Chicago White Sox Preview: Can starting pitching carry the Sox?
The White Sox pitching staff has always been a strength of the team since the hire of Don Cooper in 2002. Last year’s staff featured the likes of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy, and Hector Santiago being the main contributors.
The pitching wasn’t exactly good last year, with the team earned run average (ERA) being a round 4.00 and the being ranked 12th and 11th in the American League (AL) respectively in home runs and bases on balls given up.
However, this year the White Sox have (or rather lack) something that they didn’t have to deal with last year: the expectation to lose. Over the second half of the season the Sox dealt former Cy Young award winner Jake Peavy to the Red Sox and five-tool player Alex Rios to the Texas Rangers, and it wouldn’t get any better when the season was over. During the of-fseason, the White Sox made two trades with the Arizona Diamondbacks that saw closer Addison Reed and promising starter Hector Santiago get sent away as well.
This year the Sox will feature a mix of young veterans and even younger rookies to get thrown to the dogs of the ever improving AL Central. The staff is not set in stone but expect to see a lot of some guys and less of others.
The Ace- Chris Sale
This is a man who needs no introduction. The heir apparent to the title “Face of the Franchise” lets his numbers speak for themselves. Sale is will no-doubt get the ball at U.S. Cellular Field when the Sox face the Twins on March 31st. He should once again solidify himself as one of the premier pitchers in the game in 2014.
The Reincarnation of Mark Buehrle- Jose Quintana
Quintana is honestly one of the biggest mysteries in baseball. Like former Sox great Mark Buehrle, Quintana doesn’t throw especially hard and he throws VERY hittable pitches, yet he doesn’t have an ERA above 5. (Check yourself!) Quintana is efficient and should be expected to produce solid numbers as the second starter of the staff. Not to mention he is the polar opposite of what Sale brings to table so he is a good contrast for teams to face the next day.
The Comeback Player of the Year Nominee- John Danks
John Danks is the player all Sox fans, if you told them three years ago, would have told you would be taking the bump on Opening Day. However, since signing his 5 yr./$65 million deal in 2011, he hasn’t been the same pitcher. In fact,, his ERA hasn’t been lower than 4 since then. Danks says he feels “great”, but if that great is closer to his 2013 numbers than his 2010 numbers the Sox are probably better off handing the ball to a prospect. Despite Dank’s numbers progressively getting worse he can still find his way back to where he was, Barry Zito has done it, Tim Lincecum has done it, even Brad Penny showed flashes of his former self during his playing days. Here’s to a Comeback Player of the Year Award worthy season John.
The Reclamation Project- Felipe Paulino
It looks as though the Sox want to go with Felipe Paulino for the fourth spot in the rotation. The former Kansas City Royal has been underwhelming thus far in his major league career but Rick Hahn and Don Cooper must feel that they can turn that ship around. Paulino’s 2013 was a sign that he has promise with him posting a 1.67 ERA and 9.3 K rate, but his previous seasons and the 1.2 innings of ball his has pitched thus far in the spring make him suspect.
The Young Gun- Erik Johnson
This guy is a stud. Regarded by Baseball America as the 46th best prospect in Major League Baseball. Johnson has dominated the minors in his two years of pro ball, and he appears ready to take the ball for the big club this season. I don’t expect Johnson to be Sale-esque at first, but I expect him to be a solid 2-3 starter for the Sox in the near future.
The Sixth Man- Andre Rienzo
The Brazilian World Baseball Classic star has been on the fringe of winning a spot on the starting staff for years. Rienzo is good, and his is talented but it will take an injury or Paulino or Danks to have an epic breakdown for him to be inserted into the rotation. Still, expect Rienzo to get a lot of spot starts to build trade value or to give relief to the overworked arms of Quintana and Sale.