Originally posted on Grab Some Bench  |  Last updated 2/24/13
With seven of nine starters back from the end of last season, not much re-shuffling is expected in the White Sox batting order for 2013. However, a few minor tinkers were made with the lineup for the first Spring Training game on Saturday. Aside from Brent Morel hitting in the two-hole because Jeff Keppinger is currently day-to-day with a sore shoulder, the lineup looked like what could be the everyday one this season. One change in the order, and the one that caught my eye the most, was Alex Rios and Adam Dunn switching spots from last season, as Rios hit third and Dunn hit fifth. It now gives the White Sox a 3-4-5 of Rios-Konerko-Dunn instead of Dunn-Konerko-Rios like in 2012. While there is a LONG time until Opening Day and the lineup can change many times until then, this change has me excited. It may seem like a small, subtle switch, but I think it has the potential to pay some huge dividends in the order this season. Rios Fits the Mold Adam Dunn hit in the three-hole pretty much all of last season and held his own, hitting 41 home runs and driving in 96. However, he only hit .204, which doesn’t exactly fits the prototype mold of a three-hitter being the team’s best all-around hitter. Alex Rios fits that much better, as you can argue that either him or Paul Konerko are just that. When you look at the way Paulie closed out last season slowly, that makes Rios, in my opinion, the best choice for the job.  Sure, Alex Rios has had a history of following great seasons with poor ones, but as long as he looks good in camp, going into the season with the mindset that “he’s going to fail because of his past” isn’t really going to get you anywhere Plus, another positive of having Alex Rios in the three spot is he brings another element of speed to the top of the order. Having Rios following De Aza and Keppinger (who isn’t a base stealer, but is certainly someone you can be more creative with than Dunn or Konerko) opens up a lot more opportunities on the basepaths and gives Robin much more flexibility. With Rios being a better stick-handler (yes, I stole a hockey term) than Dunn, the hit and run is now a great option. It also becomes an option for Konerko when Rios is on-base for him, as opposed to having Dunn on base. The top of the order just becomes much more versatile with Rios hitting out of the three spot, and I think we will see a lot of fast starts to the game this season if this change sticks. Dividends for Dayan Another change that would also made was Tyler Flowers moving the catcher’s spot in the order to eighth, as AJ Pierzynski hit sixth for most of last season. With that, Dayan Viciedo bumped up to sixth and Alexei Ramirez moved up to seventh, allowing “Tank” to hit behind Adam Dunn. If Dayan Vicideo hits behind Adam Dunn for a season, I think we will undoubtedly see that breakout, 30-plus home run season for Viciedo that we all hope to witness. Dunn will see a ton of pitches as he always does, allowing Viciedo to get a better read on the pitcher from the on-deck circle before he steps up to the plate. Allowing a free-swinger like “Tank” to get a good feel for the pitcher before he goes up to bat could really pay off. Also, we all know that Dayan Viciedo is already a force against left-handed pitching. With Dunn being a left-handed bat and likely to see a lot of southpaws late in games as he always does, managers may be tempted to leave the left-hander in one more batter to preserve his bullpen or just due to a lack of healthy arms on that given day. If Viciedo’s the guy the left-hander is going to face, well ... good luck with that one. Paulie Will Be Just Fine The one drawback with making the swap is that Konerko largely benefitted from hitting behind Dunn last season, especially early on when both players were at their best. However, Konerko has hit all over the middle of the order in his time with the White Sox and has hit behind many different players for extended periods of time. Just looking at his track record, I think he’s been fine no matter what scenairo he’s been in. Also, if Alex Rios hits like he did last season, I don’t think it will make much of a difference. If Konerko does tail off last season, I think the reason will be him being on the definite downside of his career instead of any sort of lineup change.
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