An Optimistic View on Axelrod, Because Why Not?

Dylan Axelrod is a name that seems to bring a negative reaction out of White Sox fans. Not a reaction of the angry variety, but that kind of “blah” variety when your mom made you eat your vegetables as a kid.

Over the past few weeks, it seems as if Sox fans have made it pretty clear that they prefer Hector Santiago over Dylan Axelrod when it comes to that last rotation spot.

Whether or not you think Santiago is the better choice, Robin Ventura and Don Cooper have made the decision to start Dylan Axelrod in the five spot to begin the season. So, before you get all worked up over it, let me talk you off the ledge and tell you a bit more about our team’s fifth starter.

Just three and a half years ago, Dylan Axelrod wasn’t even in affiliated baseball. After being released by the Padres in 2009, the 2007 30th round draft choice signed with a Chicagoland team. Not the White Sox, but the Frontier League’s Windy City Thunderbolts, who occupy Crestwood’s Standard Bank Stadium. After pretty much dominating the competition (2.21 ERA), the White Sox took notice and gave him a contract.

Since joining the Sox system in 2009, here is his minor numbers, stop-by-stop:

Axelrod Since Joining White Sox
Year Class Appearances Starts Record ERA
2009 A 2 0 0-0 2.08
2009 A+ 5 5 2-1 1.91
2010 A+ 23 13 9-3 1.97
2010 AA 2 2 0-1 2.70
2011 AA 11 9 3-2 3.34
2011 AAA 15 15 6-1 2.27
2012 AAA 16 16 7-5 2.28

The numbers point to one thing: he’s got nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. He hasn’t struggled at any point in his minor league career, and there really is no debate to that statement.

However, in spot start duty at the big league level in 2011 and 2012, Axelrod is a combined 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA in 18 games (10 starts). Mediocre numbers for sure, but it should be emphasized that those were spot starts. Almost any pitcher will tell you that it goes a long way to have a routine down, and when you are a spot starter and are unsure of when and where your next start will be pretty much every time around the rotation, it’s harder to have success.

Since he’s been in the majors, Axelrod has never truly had a set spot in the rotation. Now he does, and it’s time for him to prove whether he belongs or is a “Quad-A” player: past the point where the minor leagues will do him any good, but just not good enough to stick in the major leagues. The only way to figure if he can truly handle it is giving him a rotation spot, so if anything else, at least we’ll find out who Dylan Axelrod is in 2013.

How is he going to do? I’ve said since he came up in 2011 that I believe he can handle pitching in the rotation over an extended period of time.

Based on his stuff, he’s never going to be anywhere near a top of the rotation guy, but as a fifth starter, I think a .500 record with an ERA in the 4’s is certainly feasible for the guy. As long as he keeps the ball down, he’s going to be alright.

Since he’s never had a prolonged bad stretch with that since he’s been in the system, I don’t foresee that happening in 2013 either.