The White Sox announced today that they are promoting 2010 first round pick Chris Sale to the major leagues. The White Sox selected Sale 13th overall in the June draft, and have already moved him through the system and onto the big league team. Sale, a lefty, is expected to fill the LOOGY role that has plagued the White Sox all season.
Sale has just 10.1 professional innings under his belt, but the White Sox think he is ready to contribute to a playoff run. In those 10.1 innings, split between High-A and AAA, Sale posted a 2.61 ERA with 19 strikeouts. He allowed just six hits total, though he did walk six as well. He allowed just three earned runs, two of them on solo homers at AAA.
While Sale’s quick path to the White Sox might seem surprising to some, it appears it was the White Sox plan from the moment they drafted him. Long-term he projects to be a top of the rotation starting pitcher, but for now he can help fill a role that the White Sox have had trouble filling all season.
Matt Thornton usually handles all the left-handed hitter duty, but manager Ozzie Guillen likes to save him for the later innings and high leverage situations. Sale will be able to come in and face left-handed hitters earlier in the game, a duty that previously fell to Randy Williams (2.320 WHIP, 5.40 ERA) and Erick Threets. With the presence of left-handed hitting Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel in the Twins lineup, the LOOGY role takes on extra importance for the White Sox.
According to scouting reports from the draft, Sale has a three-quarters release point, which helps his sinking two-seam fastball. That pitch sits between 90-92 MPH, with the ability to reach 95 MPH. I think it would be reasonable to expect his velocity closer to that 95 MPH range since he will be working in short spurts. He also has a “swing and miss change-up”, and a slider as his main breaking ball. The report specifically mentions that Sale’s slider should be especially effective against left-handed hitters, which is, of course, why he has been called up.
No matter how he performs this season, Sale will more than likely start next year in the minors so he can build up his stamina to become a starting pitcher. That is his future in the big leagues, and also the role that benefits the White Sox the most long term. While his promotion is exciting, it is nothing more than a two month fix for a division race push. Still, every fan likes to see their team’s top young talent perform in the majors, and the White Sox will get that chance starting tonight.