A couple months ago, I asked the titular question of the South Side Sox community, thinking there would ultimately be an easy answer. Adam LaRoche got off to a sluggish start, but he still had nine homers, which was tops for the hitters who weren't Jose Abreu, who had 13. Give him his typical second-half surge with the typical Chicago summer, and he seemed likely to distance himself from the pack.
More than half of 325 respondents to the question also thought LaRoche would eventually own the second spot. Here's where they stood on July 2, in terms of homers and the SSS vote:
But here we are with less than a month left in the season. Abreu has lengthened his lead, which is good in a way. He hit his 27th homer on Wednesday and owns an OPS over .900 since we last checked in, and it's a pleasure to watch him go to work.
Likewise, the White Sox have increased their output as a team. They were only on pace to reach 122 homers in early July, and now they're projected for 137 homers, which is an upgrade from a colossal disappointment to merely a major one.
Still, it's damned difficult to identify the team's second-best power source with confidence. There's a three-way tie for second, and if this were a horse race, Eaton would be scaring a lot of people who wagered on a chalk trifecta. Let's do what we did before with the information we've accumulated since the first post on July 2 and see who inspires the most faith.
Adam LaRoche (12 homers)
Since July 2: .184/.228/.282
The case for: When he gets a hold of one, they count. Hit Tracker Online says his last five homers have registered distances categorized as "plenty" or "no-doubters," and his average home run distance (400) is longer than Abreu's (396). Also ... regression? Is this a thing anymore?
The case against: Besides that above line, he's missed the last few games with tendinitis in his knee, which could be real, or a humane way of benching him since the disabled list doesn't apply in September, and young players could really use that playing time.
Avisail Garcia (12 homers)
Since July 2: .272/.321/.387
The case for: He's trying to rally, with an OPS around .800 since the start of August. He's also pulling the ball in the air nearly twice as often, which isn't saying much (Baseball Savant's heat map says he's increased his flies to left from 10 percent to 18 percent). He should get plenty of at-bats the rest of the way.
The case against: Since his two-homer outburst against the Angels on Aug. 10, he has exactly one homer over his last 119 plate appearances, even with the increased overall production. His exit velocity is still on the flaccid side, as he's still not really barreling up much on the inside half.
Adam Eaton (12 homers)
Since July 2: .297/.380/.453
The case for: Eaton has been on fire for most of the second half, and six of his homers have occurred after the break. His power isn't entirely fluky, since he's hit two out the opposite way. He'll also get the most opportunities out of the leadoff spot.
The case against: He's still supposed to be OBP-oriented. All 12 of his homers have come against righties, and with expanded pitching staffs he could get more lefty relievers thrown at him. He's been battling a sore shoulder, so Robin Ventura may feel compelled to ease him across the finish line, especially with Trayce Thompson needing reps.
Tyler Flowers (nine homers)
Since July 2: .212/.281/.288
The case for: Remember how he slugged .683 last September?
The case against: Isn't generating the same kind of Murder Time power he showed last year, as his spray chart is far more equitable than it was last season, when he was more pull-oriented. Also likely to share more time over final month with two catchers instead of just one backup.
Alexei Ramirez (nine homers)
Since July 2: .298/.335/.449
The case for: He's rediscovered an ability to put good swings on hanging stuff, so he could run into a few homers. It's a pretty stunning resurgence for somebody who was under the "nope" category two months ago. There also aren't major contenders for his playing time, although Tyler Saladino could butt in on it.
The case against: He only has two homers over his last 139 plate appearances, and his exit velocity still runs below average. He could still continue to hit, but it won't show up in homers.
Melky Cabrera (nine homers)
Since July 2: .292/.332/.463
The case for: He's clumped his hits together over the second half, and he's due for another hot streak. His splits have normalized since getting past the first two months with consistently good contact, and he's been playing pretty much every day.
The case against: More of a doubles hitter than a home run hitter, both in history and approach, as he's only hit 12 homers once over the last four seasons. He only has two homers over his last 155 plate appearances.
Geovany Soto (nine homers)
Since July 2: .246/.370/.541
The case for: He's second in isolated power, right behind Abreu. It's been consistent all year, as he doesn't get cheated on his swing (he also strikes out more often than any other White Sox hitter).
The case against: Already doesn't play as much as his offensive numbers demand, due to pitcher preference and Ventura's general reluctance to use him as a DH or a pinch-hitter. Now he's not even Jeff Samardzija's personal catcher, and Rob Brantly is around.
Trayce Thompson: I'm pretty sure about this. Pretty sure.