In addition to playing a deep but serviceable center field, Alejandro De Aza silenced most of the gripes about the production at the top of the Sox’s order.
He also stole 26 bases and was more consistent and efficient than predecessor Juan Pierre was in 2011, getting thrown out only 12 times.
De Aza shouldn’t be blamed for the Sox’s late September slide. He reached base safely by hit or walk 20 times in his final 10 games.
Thanks to the acquisition and promotion of Dewayne Wise, the Sox were able absorb De Aza’s loss when he was on the disabled list from Aug. 18-Sept. 2 because of bruised left ribs.
But Wise can become a free agent, and De Aza will enter his first offseason as an arbitration-eligible player.
The Sox are the third organization De Aza has played for, and at 28, he could be deemed a late bloomer. He made the most of the opportunity that former manager Ozzie Guillen gave him in late July of 2011 and has run away with the leadoff job.
Earlier, he caught the eye of manager Robin Ventura at Triple-A Charlotte during the brief time Ventura was a special assistant to Buddy Bell.
Now that De Aza has solidified his spot in the Sox’s lineup, the expectation is that he’ll look to improve his skills. Wise could be enticed to return to the Yankees if several veteran core players have their say.
There’s no one in the Sox’s farm system on the verge of immediately challenging for the leadoff position.
De Aza tends to play a deep center field, but he is much more effective in center field than was Alex Rios, who became invigorated by a switch to his original position in right field.
De Aza’s arbitration case should be intriguing. But his value to the Sox in 2012 was substantial, if only because he was the least of their worries.