Alright, so, the non-waiver trade deadline has come and passed, so much of the final two months of the season will likely be used to see which youngsters within the organization have what it takes to succeed at the big league level. Well, it’ll certainly serve as their first test, at least.
In my opinion, there are three jobs on the major league ball club that we know will open up soon, and they’re all the bullpen. Ramon Troncoso and David Purcey definitely don’t have a future with the White Sox, so those two spots should become available and I’d say one of either Dylan Axelrod or Donnie Veal’s will, too. The latter two have at least a small shot at sticking within the organization.
So, who will take over when these guys’ tenures on the south side are up? Three names that are starting to emerge, in my mind, are Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb, Charlie Leesman, and Simon Castro.
The first guy we’ll discuss is someone who saw his stock in the organization fall drastically only to sky-rocket back up once he made the transition from starter to reliever.
Now 25 years old, Petricka was one of the bigger pitching prospects we had our eyes on going into the 2012 season. The former second round pick out of Indiana State University had impressed with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, but took a huge step backward last year. He started 29 games between Winston-Salem and Birmingham and posted a 5.39 ERA, 1.689 WHIP, and a 1.37 K/BB ratio. But his improvements this year have been remarkable.
With the rotation of the future already taking shape and no longer in much need of Petricka, Buddy Bell & company decided to move Petricka to the ‘pen, starting with the Barons at the beginning of 2013.
Jake appeared in 21 games for Birmingham (one start), and posted a 2.06 ERA, far better than half of what he gave the Barons a year earlier. His sensational streak of two earned runs let up over 24.1 IP (11 appearances) earned him a promotion to AAA Charlotte. There, he continued to excel.
Petricka has appeared in seven games so far for the Knights, totaling 12.1 IP while only letting up two earned runs. Even more impressively, he’s only let up seven hits and issued four walks while fanning 14 hitters. You can sum up his stint in one word: dominant.
Like with recent call-up Andre Rienzo, Petricka is already 25 as we mentioned, so the clock is ticking on him. Luckily, you don’t have to be as age sensitive with relievers as you do for any other players, so if he can get his MLB career kicked off sometime in the near future, I wouldn’t let that number worry you.
Though I’d love to see Petricka sooner rather than later, I would be absolutely shocked if he’s not at least a September call-up. Clearly, I’m quite excited about the idea of him teaming up with Nate Jones to set up Addison Reed in 2014. Also, his experience as a starter means that he can be stretched out, as he has been this year in the minor league bullpens, which only helps his case.
I’ll stick with another righty before we move on to Webb and dissect the south paws. Simon Castro is the next guy we’ll take a look at, and thanks to his stint with the White Sox earlier this summer, most of you are probably more familiar with him than Petricka.
Castro was pretty solid for the White Sox in limited action, going 6.2 innings over four appearances and only letting up two earned runs (2.70 ERA). While he struck out six guys, he also walked three, which is a pretty fair representation of what Simon will give you.
When called up to the bigs, many wondered why. At the time, he had a 4.92 ERA. But like Petricka, he’d been much better since being moved mid-season to the bullpen and probably projects there better for the White Sox, as he too is already 25 years old.
It’s time to see what Castro can give us, and though I’ve been a big fan of his since last season, I’m starting to worry, as his ERA in AAA has risen to 5.67 with more inconsistent and sometimes wild work out of the ‘pen.
But given the fact that he held his own earlier this summer and dominated in spring training, we certainly haven’t seen the last of Castro with the Sox. Given his high potential, you can bet Don Cooper and Bobby Thigpen want another shot with him.
Daniel Webb, a 23 year-old Kentucky native, has risen through the ranks of the team’s organization faster than just about anyone. After being drafted in the 18th round of the 2009 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, Webb really didn’t find any success until this season.
But describing his 2013 campaign to this point as ‘successful’ would probably be an understatement. He, like Petricka, has dominated.
Not too long ago, we walked you through his successful stints this year, and though he struggled at first after being promoted to AAA, he’s figured it out of late.
His 4.96 ERA doesn’t let you in on how great he’s been throughout about the past month. Since July 12th, he’s made six appearances and tossed 9.2 scoreless innings while striking out a ridiculous 15 batters. At his best, Webb is nothing short of filthy.
Like they did with Rienzo, I wouldn’t be surprised if they want to call up Webb while he’s hot.
This is where I’m going to put my personal spin on this post. Like I mentioned, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the White Sox use part of August and September to find not one, but two lefties for the bullpen.
The spots can be debated at great length, considering the team’s strange faith in Donnie Veal, Leyson’s Septimo’s solid progress, and Spencer Arroyo’s recent promotion to AAA. But Chuck Leesman is the guy I want to see get the first opportunity.
Since coming out of Xavier as an 11th round pick to our White Sox in 2008 (originally drafted in the 40th round of the 2005 draft by the Twins), Leesman has been a reliable pitcher and a winner at every stop throughout the organization.
The first extended stint he had was when he was with the Kannapolis Intimidators for the 2009 season. There, he went 13-5 with a 3.09 ERA. He then went 14-6 in 2010 with A+ Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham, though his ERA jumped up well into the 4.00’s. It stayed there thanks to another jump in his WHIP in 2011 with the Barons, but he went 10-7 in 27 starts that year and continued to show a Buehrle-like consistency.
When promoted to AAA Charlotte for the 2012 season, he unexpectedly got even better. He made 26 starts for the Knights, going 12-10 with a very nice 2.47 ERA. His strikeouts were up at near seven per nine innings, close to where they were in 2011. His control was good as well, as he only gave out 52 free passes in 135 innings, whereas he issued 83 of them in 153 innings the year before.
But in September, he suffered a left knee injury that’d require surgery, sidelining him until late May of this year. So far, he’s posted a 3.70 ERA and has still been as consistent as he always has. He’s made 12 starts, and the most earned runs he’s let up in any of them is four, done twice on June 29th and July 21st. It looks like he’s well on track to getting back to where he’s always been.
But here’s the problem: Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, and even John Danks are in the White Sox’ plans going forward, and the likes of Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo, Scott Snodgress, and a couple other smaller names are ahead of Leesman. Charlie is already 26 years old, so like with the 25 year-olds we mentioned earlier, I think the best plan would be to try to fit them into the ‘pen.
Some months ago, I remember reading something or other by Jim Margalus that said he felt Leesman has been bullpen, maybe even LOOGY-bound (left-handed specialist) for a while. We’ve seen other starters make that transition with good success, like Oliver Perez for example, and I think it’s the only hope for Leesman to have any spot in the team’s plan going forward.
Yes, he can be the next Dylan Axelrod – a 6th starter and/or long reliever, but I really don’t see the point in planning for those guys ahead of time. They’re rather insignificant and can be slotted in as-you-go.
Obviously, there are more names to monitor but those are the guys that I think are most prominent at this point in time. It’ll certainly change at least a bit by the time we’re getting underway with the first parts of the 2014 campaign, but I think it’s the best plan of action for the immediate White Sox future.