Chris Sale created a lot of buzz by shooting through the minors in basically no time at all and fooling numerous Major League hitters. Sale was the highlight of the White Sox minor league season in 2010, but there are a few other relief names to watch for in 2011. Check out our preview for the relievers.
1st round draft pick in 2010 (13th overall)
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 1
Key Stats: 23.1 IP, 32 K, 10 BB, 1.93 ERA (Majors); 10.1 IP, 19 K, 6 BB, 2.61 ERA (AAA/High-A)
Sale’s rise to the Majors topped Gordon Beckham’s lightning fast ascension and he did it with a great deal of success. For me, he replaced Bobby Jenks as the must watch reliever in the bullpen. With that in mind, he returns to the bullpen this year. Matt Thornton was named the closer, but Sale is a humble pitcher that doesn’t seem bothered by when he is pitching at this point in his career. A lot of scouts and analysts have talked about Sale being a reliever permanently because of durability and injury concerns due to his delivery. I think that’s a bit harsh, but Sale still has good value as a back end reliever. Look forward to him continue making Major League hitters look silly, but keep an eye on the control issues popping up this spring.
2010 Preseason Prospect Rank: NR
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 13
Key Stats: 4.2 IP, 5 K, 4 BB, 0 R (Majors); 60 IP, 69 K, 27 BB, 3.45 ERA (AA/High-A)
Infante was recently cut from Major League camp, but figures to get some innings with the Sox at some point in 2011. After transitioning to the bullpen last season he showed major heat. His fastball sits mid to high 90s and has been clocked hitting triple digits. His curve is a good pitch, but Infante needs to be more consistent with it. He has the potential for a one-two punch of plus pitches. Of course, control is key and that will probably be the No. 1 thing to watch in Charlotte this year.
2010 Preseason Prospect Rank: 18
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 15
Key Stats: 47.1 IP, 59 K, 14 BB, 1.52 ERA (High-A); 25.2 IP, 19 K, 22 BB, 6.31 ERA (AA)
Bellamy had a five inning stint with Kannapolis and did well at Winston-Salem, but the righty sidearmer really struggled with the Barons. It’s hard to guess why the sudden control problems, but it’s possible AA hitters didn’t swing at the junk. The former Miami Hurricane had the profile of a fast riser after getting drafted in 2009, but it hasn’t worked out that way. We kept him high in our prospect rankings because 25 innings is too small to judge anyone, but obviously 22 walks in that stretch is a serious red flag. I doubt he’ll struggle that much this year, but he may not be as polished as first thought.
2010 Preseason Prospect Rank: 25
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 17
Key Stats: 72 IP, 61 K, 26 BB, 3.12 ERA (Low-A)
Buch started 2010 as a reliever with Kannapolis and then transitioned back to starting, which he did in college. Four starts with Bristol stretched him out for a return to Kannapolis. Despite that, Buch still profiles as a reliever. It’s to his benefit to get more innings as a starter before likely moving back to the bullpen in the future. His fastball-curve combo, like Infante, can be dangerous if he can refine the pitches and maintain control of them out of the bullpen. For now though, Buch should be a starter. The former Monmouth ace has the stuff and experience to have a successful season in Winston-Salem this year.
2010 Preseason Prospect Rank: 23
2010 Postseason Prospect Rank: 24
Key Stats: 40.1 IP, 59 K, 32 BB, 3.57 ERA (High-A)
The lowest K/9 Rodriguez posted at any stop in his minor league career is 11.1. For that alone, he remains a prospect. However, he has never shown any semblance of control. 32 BB in 40.1 innings is dreadful and will likely catch up with him in AA. The more experienced hitters will punish him more. Hopefully the 23-year-old can find a middle ground.
As for some other talents, Anthony Carter tops the list. Carter is a potential sleeper this year that had a strong year last year and like Infante could be a call up.
Current starters Charlie Leesman and Nate Jones seem to profile as relievers in the future and could be competing for bullpen spots as early as next year. Leesman’s a lefty so he always has a shot and Jones has a good fastball curve combo if he can control the two pitches. Jhonny Nunez is further along but had a disappointing 2010. Don’t expect much out of Nunez, but he might get a call up if there are injuries. In the lower minors Dan Remenowsky is recovering from an injury and will have to prove his stuff can maintain his gaudy stats.
Ultimately, relievers are too flaky to predict. Most of them are a pitch
or a new mechanic away from taking the next step. The Sox have enough
names to expect at least a few to produce even a little Major League