We’ve made it a point to discuss different players and aspects of this ball club’s future. Mostly, we’ve analyzed certain prospects, but we’ve also honed in on positional outlooks. But where we’ve stayed constant is with our focus on that which is often overlooked; and it’s where we’re picking up again there today.
You can assure in today’s day and age every team will always carry two or three lefties in their bullpen. But with Matt Thornton gone and others having disappointed, it’s unclear who will fill those spots for the White Sox in 2014 and beyond.
Like we’ve discussed time and time again, not many people will expect the south siders to be contenders next year. But if they want to be competitive and exciting, the lefties in the bullpen are question marks that Rick Hahn and co. will need to have a much better answer for come spring than they probably do at this very moment.
Like always, acquisitions that'd alter this discussion can and probably will happen between now and next March … but we’ve went ahead and laid out all of the options as of now (we’ve identified seven of them) and ranked them in order of least to most likely to play out in the squad’s near future.
Despite a rough past couple of starts, the Birmingham Barons’ Scott Snodgress is quickly gaining steam in the White Sox organization. He may even be poised to the number one guy for AAA Charlotte next year, excluding the Jason Berken-type guys.
The soon-to-be 24 year-old may have trouble pushing another lefty like Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, or even John Danks out of the rotation anywhere in the somewhat-near future, which is the only reason why I list this as a possibility at all.
Although you typically want your starters to start games until it’s their time to come up to the big leagues, other plans have worked with guys like Sale and Santiago recently. So while it’s unlikely, Snodgress could just be a long shot to break next year’s spring training with the Sox in project mode, if you will.
Wait, this guy still exists? Yes, that’s right, the 2012 mess that was Leyson Septimo at the major league level is not something that has been absolutely ruled out as an option again at some point.
Though he’s already 28 years old, he’s got tons of raw potential. Problem is, it’s way too raw. His bugaboo with the Sox last year was that he couldn’t get the ball over the plate. He actually didn’t get hit too hard other than on a few long balls, but again, he just had no control over his pitches. This year in AAA he’s walked 31 batters in 36.2 innings and his WHIP is all the way up near 1.600.
While that definitely won’t cut it, crazier things have happened as far as flash-in-the-pan relievers go. And if the White Sox saw absolutely nothing in him, he’d be gone by now.
Currently of the Birmingham Barons of AA, Spencer Arroyo has put together a very solid 2013 season. We even discussed him just a couple months back. Like many others, his ceiling just isn’t too high and it’s hard to see the 25 year-old securing a spot on the team anytime soon if it isn’t in the bullpen.
He’s made 24 starts for the Barons this year, posting a 3.37 ERA, to help lower his lifetime mark a bit to 3.74. He’s been much better against lefties (.211) than righties (.267), which bodes well for him in this discussion.
Still, a lot would need to materialize, seemingly out of nowhere before we could call him a legitimate contender for a bullpen job.
We all really thought the Sox had an elite LOOGY in their bullpen going into this year with Donnie Veal, but that was obviously just not the case.
He’s made 36 appearances for the south siders in 2013 and has an ERA of 5.07 to go along with a 1.672 WHIP … up from his 0.692 mark from a year ago.
But the craziest thing of all is that lefties (.265) are actually hitting better against him than righties (.241).
But since there really just aren’t that many options in the organization, it probably wouldn’t be wise for the Sox to ship him out. Plus, through 12 appearances, he’s been pretty solid in August.
Like we’ve discussed before, this is the southpaw that has the most potential and could really become a legitimate MLB reliever. But it doesn’t mean success will come easy, as it hasn’t since a promotion from Birmingham to Charlotte in late June. There, he’s got a 6.08 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, and is walking about 1.1 batters per IP.
It’s a far cry from the numbers he posted previously with Birmingham. Still, the organization won't let his long, impressive track record as a professional (dating back to 2007) be overshadowed by several poor weeks.
If he can turn it around this season or at least in next year's spring training, I think there’s a pretty good chance we see him on the White Sox early in 2014 if not on Opening Day. Even if he is just the next Leyson Septimo, the 25 year-old’s potential is worth a call-up at one point or another.
If there’s a member of the White Sox from any of the team’s past few seasons that some fans would say they haven’t heard of, it may be David Purcey.
Although at 31 he’s pretty much just a AAAA pitcher, he’s actually been very good on the south side this year.
His 2.03 ERA and .205 BAA would have been welcomed on the Sox much earlier in the season if we all knew what direction the team was headed. If he can continue to pitch at a solid level throughout the last month of the season, he may have a spot on the 2014 White Sox because, if anything, a reliable veteran or two may be essential for the ‘pen with all the youngsters we are and will be seeing down there.
Yeah, that’s right … I’m stickin’ with it. A 26 year-old Leesman with only one MLB start to his name just won’t draw very much interest from team’s around the league. So he can either devote himself to being a team’s ‘6th starter’ if he’s lucky, or he can make the transition to the bullpen, where I think he’s best suited at this point.
Yes, he’s had a very respectable, consistent minor league career and yes, it’s too bad he hasn’t had more of a shot starting MLB games. But considering how well he gets out lefties (sub-.200 BAA in 2013), his big stature that helps him rear back and fire one in there when he needs to, and his more well-shaped baseball mind than some youngsters, he may really be well-suited for this move I keep proposing if it ever comes into fruition.
So there you have it … my list. And remember, that’s all it is. I bet if you asked others, each list would be extremely different … but this is how I see it.
Let’s say the race for two left-handed reliever jobs comes down to three guys next spring: I’m fairly confident that one, if not two of those guys aren’t yet in the White Sox organization.
It’s not the most enticing positional situation to watch play out, but it certainly is important … so stick with us as we keep a close eye on all of its developments going forward.