For a long time, the White Sox have been a station to station team. While saying goodbye to Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko is going to help this, Kenny Williams noticed some problems with the fast guys they had.
"I remember leaning over to [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and [general manager] Rick [Hahn] and saying, 'We need a specialist for guys like Adam Eaton and Micah Johnson and Tim Anderson,'" Williams said. "I believe Avi Garcia can be a 30-stolen base guy. We have more speed than I think we've ever had, more basestealing speed than we've ever had. We want to get these guys the best chance to try to maximize it."
Over the offseason, Williams targeted Vince Coleman and Marquis Grissom as potential baserunner instructors for the team. With Grissom having a successful baseball academy, Coleman was the choice. He already has had an initial class with Micah Johnson, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez, J.B. Shuck, Tim Anderson, Emilio Bonifacio and Adam Eaton, and his boss is already happy.
"It's important getting a guy in there with that kind of knowledge, the baserunning as well as little tips of stealing bases and things like that," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "It's valuable for our guys to hear that stuff. Having him here and doing that, we feel lucky."
Adam Eaton, with possibly the best raw speed on the team last season, is the obvious main target for improvement. He was third on the team in stolen bases, going 15 for 24 (62.5%). Also, one of the selling points on Eaton was his ability to take the extra base on the base paths. While he was above the league average (39%), he was actually tied for fifth on the team in that category.
For the Sox, they have a nice mix of speed and smarts among the leaders. Gillaspie isn't fast, but he was only thrown out once on the basepaths and once at home. Beckham was thrown out a couple more times that Gillaspie, but picked up a few extra bases along the way. Alexei has been tops on the team in XBT% for the past few years, but finally was knocked off by Marcus Semien, who turned nearly every trip he had to second base into a run after a single. So, while most of us really don't want to see Adam Eaton getting thrown out stealing with Jose Abreu at bat, having him score from first on a double a few more time would be a big advantage. Also, adding Emilio Bonifacio and his career XBT% of 58% isn't going to hurt.
While helping Adam Eaton will be great, the potential second basemen are also potential base stealers. Micah Johnson's speed is very well known. In 2013 at Kannapolis, he stole 61 bases and hit 11 triples in 77 games. Last season, his numbers were down a bit in Birmingham and Charlotte, but he was also slowed by hamstring injuries most of the season. While Carlos Sanchez isn't to that level in stealing bases, he's certainly capable of using his legs. In the Arizona Fall League in 2012, he lead the league, beating Billy Hamilton, with 11 stolen bases and was a decent 16 for 20 in Charlotte last season. If getting on base or hitting something other than singles is a problem for either of these guys, using their legs to get an extra base regularly will help their chances to stick around.