How might Alex Rios fit into the third spot in the lineup?
The Chicago White Sox are currently riding high in July as the All-Star break approaches. It's hard to suggest changes to a lineup that has won 11 of the last 15 games.
However, could skipper Robin Ventura tweak the batting order and come away with an even more potent lineup?
My focus today is on the third spot in the order, currently filled by Adam Dunn. Yes, Dunn has had a fabulous comeback season and is near the top of the league in RBI. Hear me out, though.
When making out a lineup, I have always thought of your three hitter should be your best all-around hitter as opposed to your best power hitter. It seems like Dunn is a better fit for the cleanup position or the five hole. Don't think of it as a demotion, consider it a promotion and transfer to a better fit in the lineup.
Who might fit into that spot if Ventura chooses to "transfer" Dunn? Let's look at three White Sox batters who have slugging percentages near or higher than the .510 Dunn currently carries.
Though he struggled in June, Konerko is hitting .335 for the season and his .540 slugging percentage leads the team. In recent years, Konerko has become a guy I picture hitting third. That's where he wound up in the latter stages of the 2011 season.
However, Konerko has been the cleanup hitter in Chicago for the majority of his service with the team. He has just 118 games in the third slot, half of which came last season. Konerko obviously prefers the cleanup spot.
The captain should stay where he has been productive.
Who do you think is the best fit to hit third for the White Sox?
If you like a left-handed bat at the three spot, Pierzynski could be an interesting choice.
Second to Konerko in both slugging percentage (.533) and OPS (.870), Pierzynski puts the ball in play more often than Dunn and has added the home run stroke to make himself a dangerous man to face.
To be fair, the power surge has come very late in his career. Most seasons, you wouldn't think of Pierzynski as the third hitter in your lineup. If he continues to put balls in the seats, however, it could be an interesting option for Ventura.
I'd have to be insane to even suggest this. Remember 2011? Rios was pathetic. Rios couldn't hit his way out of a wet paper bag. Rios...
...is hitting .315 and owns a .508 slugging percentage so far in 2012. As I recall, Dunn had his share of struggles a year ago.
Rios is probably better off where his is in the fifth position. He can utilize his base-stealing ability further down in the order. He also won't feel the pressure to hit for power as he might in the third spot.
You could also make a case for new kid Kevin Youkilis, though he has spent more of his career in the second, fourth or fifth positions in the order. Plus, I like what he does in the second spot for now.
Ventura isn't likely to mess with a winning hand as we go full-on into July up three games in the AL Central. This is just an issue that may spark debate as we get a little further down the road to the playoffs.