Our season preview is finished with starting pitchers so we move on to the pitchers that try to hold their leads. The White Sox have a deep group of talented relievers and a few have a chance to pitch in the Majors this year.
Major League ready?
2009 in review: The key part in the Nick Swisher trade, Nunez joined his third organization in two seasons. He performed well in AA, but he walked too many (4.1 BB/9). He earned a promotion to AAA where he harnessed the control (5 BB in 24.1 IP) and maintained good strikeout numbers (8.1 K/9). He earned a cup of coffee in the Majors, but got hit hard.
What he needs to improve: Nunez’ slider is a good pitch, but often times looks average. His control seems to have improved, but will need to be on every time at the Major League level. It’s the same old story for pitchers with stuff, consistency with offspeed pitches and control.
What to expect in 2010: The Dominican struggled in spring training and was recently assigned to AAA. With a glut of pitchers battling for the last bullpen spot, Nunez’ struggles made it an easy decision for manager Ozzie Guillen and company. If he does well for the Knights, he can throw his name back into consideration.
What makes a successful season: Nunez pitches very well for the Knights, earns a call to the bigs and shows he belongs. He hasn’t impressed people lately so this would come as quite a surprise, but he could make a career out of being a garbage inning reliever.
2009 in review: Finally committing to pitching, Santos showed upper 90s velocity and a nasty slider, but a lack of control and experience. He pitched at four levels, but struggled at all four. His Arizona Fall League performance showed more promise. He struck out 20 in 14 innings, but walked 10.
What he needs to improve: Control, big time. Santos has the ability to be a very good Major League reliever, but until he can harness his stuff he isn’t going to succeed. His slider can be inconsistent.
What to expect in 2010: Santos might make the Major League roster because he is out of options, but it’s hard to tell what he’s going to produce. He could flip a switch and never look back, but odds are on more struggles this year. One thing is for sure, he won’t be pitching in the minors for the Sox this year. He is sure to get claimed if put on waivers.
What makes a successful season: He breaks camp with the Sox and proves to be a valuable addition to the bullpen. There are going to be bumps and bruises along the way, but he won’t be used as a key reliever in the beginning of the year. Ultimately, as long as he shows improvement throughout the year it’s a positive season.
2009 in review: 2009 was a bit of a breakout for Santeliz. As 22-year-old in AA he posted a 0.96 ERA. His fastball and slider combination got the attention of scouts.
What he needs to improve: Same old story, control. Santeliz’ success last year is amazing considering his walk rate (5.6 BB/9) was miserable. His control has never been decent, but his stuff might be good enough to overcome that. He also doesn’t get many groundballs.
What to expect in 2010: Santeliz will pitch for AAA Charlotte and could make his MLB debut this year. Odds are on the walks eventually catching up to him if he doesn’t improve there though. Last year was a statistical oddity so improvement will be needed to have another good year.
What makes a successful season: He gets his walk rate in the low 4s, at least, and continues to show his quality two pitch combo. He doesn’t need to make the Majors for it to be a good year. He’s young enough that there is no rush.
Fast riser: Kyle Bellamy
2009 in review: The sidearmer was drafted out of Miami (Fl) in the 5th round and is a good bet to be the first ’09 Sox draft pick to make the bigs. He gets wicked movement on his pitches and as Amateur Scouting Director Doug Laumann has said, sidearmers make it more often. Bellamy overmatched hitters at Bristol and Kannapolis last year, allowing just three earned runs in 22 innings.
What he needs to improve: His frisbee slider is the key to getting lefties out. If Bellamy can improve it, he has a chance to be a set-up man or closer. Otherwise he’s just a righty specialist.
What to expect in 2010: Bellamy could start in AA Birmingham and he has the stuff to make the Majors this season.
What makes a successful season: The former Hurricane continues to dominate the minors and, at the least, he enters 2011 as a candidate to go north with the team after spring training.
