The best debut seasons in White Sox history

February 1st, 2021

CHICAGO -- I made a small mistake when we first had this assignment on May 13, 2020, focusing solely on the top debut for each team at that point.

My mistake wasn’t the choice of José Abreu at No. 1 for the White Sox. That pick remains. But I left off Dick Allen’s highly impressive 1972 season when listing other worthy candidates for that honor. That issue will be rectified, as the Top 5 are now listed below.

The player’s season in this category is judged by the actual first pitch thrown or first swing taken with the White Sox. So while Ron Kittle had a power-packed Rookie of the Year campaign in 1983, he already had 32 plate appearances in ‘82. The same goes for left-handed pitcher Gary Peters, who won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in ’63 but made 12 appearances combined over the previous four years.

1) , 2014
Abreu came to the White Sox with 10 highly accomplished seasons played for Cienfuegos of Cuba on his resume, including a .453 average and a 1.583 OPS in 2010-11. But there were still Major League questions about the 27-year-old rookie, whose six-year, $68 million deal represented the highest monetary total in franchise history. Abreu answered those questions in his first season by winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award with all 30 first-place votes and finishing fourth in AL Most Valuable Player Award voting. Abreu posted a .317 average, an MLB-best .581 slugging percentage and a White Sox single-season rookie record 36 homers. He also knocked out 35 doubles and drove in 107 runs, beginning a highly successful seven-year run leading to an AL MVP performance in '20.

In 2014, Abreu was hitting .265 as of June 17. But he hit .351 over his final 88 games and 377 plate appearances.

2) , 1972
Since the debut seasons produced by Allen and Abreu were so tough to rank, I put the No. 1 choice to a vote on Twitter. Abreu won that vote, although recency bias might have played a part in the outcome, as there are some who believe that Allen’s 1972 season is one of the most important in franchise history.

Allen came to the White Sox via a trade with the Dodgers and joined a squad that had drawn 495,355 fans to the ballpark and won 56 games just two years earlier. Chicago finished 87-67 and had an attendance of 1,177,318 in Allen’s first year. The first baseman won the AL MVP Award, leading the league with 37 home runs, 113 RBIs, 99 walks, a .420 on-base percentage, a .603 slugging percentage, a 1.023 OPS and a 199 OPS+. He just missed winning the Triple Crown with his .308 average, and his presence brought national attention back to the South Side.

3) , 1951
Minoso, a true White Sox icon on and off the field, became the first Black player for the franchise, and in his first game with the Sox on May 1, he launched a first-inning home run off the Yankees’ Vic Raschi at Comiskey Park. Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra also went deep in that contest. Minoso joined the White Sox from Cleveland on April 30 as part of a three-team trade and hit .324 with a .917 OPS to go with 32 doubles, 14 triples, 10 home runs, 31 stolen bases, 74 RBIs, 109 runs scored and 71 walks against 41 strikeouts. The native of Cuba also was hit by a pitch 14 times, a category in which he would lead the AL 10 times in his career.

4) , 2008
White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams, who was the team’s general manager in 2008, put forth a famous quote when stating that Chicago didn’t want a player like Carlos Quentin but instead wanted “the Carlos Quentin” when it acquired him from Arizona for Chris Carter. Quentin made Williams’ comments look prophetic. There’s a chance that Quentin would have won the AL MVP Award in his debut if not for a broken right wrist suffered when he punched the bat in frustration after fouling off a pitch during a game in Cleveland. The injury cost Quentin all but four September at-bats.

Quentin finished with a .288/.394/.571 slash line to go with 36 home runs, 100 RBIs, 96 runs scored and seven stolen bases during an AL Central championship season for the White Sox. He hit 107 home runs over his four years in Chicago.

5) , 2006
Thome launched 10 home runs in April and 10 more in May after arriving in a trade for Aaron Rowand with Philadelphia. The Hall of Famer produced 42 homers with 109 RBIs and a 1.014 OPS, drawing 107 walks to go with a .416 on-base percentage during a 90-win season for the White Sox. This was a return home for the native of Peoria, Ill.

Honorable mentions

Albert Belle, 1997
Belle had the best second half in White Sox history during the 1998 season, finishing with 49 homers and 152 RBIs. But his opening effort in ‘97 also was pretty darn solid, with 45 doubles, 30 homers and 116 RBIs.

Esteban Loaiza, 2003
The right-hander was a non-roster invite to Spring Training and eventually won a spot in the starting rotation. He finished with a 21-9 record, a 2.90 ERA and 207 strikeouts over 226 1/3 innings, and he started the All-Star Game at home for the AL.

Luis Aparicio, 1956
Aparicio’s 21 stolen bases during his AL Rookie of the Year effort began a string of nine straight years where he topped the league in thefts.

Jermaine Dye, 2005
Dye captured the World Series MVP Award during a four-game sweep of the Astros. That performance followed a regular season with an .846 OPS, 31 homers and 86 RBIs after joining the White Sox via free agency.

Bobby Jenks and Dustin Hermanson, 2005
In his first game after being promoted to the White Sox, Jenks wowed the U.S. Cellular Field crowd with his 100 mph fastball. He picked up six saves in that regular season and four in the postseason, including one in the Game 4 World Series victory. Hermanson was the White Sox closer before Jenks, picking up 34 saves and finishing with a 2.04 ERA over 57 games after coming over as a free agent. Any player debut as part of that historic ’05 team deserves a mention.