekovic give their takes and predictions. Plus, which other minor leaguers should be called up in September?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge show potential paths to success for strikeout-heavy Yoan Moncada

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USA TODAY

Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge show potential paths to success for strikeout-heavy Yoan Moncada

White Sox fans are justifiably concerned by Yoan Moncada's league-leading number of strikeouts.

Moncada carried big expectations into this season after earning the title of No. 1 prospect in baseball last year. He hasn't lived up to those expectations. But the struggles Moncada has dealt with this season don't at all etch in stone what kind of career he'll have in the long term.

Moncada's just 23 years old, and part of the reason there have been so many outside complaints about his season is that he's under the microscope in this rebuilding process. As an early arriver to the South Side, he gets looked at closely on a daily basis while many of the other highly touted youngsters in the organization are going through their developments in the minor leagues. And with the team where it is in its rebuilding effort, Moncada is going through certain things at the big league level that, if the White Sox were in a different spot, he might be experiencing in the minors.

But while Moncada is on pace to break Major League Baseball's single-season strikeout record, it's not at all the end of the world. See above for several reasons why. But there's another good one that's been discussed before but perhaps warrants a closer look, particularly after Moncada added two more strikeouts to his total in Monday night's loss to the Detroit Tigers. (He's up to 169 on the campaign and on pace to strike out 236 times.)

For fans expecting Moncada to arrive in the big leagues and display complete offensive mastery at the plate, just look to two of baseball's biggest stars, two guys who also piled up big strikeout numbers in rookie seasons that ended in Rookie of the Year awards, for examples of how Moncada's path can still end in plenty of major league success.

Kris Bryant struck out 199 times in 2015 to lead the National League and set the Cubs' single-season record. That's striking out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances. It's also a total that currently stands as the 11th highest in baseball history. But Bryant has since seen those strikeout numbers drop dramatically, a possibility for Moncada as time wears on considering the rave reviews he gets from manager Rick Renteria and others when it comes to his understanding of the strike zone.

Bryant saw his strikeouts drop from 199 in his rookie season to 154 in 2016, a season in which he had 49 more plate appearances than he did in the year prior. Last season, his strikeout total plummeted to 128 (and his walks climbed to a career-best 95) in just 15 more plate appearances than he had in 2015. This season, Bryant has been plagued by significant injuries, but for what it's worth, he's got 75 strikeouts in 358 plate appearances, a strikeout rate 10 percent lower than the one from his rookie season.

So while Bryant and Moncada are different players, there's recent precedent — and just up the Red Line, at that — for a player striking out a ton during his rookie season only to consistently see those strikeouts decrease as time goes on. Remember that this is only Moncada's first full season in the majors. Time and experience can change an awful lot.

Then there's Aaron Judge. Last season, the New York Yankees slugger struck out 208 times, the sixth-highest total in baseball history. Like Bryant did in his rookie season, Judge struck out in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances. But unlike Bryant, Judge is striking out at a similar rate this season. Judge is a different kind of player than Bryant, of course, more of a slugger with the kind of power you see elsewhere among baseball's all-time single-season strikeout leaders: your Mark Reynoldses, your Adam Dunns, your Chris Davises, your Ryan Howards. Of course, Judge also walks a ton, something some of those guys did/do, too. Judge led baseball with his 208 punchouts last season, but he also led the American League with 127 walks. Judge ranks in among the league leaders again this season, with 68 walks.

Again, we'll go back to the praise for and confidence in Moncada's eye at the plate. He's got 50 walks in this strikeout-heavy season. As his skills at the dish are honed further, perhaps he could follow a path more similar to Judge's than Bryant's, where his strikeout numbers stay high but so, too, do his walk numbers.

Now, these are obviously not perfect comparisons. Bryant was an NL MVP a year after he was the NL's Rookie of the Year. Judge was the AL's Rookie of the Year a year ago and finished second in MVP voting. Moncada has other statistical areas of concern besides strikeouts: He's slashing .221/.304/.398 after Monday's loss in Motown, numbers that don't come close to the Rookie of the Year stats that Bryant and Judge put up in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

But these are examples of paths to success for players who hit the big leagues only to strike out and strike out a lot. There's little way of knowing if Moncada will be able to achieve the stardom those two have accomplished. But the big strikeout total doesn't preclude him from doing so.