2009 in review: The best lefty relief prospect in the organization was acquired in the Javier Vazquez/Tyler Flowers trade. The Sox took it slowly with him, only promoting him to Low-A the last week of the year after he dominated at Bristol.
What he needs to improve: Rodriguez has a developing slider that will be the key to his future success. He may add velocity, he’s only 22 and has a big frame, which would also be a nice added boost. Like most young pitchers, he has a tendency to walk too many batters.
What to expect in 2010: It might finally be time to let Rodriguez go nuts this year. He pitched the last three years in rookie ball and has nothing left to prove there. Rodriguez could be a quick riser this season.
What makes a successful season: Rodriguez duplicates his filthy rookie ball K numbers (14 K/9) in full season ball and succeeds in at least High-A.
2009 in review: Jones entered the year as a big stuff, no control guy. He dominated at Kannapolis (25 K in 18.2 IP), but the control was still lacking (9 BB). He was promoted to Winston-Salem and the numbers shifted. His K/9 (7.8) and BB/9 both dropped (2.4). Overall, it was a good campaign for Jones because he showed he could consistently throw strikes.
What he needs to improve: At this point, it’s mostly about consistency, but still watch the control. His curveball comes and goes, which is most likely the reason why his K rate dropped in Winston-Salem.
What to expect in 2010: Frankly, it’s anyone’s guess. Jones will likely pitch in Birmingham, but that’s not a lock. The Sox have been cautious with him, but at 24 they will have to let him loose soon.
What makes a successful season: Jones continues to refine his delivery, shows more consistency with his curve and matches the control he showed for the Dash.
Diamond in the rough?
2009 in review: Remenowsky’s 2009 put himself on the prospect radar, after being signed as
an undrafted free agent and pitching briefly in rookie ball in ’08. As
the closer for Low-A Kannapolis in 2009 he put up what might have been
the most impressive stat line of any reliever in the Sox system: 1.97
ERA, 0.88 WHIP, .174 AvgA, and a whopping 109 K in 63.1 IP (15.5 K/9)
against just 16 BB (2.3 BB/9). He saved 24 games, and at one point went
over a month without giving up a run.
What he needs to improve: There really isn’t anything in Remenowsky’s numbers that need to improve
– his challenge is to show people that he can be just as dominant at
higher levels, and that his success was not a product of age (he turns 24 in April) for his league. Older scouting reports state that his
fastball sits around 90, so adding a few clicks to that (if he hasn’t
already done so) would help raise his profile. He already seems to have
good command of a nice collection of pitches.
What to expect in 2010: Dan will likely open the season at High-A Winston-Salem, but it’s
possible he’ll jump to AA Birmingham, given his age and last season’s
performance. Assuming he is at W-S to open the season, if he can be
even close to as dominant as he was in the SAL, he’ll likely finish the
season in Birmingham.
What makes a successful season: Because of his age, and being an NDFA, Dan
needs to pitch with a chip on his shoulder. Fair or not, the bar is set
higher for him than it would be for a younger prospect with a draft
pedigree. His goal should be to get to AA in 2010, and show
that he can continue to miss a lot of bats and maintain his stellar
control at higher levels. Doing that will
keep him on the prospect map with the Sox.
-Written by Matt
Brian Omogrosso was a good relief prospect before tearing his labrum late last season. He already has a Tommy John surgery behind him and labrums are harder to come back from. Still, he has made a quick recovery. Omogrosso pitched in spring training, but didn’t look good. If he returns to form he could make the Majors in 2011, but that’s still considered a long shot. Derek Rodriguez and Matt Long also have decent arms in the high minors, but both have many guys to pass up to get a look.
The Sox have nice depth in the bullpen, but no top relief prospects. The pitchers close to the Majors have limited upside and those with upside have major question marks. If you see a reliever in the top ten of a White Sox prospect list, it’s because the rest of the system is weak and not because the reliever is a great prospect. However, the odds are good that at least one or two of these arms contributes in the Majors soon.