Fantasy Baseball Friday: The Emergence of Alejandro De Aza
By Alex Hall (@AlexKHall)
Before the 2012 season, chances are most fantasy managers couldn’t tell you who Alejandro De Aza was. While still under the radar in most circles, he has quietly been one of the best mid-tier outfielders out there this season.
The Chicago White Sox player isn’t going to win you any home run derbys considering he has just 13 in his five year career but became a solid source of runs, stolen bases and average for his owners this year. Despite making his MLB debut with the then-Florida Marlins back in 2007, De Aza has struggled to see regular playing time in the outfield until the White Sox gave him a shot this season.
De Aza has embraced his role as a full-time member of the White Sox lineup and has put together a .281 average, 80 runs scored and 26 stolen bases to show his appreciation to the organization for the opportunity. The same player that went undrafted by all MLB teams in 2001 owns a better average than Hunter Pence, rookie sensation Bryce Harper and Shane Victorino.
Perhaps part of the reason for his success this season is extra time in the batting cages. Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that De Aza has been spending plenty of time with hitting coach Jeff Manto as of late. That might explain why the outfielder has a .316 average over the past two weeks of play.
For the more sabermetric-loving fantasy baseball managers out there, here’s an interesting statistic for you: De Aza hasn’t hit into a double play all season long. As Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo Sports noted in a recent article, if Chicago’s No. 30 can go the rest of the season without grounding into a double play, he’d be the first player to do so since Craig Biggio with the Houston Astros in 1997.
While they are not on the same level in terms of talent and achievements by any means, the best player to compare De Aza to is fellow leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki. The longtime Seattle Mariners star and now-Yankee has never been a reliable source of home runs, but what he lacks in power he gives you in stolen bases, averages and runs.
De Aza is the same type of player as Ichiro in many ways. Because of their positions as leadoff men, they have the best chance of owning them most runs scored on their respective teams by seasons end.
They are solid base runners that know how to advance around the diamond whether being aided by a teammate’s single or stealing bases all on their own.
Interestingly enough, while Ichiro is the better player and the most accomplished of the two as previously noted, both own eerily similar stat-lines this year. De Aza’s .281 average is just .002 points off of Ichiro’s .283. Ichiro leads De Aza in the RBI category by one but De Aza’s 80 runs trumps the Yankee’s 72.
Considering just how unknown De Aza was this time last year and now his numbers are closely in line with Ichiro’s, I’d say he’s had just a fine season for himself and his fantasy owners.
Photo Credit Ucirnational