White Sox Top 5 first basemen: Merkin's take

March 30th, 2020

CHICAGO -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only ... if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Scott Merkin’s ranking of the top 5 first basemen in White Sox history. Next week: Second basemen.

1. Frank Thomas, 1990-2005_
Key fact: Tops the White Sox in nine career offensive categories_

First base is loaded, not just in terms of finding the all-time best at that spot, but in regard to a number of franchise icons being located here. Thomas started primarily as the designated hitter from 1998 moving forward, but with 972 games at first, he qualifies for the No. 1 position.

Thomas certainly is the most prolific offensive player of anyone to wear the White Sox uniform. His 68.3 bWAR ranks second behind Luke Appling and his 68.1 fWAR also only trails Appling. Thomas is the White Sox career leader with 448 home runs as well as 1,465 RBIs and a .995 OPS. Thomas also sits No. 1 in walks (1,466), runs (1,327), slugging percentage (.568), on-base percentage (.427), doubles (447) and extra-base hits (906). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, had his jersey No. 35 retired in 2010, and he had a sculpture unveiled at Guaranteed Rate Field in 2011. Let’s also not forget his back-to-back American League MVP Awards in 1993-94.

2. Paul Konerko, 1999-2014_
Key fact: Ranked Top 4 in 12 separate offensive categories_

If Thomas is No. 1 at first base, then Konerko really should be 1A instead of 2 because his impact was truly prolific over his 16 years on the South Side. Konerko had a couple of chances to leave via free agency, but he stayed with the White Sox and served as the team’s last captain, as named by then manager Ozzie Guillen. Konerko played 1,843 game at first base for the White Sox and he finished second all-time in franchise history with 432 home runs. Konerko topped all franchise hitters with 4,010 total bases and 13 seasons of at least 20 home runs.

Konerko also was a consummate clubhouse leader and he served as the voice of the franchise. He caught the last out of the 2005 World Series sweep over the Astros, and then he presented the baseball to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf at the victory celebration. Konerko's No. 14 was retired in 2015, with his ballpark sculpture unveiled in ’14.

3. José Abreu, 2014-present
Key fact: Model of consistency on offense

The only thing missing from Abreu’s six-year White Sox resume is playing on a winning team, and that shortcoming certainly is no fault of the Cuban native. Abreu has hit at least 25 home runs, driven in at least 100 and batted no lower than .280 in five of his six seasons, while he already ranks 24th on the club's all-time list with a 20.9 bWAR and 27th with a 17.9 fWAR. Abreu has moved to sixth all-time in franchise history with 179 home runs and he needs 43 to surpass Hall of Famer Harold Baines for third place. Abreu also has been an important presence in helping some of the younger players work through the team’s rebuild over the past three seasons and helping them develop their vast talent.

4. Dick Allen, 1972-74
Key fact: Short stint, big impact

Allen came to the White Sox on Dec. 2, 1971, in a trade that sent Tommy John and Steve Huntz to the Dodgers, and Allen's 1972 season basically was good enough to get him on this list. The right-handed-hitting slugger led the AL with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs, and he finished a mere 10 points behind Rod Carew’s .318 batting average from winning the Triple Crown. Tales of Allen’s high level, natural on-field ability came from those who played with him, with his White Sox run resulting in 85 home runs, a .307 average, a .988 OPS and three All-Star appearances. In ’72, Allen also was tops in the AL in offensive bWAR, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and OPS, and he tied for the league lead in walks and extra-base hits.

5. Zeke Bonura, 1934-37
Key fact: Drove in at least 100 in three of his four seasons

Bonura’s name often gets recognized based on his strong 1934 rookie season. The right-handed hitter, who played four seasons for the White Sox, slashed .302/.380/.545 in ’34 with 27 home runs, 35 doubles, 110 RBIs and 31 strikeouts against 64 walks in 576 plate appearances. He finished with 79 homers and 440 RBIs overall as part of the White Sox.

Honorable mention
Greg Walker hit 113 career home runs for the White Sox, to go with 164 doubles and 442 RBIs. But his greatest contribution came as probably the top hitting coach in franchise history, holding that spot for the 2005 World Series championship club.