The White Sox used to have an abundance of left-handed pitching throughout the organization and even featured four southpaws in the big league rotation in the recent past. The farm system is much improved but left-handed pitching is no longer at a surplus. One lefty that has gotten off to a solid start this season is Tanner Banks. Banks is a 25-year old former 18th round pick out of the University of Utah in 2014. He doesn’t have prototypical size at 6’1, 200 pounds but has been pitching extremely well to start the season. At High-A Winston-Salem, Banks has compiled a 4-0 record with a 1.36 ERA and a FIP of 2.98. He has made five starts and thrown a total of 33 innings in the early going. The southpaw has yielded 20 hits and has only surrendered 5 earned runs in those handful of starts. He has 32 strikeouts to go with 7 walks and has a WHIP of 0.80 for the Dash.
Tanner attended Riverton High School, located in the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. Riverton High is home to over 2,000 students and it’s the largest high school in the state of Utah. The city of Riverton has grown rapidly in recent years and has transformed into a modern day metropolitan area after being more of a farming town for much of its history. Banks was a Two-Time First Team All State athlete in baseball. Once his high school career came to an end, he attended Salt Lake Community College which is the state’s largest two-year college. Fellow White Sox farmhand, Eddy Alvarez, was a teammate of Banks while playing for the Bruins in 2012. In 2011, he went 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA for SLCC. He followed up his first season with a record of 11-0 to go along with a 2.23 ERA while only allowing 1 home run over 70 innings in 2012. He was Second Team All Region in 2011 and 2012.
Banks’ success in JuCo ball led to a two-year stint at the University of Utah, but he struggled for the Utes in his first season. He posted a 2-5 record and had an ERA of 4.72 over 18 appearances (8 starts). He was a Second Team Academic All Pac 12 performer as well. C.J. Cron of the Los Angeles Angels is the most notable current big leaguer from the University of Utah. Banks caught the eye of White Sox Southwest Amateur Scout John Kazanas and the club used an 18th round pick in the 2014 First Year Player Draft to secure his services.
Kazanas has a history of signing lefties with a good feel for pitching. The well-known, long-time scout first met Mark Buehrle in the spring of 1998, when he was pitching for Jefferson College in Missouri. Buehrle, a then 3rd Team All American, was drafted by the Sox in the 38th round as a draft and follow that year. Kazanas is also listed as the signing scout for Brian Anderson, Brandon McCarthy and plenty of other major leaguers. It’s not likely that Tanner Banks will reach the heights that Mark Buehrle did but Kazanas has been there before when scouting left-handers with “pitchability” and a 4-pitch mix.
After being drafted, Banks started off as a reliever for the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators in 2015. He was moved to the starting rotation for the 2016 season, which would be his first full campaign as a member of the White Sox organization. Splitting time between Kannapolis and Advanced-A Winston-Salem of the Carolina League, he made a total of 27 starts. He threw 160 innings while posting a record of 12-7 with an ERA of 3.50 to go along with 116 strikeouts and 31 walks.
There is no video of Tanner Banks on the mound but Baseball America’s Associate Editor and National Writer, Kyle Glaser, was in the house for one of Banks’ starts in early April of this year.
White Sox LHP Tanner Banks getting a lot of swings and misses on his curveball. Big break, saw the same thing last year with @WSDashBaseball
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) April 7, 2017
In a conversation with Glaser, he noted that Banks featured average stuff. His fastball sits in the 89-90 MPH range with a 85-87 MPH cutter and a rarely used change-up. He did note that his curveball has “some break” and is an above average 55 on the 20-80 scale. Glaser also mentioned that Banks works very quickly, locates well and pounds the strike zone.
Banks lacks big time “stuff” but he can’t be completely ignored because he throws with his left arm and locates very well. He’s thrown the ball well enough to earn a promotion to Double-A Birmingham but the Pale Hose have a logjam of starting pitching throughout the system. On the other hand, Banks is already 25 years old so we could see him progress through the system at a rapid pace if he continues to produce and slots open up. He doesn’t have the velocity you usually see in a reliever, and his splits are only slightly better against left-handed hitters. On the flip side, he doesn’t necessarily have the potential plus pitch to consistently put hitters away as a major league starter either. His lack of elite stuff could hamper him once he pitches at higher levels of the organization but he’s done everything he can to this point. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Banks continuing his career as a starting pitcher but the sheer volume of reliever churn in the majors points to that path as being a more likely one to the big leagues.
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