This post was written exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com by Brian Dunshee.
Adam Eaton enjoyed what was a solid though not spectacular first full major league season with the Chicago White Sox last year. The team hopes that he can capitalize on last year’s experience and act as a lineup catalyst to help turn the team into a true contender. For fantasy owners, the hope is that Eaton is able to stay healthy after he was limited to only 123 games in 2014.
Eaton flew under the radar during his time in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ farm system and two partial seasons in the majors. Last season, Eaton showed glimpses of what could be a solid fantasy player that contributes in several categories: runs, stolen bases and batting average. After hitting .348 over five minor league seasons, “Spanky” was tied for second in baseball with 10 triples, while posting a productive .300/.362/.401 triple slash line.
Fangraphs’ fan projections give Eaton a .292/.368/.393 projection line for the 2015 season, while also projecting 18 stolen bases and 84 runs scored. Those numbers provide solid outfield production in deep leagues. There’s reason to be optimistic that Eaton could steal even more bases, as he stole 44 in the minors in 2012 and does a great job of getting on base. He hits for very little power (never more than 10 home runs in a full minor league season), so don’t expect much help in that department
Now that Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche have joined the fold in Chicago, Eaton is going to have plenty of opportunities to steal bases and score runs. Add a healthy Avisail Garcia into the mix, and the Sox lineup is better than it was in 2014 and should be more productive.
Eaton was able to post an above average wRC+ (weighted runs created) in 2014, which measures a player’s total offensive value in runs and adjusts for ballpark. The league average wRC+ is 100, and Eaton was able to post a wRC+ of 115, 15% better than league average. Not only was Eaton’s wRC+ above average in 2014, it was better than top outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Braun. Along with that, Eaton produced a .6 UBR (Ultimate Base Running), which was higher than other notable speedsters including Andrew McCutchen and Jose Altuve. Though the statistic doesn’t include stolen bases into the equation, it’s still impressive to see the type of value that he brings to the base paths.
There’s a slight chance that Eaton will continue to remain under the radar and go undrafted in ten-team redraft leagues. However, its worth noting that he didn’t skip a beat when he came back from his injury in late August, slashing an impressive .332/.383/.460 while scoring 25 runs. If he comes out of the spring leading off, he is worthy of a late round pick. There is upside here and you can do a lot worse than a .290 average with 85 runs, 40 RBI and 20 stolen bases late in the draft.