Chicago White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza was a resounding success out of the leadoff spot in 2012, says Jim Margalus of South Side Sox.
Fueled by a strong September in which he posted an OPS of .848, De Aza's finished the season with a .281/.349/.410 batting line. While that isn't eye-popping, it is better than the average leadoff hitter – and overall hitter, for that matter. In addition, De Aza was Chicago's best offensive leadoff man since the days of Ray Durham, according to Margalus:
That De Aza is up against these kinds of seasons is a victory. He expanded the role of the White Sox leadoff hitter by piling 44 extra-base hits on top of his .349 OBP, and playing a reliable center field, which opened up the corner spots for power. He might be looking up at the Durhams, but the Pierres are beneath him, and that's progress.
De Aza has been a strong performer at the major league level for several years, but injuries have prevented him from getting any real playing time. However, in 2012, De Aza made it into 131 games and racked up 585 plate appearances. His ability to stay in the lineup is encouraging for Sox fans heading into the future:
Now the Sox know he can both last a full season, and he can re-adjust himself after the break. Those are big steps for any career ... That's a big help to a front office and roster that will apparently undergo separate transitions. De Aza played well enough – and he was resilient enough – to allow the current and/or future GM to focus his attention and energy elsewhere.
The 28-year-old De Aza will not hit free agency until after the 2015 season, meaning he has a chance to provide solid production at a great price for several years if he's able to stay healthy.