The White Sox claimed left-hander Eric Surkamp off waivers from the San Francisco Giants. Surkamp provides some depth (or insurance) for a rotation spot, and hints that the Sox are still at least considering trading another starter.
Surkamp was listed by MLB.com as the Giants’ 12th ranked prospect last year, and was among the organization’s Top 25 according to Baseball America from 2009 through 2012. Drafted in the 6th round in 2008 for $135,000 at age 20, this 6’5” southpaw put up K/9 rates from 9.59 up to go against very low walk rates up through 2011 in AA, rising to as high as #7 in BA’s org prospects list. He even reached the majors that year for a brief 6 start stay, putting up less than stellar numbers (26.2 IP, 32 H, 17 ER, 17 BB, 13 K) in showing he was perhaps either rushed and/or injured.
The latter scenario played out in 2012. Surkamp missed the season recovering from Tommy John surgery (elbow), causing his prospect stock to drop. This past season he pitched in 16 rehab games in Advanced A and AAA with good results, and made one ugly start for San Fran (2.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 2 HR, 0 BB, 0 K). The Giants apparently decided he either wasn’t going to come back to form, or that he wasn’t worth protecting on the 40 man roster.
As is the typical timeline for TJ survivors, Surkamp’s first year after surgery was a lot more about getting stretched back out than actually contributing value. He managed to get in 89.1 innings, mostly in the minors, so he’s still not up to typical starting workload. But it is encouraging that he got that first rehab year under his belt before he came to his new team, and history says he’s got a much better chance at being productive in 2014. On the injury topic, it should be noted he also dislocated his hip in a game in 2010 and had surgery for that issue as well.
Eric was showered with accolades during his 2009-2011 seasons in the Giants’ organization, with Baseball America giving him awards for best curveball in the organization (2009-2011), best changeup (2010-2011), and best control (2010-2011). He was also cited for best breaking pitch in the California League in 2010 and the Eastern League in 2011. His fastball sits upper 80’s with a top end of 91, so he isn't blazing it past anyone. He gets ground balls with the sinking action on his two-seam fastball, and he misses bats with a combination of movement and excellent control. Multiple sources indicate he’s known for his strong mound presence and baseball IQ.
This should be the year that Surkamp shows if he’s still got major league starter potential, though the Sox may also elect to go the reliever route with him. The gamble really only costs the Sox a 40 man roster slot, and there is the chance he could turn into a valuable starter. The move gives the team flexibility as Hahn et al continue to re-tool the team for 2014.
Note: 3B Brent Morel was claimed off waivers by Toronto the same day, so from a certain point of view, the Sox traded Morel for Surkamp. There is not much to dislike with that move, considering the presence of Matt Davidson, Conor Gillaspie and Marcus Semien in the 3B queue.