In December 2013, the Chicago White Sox acquired outfielder Adam Eaton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Hector Santiago. I realize that during the winter months, baseball is not covered much so it’s very possible that White Sox fans might not be familiar with the trade and Eaton.
So who is Adam Eaton? Eaton is a 25-year-old left-handed hitter who has played in just 88 MLB games. However, that number should soar this year as he is expected to start on Opening Day and at some point this season, he will likely be the team’s leadoff hitter.
Eaton’s approach to an at bat is to try to get the pitcher to work as much as possible. Describing his thought process, Eaton explained, “What you want to do is to see pitches. You want to help the guys behind you. There’s a lot of talent and a lot of older guys behind me that can have a big advantage when you do see pitches. They are smart hitters, and when you can see pitches up front you can help them.”
This attribute is one of the most valuable roles of a leadoff hitter, along with just getting on base. As the leadoff hitter, if Eaton can get the pitcher to spend 7 pitches on the first at bat of the game, it will dramatically help the team. The opposing pitcher will use up more energy and in turn, the following hitters will get a chance to see the repertoire of different pitches that are in his arsenal. Additionally, the longer the hitter can extend the at bat, the more likely it is that the pitcher will make a mistake and give a good pitch to hit.
Here’s what the new White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson had to say about Eaton: “He knows he’s got to get on base. He will do everything possible to barrel up a baseball and put it in-play. He uses speed, he’ll bunt. You hang one in the wrong spot or you put the ball in the wrong place, and he has the ability to juice you out of the yard for a home run. He really has a nice little package that he comes with. I think he’s a great piece of the puzzle as it relates to us getting on base and creating runs for this team.”
Eaton continued Steverson’s thought process, “I think if you come to play every day, the numbers and wins will fall into place. My job as a leadoff hitter for the Chicago White Sox will be to get on base.”
After last year, it became obvious that a player like Eaton needed to be acquired. The 2013 White Sox finished second-to-last in the American League in on base percentage at just .302.
Besides his hitting approach, Eaton brings energy to the team. He plays with a lot of heart and the White Sox are surely excited about that aspect of his game. He has drawn comparisons with former White Sox fan favorite, Aaron Rowand. For those of you that don’t remember, Rowand was the symbol of grit and toughness for the 2005 White Sox World Championship team.
“I met Aaron in fantasy camp down in Arizona and he seemed like an awesome guy and a great teammate. I hope I’m half the player. I remember when he was with the Phillies making great catches and running into walls, and I hope I can bring the same type of mental and physical edge,” explained Eaton.
“I don’t see playing the game any other way,” he continued. “I may be out of this game in five years because I’m playing so hard, but that’s the only way I know how to play and the only demeanor I can bring to this team.”
Though I don’t want Eaton playing so hard that he is only in a White Sox uniform for five years, I do like his energy and enthusiasm. This kind of heart has been missing in the past couple of seasons, and hopefully he can spark the rest of the team. Positive energy is contagious.