The August trades just keep coming, as GM Rick Hahn and the White Sox front office continue to shed future salary commitments on players that are not part of the long term plan. Today it was Adam Dunn, sent to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Nolan Sanburn.
Dunn’s on-field performance during his Sox tenure has been disappointing, so it was no surprise he was moved. Reports are that the team will save somewhere in the territory of $1.3M with the deal, and gained a prospect, giving up a player that was going to be gone anyway. Off the field, Dunn has been universally praised for his presence in the clubhouse and how well he handled the adversity. But he wasn’t coming back to the South Side after this year, and taking him out of the picture allows the Sox to give a September tryout to Andy Wilkins.
So, who is Nolan Sanburn? Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft by Oakland, this Kokomo, IN native was ranked the 12th best prospect in the A’s organization by MLB.com, and 11th according to Baseball America at the end of 2013. Now that he’s primarily a reliever his prospect stock isn’t quite as high as it was, but he’d still be in the teens in the White Sox system as it stands today. This year working pretty much exclusively in relief, Sanburn has posted a very nice 9.2 K/9 rate and a reasonable 3.2 BB/9, though he was hit a little harder this year (9.8 H/9, 0.8 HR/9) than last (6.0, 0.3). He turned 23 in July, so he’s age-appropriate in Advanced A ball (Stockton), and should be in AA next year.
If Sanburn’s arm can handle the increase in workload, he does seem to have the stuff to be a starter. His fastball is described by Baseball America as “electric”, runs low-mid 90’s touching 96 with life. His second best offering is a hard curve in the upper 70’s that shows good depth. His slider and change-up are still works in progress but show promise. See Sanburn’s profile page on MLBFarm.com for some video clips. At 6′, 175 pounds, he’s got a smaller frame for a guy throwing mid-90’s.
One issue to keep an eye on, and the reason why he’s been relegated to a relief role, is that Sanburn missed time in 2013 due to a shoulder strain. He hadn’t worked more than about 75 innings in a season in college or pro ball either, so this may be a matter of building up strength. He could potentially convert back to starting in the future, and if he does with the stuff he’s flashed so far, Sanburn’s ceiling is quite high and he could be a mid-rotation starter. More likely though, he looks like a strong late-inning reliever in the making, and that’s something the White Sox could use.