Concluding our seemingly neverending series of bullpen wrap-ups are two rookie pitchers; one of whom had swift rise to the majors that was indicative of the Sox dire late-season bullpen situation, the other was the benefit of a trade-induced rotation emergency that rescued him from the dreaded “career minor leaguer” status.
Lucas Harrell – This way you have to wait for the good stuff on Sale
Stat line: 24 IP, 4.88 ERA, 2.13 WHIP, 34 H, 2 HR, 15 K (5.63 K/9 IP), 17 BB (6.38 BB/9 IP), 5.04 FIP, 0.0 WAR
What did we expect?: Well, uh… anytime you have a right-handed pitcher who is taller than 6′ 0″ but shorter than 6′ 5″, and he has two last names….alright yeah….I didn’t know much about Harrell.
FutureSox.com profile, take us away!
“Just as Harrell was looking like a good prospect after a solid 2006
season, he missed all of 2007 and two months in 2008 with a shoulder
injury. He is getting back on track, but his prospect status
has suffered. He features a low 90s sinker that gets him a lot of
groundballs, a changeup that has been called a plus pitch and a slider
that needs to get better for him to make it in the Majors. He can throw
into the mid 90s, but he gets better control and sink in the low 90s.
His control needs to get better. He doesn’t strike
out enough batters to walk hitters and get away with it.”
So apparently 25 is too old to be plagued by control problems and still have people get excited about you.
The result: Well, to be fair to Lucas, it took a long time for everything to go straight to hell for him and his lotsa walks, notsa* (*trademarked!) strikeouts approach. He delivered the spot start of the season in his debut, throwing 6 innings of one-run ball despite walking 5 and only striking out a single man. His 15-5 groundball to fly ball ratio also played big part in that triumph, and the fact that such a dominant ratio slowly ebbed away was a large part of why Harrell wasn’t much good by the time September and almost-semi-kinda regular work that came with it rolled his way.
Lucas had to wait a whole month between that spot start and his next appearance, and another week between that second outing and the third. So perhaps he can be forgiven for a bit of inconsistency, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t take plenty of time to display why the team was hesitant to use him in any meaningful way. For all the stories of pitchers with good stuff and control problems, there are very few “can’t strike people out or throw strikes at all” stories, because those guys just seem to go away.
Love him or leave him?: Well, to be honest, it’s not like Lucas is costing the team much or anything. Sure he’s not any good, and doesn’t seem to be on track to get much better. But this is the White Sox farm system we’re discussing here, it’s not like he’s taking the spot of some other kinda major-league ready arm. There will be so many other depressing signs of the organization not progressing next season than Lucas Harrell get another September call-up.
Stat line: 23.1 IP, 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 15 H, 2 HR, 32 K (12.34 K/9 IP), 10 BB (3.86 BB/9 IP), 2.74 FIP, 0.6 WAR
What did we expect?: Well to start, there’s the fact that he wasn’t even in the organization for the first half of the season…so I guess I expected him to not exist…on the Earth.
Then we drafted him in the first round, and I expected him to gradually progress through the farm system like a normal person….forgetting that the Sox have a crappy farm system, where legit talent flies through at prodigious speeds or gets traded to Arizona for Robbie Alomar. Then, then, when he got called up I expected the team to hide him like crazy in low-leverage situations.
At which point Chris made his major-league on the road in Baltimore in the 8th inning to preserve a 1-1 tie…so…screw what I thought.
The result: Even in an absolute vacuum, where he’s not a 21-year old tossed into the back end of a division race with a safety net, or seemingly, a sandwich, Sale’s accomplishments are impressive. The Sox could have picked up Mariano Rivera off the waiver wire somehow on August 6th, and I’d be pretty thrilled if he posted an ERA under 2.00.
Ozzie took a pretty large risk in the way he used the rookie, and the way he rushed in to save him when he floundered during his first outing, you can tell he knew it. But he didn’t relent. Sale kept cropping up in high-leverage situations, and kept mowing people down, and by the end of September, he was closing out games–in multiple innings no less–doing it effectively, and it hardly even seemed that weird.
After looking rightly mortified at the start, Sale threw with tremendous authority, displaying a fastball (and an accompanying two-seamer) with enough life and movement to retire batters on its own a la Matt Thornton, along with a certainly intriguing changeup and slider.
Without a doubt, my favorite thing about Sale is his control, nothing would be more annoying than to see a guy with almost unhittable velocity and movement nibble around the strike zone, and Chris certainly spares us from that. He gave up a couple dingers down the stretch (2 in his last 5.2 IP), but he also recorded 9 Ks during that time….so I think he’s still fine….or better than fine.
Love him or leave him?: Players like Santos, maybe even Floyd, are such where I could see a decent justification for ditching them for the right veteran piece to a team more over the moon about their potential than they should be.
This is not the case for Sale.
His potential is still at a place where we can get unreasonably excited about it, and his versatility to be either a starter, or a fantastically excellent reliever in just about any role, is worth more than we can be sure of our ability to quantify at this point.
Kenny Williams doesn’t seem to be opposed to developing young talent so long as that talent is of the super-prodigy capable of immediate big-league contributions variety, so