2010 FutureSox Preview: Left-handed starters

It’s back to our season previews. We go from what is arguably the deepest position in the system, catcher, to one of the thinnest, left-handed starting pitching. Let’s take a look at what few prospect the Sox have at the position.

Highest upside: David

David Holmberg

2009 in review: Holmberg is a bit of a rarity for the White Sox, a high school pitcher taken high in the draft.  Taken in the 2nd round out of Port Charlotte, Florida, Holmberg pitched in rookie ball and showed quality secondary stuff, especially for a high school pick.  It’s almost pointless to take anything from his 40 innings last year.  Half of his appearances came out of the bullpen.

What he needs to improve: Without having a solid stat base yet, I’m going to say fastball velocity.  Of course this is difficult to predict and harder to do, but at 6’4″ he should be able to throw harder than the high 80s.  Diamond Futures said “Had Holmberg had a fastball that was a few ticks higher than the Hi-80s
that he typically throws, he would have been a top half of the first
round talent.”  He has the ability to become a top tier prospect, let’s see it.

What to expect in 2010: Holmberg will likely start the season in low-A Kannapolis.  It’s hard to project what we will see this year depending on how much he may or may not have improved with more time under professional coaching, but his quality offspeed pitches should be able to keep him from repeating rookie ball this year.

What makes a successful season: The 18 year-old has at least moderate success in Kannapolis all season long and shows improvement in his fastball.  He’s not going to be expected to blow away the South Atlantic League, but three quality pitches should be more than enough to be an above average pitcher as one of the youngest players in the league.  Ultimately, 2010 is just about progress for Holmberg, even if that means doing well in a second go in rookie ball.

Most advanced prospect: Charlie Leesman

Thumbnail image for cleesman.jpg

2009 in review: In his first full season of pro ball, Leesman was a solid contributor to a Kannapolis team that went 82-57 and earned a playoff berth. He went 13-5 with a 3.08 ERA, but his peripheral stats weren’t as sparkling. Leesman gets a lot of groundballs with a solid low 90s sinker and Kannapolis’ good defense helped keep his ERA low.

What he needs to improve: Control. Leesman walked 3.3/9IP last year, which will have to improve considering he is a sinkerballer that doesn’t blow hitters away. His secondary stuff has been somewhat inconsistent as well.

What to expect in 2010: Leesman has gotten a lot of love in the organization, being named a non-roster invite to spring training. There is some good ability here and he will hope to duplicate his 2009 numbers in Winston-Salem and/or Birmingham. It’s too early to factor Leesman into future plans, but he is a decent prospect.

What makes a successful season: The Xavier alum keeps getting ground balls, improves his control and earns a promotion to AA at some point. Leesman turned 23 today so he will have to start moving through the system quickly. Lefties with solid velocity are somewhat rare, even rarer in this organization, so a good showing this year would be a great boost to the system.

Diamond in the rough or one-year wonder?
Joseph Serafin
2009 in review: Joe Serafin was a bolt from the blue in 2009. Taken as an afterthought
in the 37th round of the amateur draft, Joe easily
outgunned hitters in the Appalachian league, putting up a 1.64 ERA, 0.91
WHIP, and 20 strikeouts against 5 walks in 7 games for Bristol. He was
then promoted to Low-A Kannapolis mid-season, where he also pitched 7
strong games, putting up a 2.98 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 38 strikeouts
against 9 walks over 42.1 innings. His combined season totals gave him a
7-2 record, and got some people’s attention.

What he needs to improve: Probably shorter than his reported 5’10”, and possessing a fastball that
sits in the mid to upper 80’s, this lefty has to worry less about his
core results, and more about proving he’s more Mark Buehrle than Jim
Parque. He added a 2-seam sinking fastball to his fastball-curve-change
repertoire in 2009, but its unlikely he’ll add much velocity at age 23.
Serafin has shown excellent control and deception, but he will have to
be truly exceptional in both categories in order to make up for his
lack of velocity.

What to expect in 2010: Joe will be in A-ball somewhere and he’ll be out to prove that 2009 wasn’t a fluke, and that he can get
better hitters out without a 90 mph fastball. If he can do that, then
he’ll stay on the prospect radar. If he struggles, then he’ll be put in
the same category as other soft-tossing minor league pitchers that hit
the wall after a hot start.

What makes a successful season: In order to show scouts and the organization that he’s truly a prospect
worth investing in, Serafin will need to not only get hitters out, but
he’ll also have to strike batters out at a high enough rate, induce
ground balls, and maintain stellar control. Keep an eye on his
strikeout, walk, and GB/FB rates for an indication of how he’s really
-Written by Matt Cassidy

Other notables/Overall
Wes Whisler (2nd round, ’04) and Justin Edwards (3rd round, ’06) were high round selections that have been mostly mediocre as pros. Whisler was able to get a sniff at the Majors last year, but was used as a reliever and doesn’t look like he has the stuff to be a Major Leaguer. Edwards missed 2008 with an injury and had a decent bounce back year last season, but has a long way to go.

The White Sox clearly need an infusion of depth from the left side on the mound, but there isn’t an immediate need for it with Mark Buehrle and John Danks anchoring the big league rotation along with Gavin Floyd and Jake Peavy. Being unable to sign 2009 3rd round pick Bryan Morgado hurt because he has a good arm, but the Sox get a compensation pick and can add more young arms like Holmberg to the system.


Leave a comment
  • Leesman...Leesman...Leesman.

    I've been talking about him for over a year and the Sox brass thinks very highly of Charlie. He's got a nice fastball and good upside. He isn't super polished but he's made strides and the Sox expect him to continue to grow into a guy with big league upside.

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