Few pitchers in the White Sox system had a breakout 2013 like Chris Bassitt did. The 6’5” righty was drafted in the 16th round in 2011, and barely mentioned on the periphery of a few prospect lists before this year. But after transitioning to a starting role late in 2012, he began 2013 in A+ Winston-Salem’s rotation before being promoted to AA Birmingham where he put up a 2.27 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and held batters to a .213 AvgA in eight starts. Then he helped lead the Barons to a Southern League Championship by allowing just one run and striking out 16 in 12.2 post-season innings. To cap it off, he earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings.
Chris now finds himself mentioned among the top pitching prospects in the system, after a long season that saw him double his innings from 2012. We had the opportunity to speak with Chris about playoff baseball, starting versus relieving, and his pitch selection…
FutureSox (FS): You had a big breakout season in 2013. Did you make any changes or adjustments that you feel aided your advancement?
Chris Bassitt (CB): Not mechanically or physically, more mentally. I had a lot of coaches in 2012 talk to me about the walks going up. J.R. Perdew [Winston-Salem Pitching Coach] was saying, if you don’t beat yourself, you won’t get beat. I really took that to heart in 2013, really in 2012 too. Just throw as many strikes as you can, and obviously the results were good.
FS: Describe your pitch repertoire, from your perspective
CB: My pitch selection is based a lot on righty or lefty hitter. I have a 2 seam, 4 seam, slider, curveball, change up. Lefties I pitch more the four- and two-seamers. I tend to run ball off the plate on the 2-seamers though, so I throw more 4-seamers to lefties. Righties, I throw more sinkers and 2-seamers, work usually inside to outside. The slider, curve and change are mixed in to get them off my fastball.
FS: What is the aspect of your game you are most proud of, or feel is the strongest?
CB: How much I compete. Not even a pitch, just how much I go out and compete every game. When I go out there and every coach knows that no matter what I’ll give my best. I hate to lose, really hate it. I know at the end of the day I gave it my all, to avoid losing.
FS: On the other hand, in what area or areas are you focusing most on improving?
CB: Last offseason, and during 2012, I never really had a change-up before that. This year I had one, but it’s still not where it needs to be. This offseason I’m focused a lot on that. Then just improving the rest of course, getting a little better at everything.
FS: Do you have a preference between starting and relieving? Do you feel more comfortable in one role or the other?
CB: I’m more comfortable as a reliever. It feels better, even though I know the numbers say different. My arm handles starting fine. I’m just able to pitch more often as a reliever, there’s no soreness. I molded myself to start this year, but I like going out and saying here’s everything I have, try to hit me. 2012 was a struggle, because after 3-4 innings I was dead tired. I had to learn how to control that, pick my spots to amp it up, max effort just in spots. Starting taught me how to be more of a pitcher than thrower though.
FS: You doubled your innings from 2012 to 2013, but your velocity seemed to stay pretty steady even in the AFL, from the reports we saw. What were the effects of the added innings, if any? Did you feel it?
CB: Yeah, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it. When it came to playoff time, the adrenaline kicked in, so I didn’t feel anything. But when I hit Arizona [AFL] I was pretty tired. I felt good physically, just a bit worn down.
FS: Describe your experience with Birmingham during their run to the championship. Any favorite moments or stories?
CB: This may sound like an easy answer, but obviously my favorite moment was just winning it. In 2012 with Winston-Salem we went to the finals. That whole team, we pegged from day 1 that we would win the whole thing. We just had a real bad finals. 2013 was more like, hey, we’ve got another shot, we’ve got win this. So it was a relief, almost felt like we got what we pretty much deserved. We felt like we gave it away in 2012.
FS: Do you have any goals or a plan for 2014? Has the team given you an indication where they want you to be?
CB: No. I mean, pretty much ever since draft, you just show up ready to go. Whatever they tell me, I’ll be there. I Won’t tell them oh, I want to start, or I want to relieve. I’m not the person to complain about my role. The team hasn’t given me an indication of my role yet. We’ll see in 2014 what role I’m in. My goal for ’14 is to do the best I can, and let the cards play out the way they will. I’m not one to worry about making it here, or making it there, that sort of stuff.
FS: Have you had a chance to work with Don Cooper at all yet? Any other coaches you’ve been working with?
CB: I had a couple conversations with Cooper. We stayed in the same hotel in spring training, so we had some conversations about what he saw a couple times; what I should work on, what sinker ballers like me should work on. Perdue, [Britt] Burns [Birmingham Pitching Coach] in AA, really have a great, great, great group of pitching coaches. Jose Bautista [Kannapolis Pitching Coach] is outstanding too. All of them, pretty much. The funny thing is, they all have different views of pitching. Perdue is more about mental approach. Jose featured some of the best stuff around when he was playing, and is more focused on the physical. So you move up, and get a different coach, which opens up a brand new book of knowledge you can take from them.
FS: Favorite baseball movie?
CB: I’d go with Sand Lot. I like having a good time, most people would say I do. I like messing around. Just hilarious, them trying to get those baseballs from machines, trying to get a Babe Ruth, that was great.
FS: If you look around at your current and former teammates in the system, who is the funniest guy, or the one that you have the most fun with?
CB: Oh that’s tough. I’d go with Spencer Arroyo. He makes me laugh pretty good. The difference between us is, I’m a country from Ohio, and he’s a SoCal kid. Completely different lifestyles. We just make fun of each other.
FS: Last question: Open microphone, you can tell White Sox fans anything you want them to hear… what would you say?
CB: Oh goodness, that’s a good one. I’d say, what you saw from me in 2013, look for a repeat in 2014.
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to talk with FutureSox!