Much has been made of the success White Sox pitchers have experienced under the tutelage of pitching coach Don Cooper. Since Cooper’s first full season on the job, the rotation has consistently been a strength, ranking fifth in WAR since 1993. Last season, however, the team took a step backwards. For the first time since 2004, the rotation finished outside of the top-10 according to WAR. The team obviously believes in their current group, and will return the same cast of characters in the rotation this season.
Chris Sale even surprised his most ardent defenders last year. The 24-year-old left-hander tossed 192 innings with a 3.05 ERA and a 3.27 FIP, and looked like a future number-one starter. The concerns about whether he can hold up under a starter’s workload still exist. Sale dealt with some arm fatigue last season, causing the team to consider moving him back to the bullpen at one point. Instead, they were cautious with the youngster, skipping starts and pushing giving him extra rest when needed. People are always going to question Sale’s durability due to his slight build and his low arm angle, which isn’t typical of starting pitchers. The White Sox have done a tremendous job keeping their players healthy over the past 10 seasons, so Sale will be in capable hands. Injury rates for pitchers are always going to be high, so it’s tough to really say Sale is at a higher risk than anyone else. You can push him down your draft board slightly if you’re worried about injuries, but it would be foolish to discredit him too much after the numbers he put up last season.
If you don’t believe the White Sox training staff can keep Sale healthy, look no further than Jake Peavy. The 32-year-old had his best year since 2007, tossing 219 innings with a 3.37 ERA and a 3.73 FIP. Prior to the 2011 season, Peavy underwent an unusual procedure. The pitcher needed to have his latissimus dorsi tendon reattached to the bone. No player has ever had this surgery, so it’s tough to project if there’s a chance for increased injury risk in the area. Now that he’s two years removed from the issue, and his rates have been good, it’s probably safe to take a shot on him. Peavy has altered his approach since the surgery. He’s not striking out as many batters now, but he has excellent control. He’s still a slight healthy risk, but it’s encouraging that the White Sox wanted to re-sign Peavy in the offseason.
Prior to last season, John Danks had established himself as a late-round innings-eater, capable of tossing at least 170 innings with a solid ERA. Coming off shoulder surgery, it might be tough to expect him to replicate his career numbers immediately. Danks isn’t fantastic in any one particular category. He won’t rack up elite strikeout numbers, but he’s also not going to put guys on base via the walk. There haven’t been any negative reports about Danks’ rehab during the spring, and he’s set to make his first appearance since his surgery on Monday. He may not get drafted in your league, but could be an early pickup if he flashes his old form.
As Dan Wade pointed out in Gavin Floyd‘s FG+ capsule, it looks like Floyd has issues against lefties. In virtually the same amount of innings last season, Floyd gave up 10 more home runs to lefties than he did with right-handed hitters. The long-ball seems to be Floyd’s biggest weakness. Since he became a full-time starter, Floyd has averaged 21 home runs per season. That’s not necessarily a product of his home park either, as Floyd’s career .419 road slugging percentage is nearly equal to his .420 home slugging percentage. Like Danks, Floyd is a low-upside option. He could prove to be useful this season, but there might be more enticing sleepers at the end of your draft.
The fifth spot in the rotation will likely be rewarded to Jose Quintana. Quintana had a great run over his first eight starts, giving up just 6 runs in 43.1 innings. His performance was spotty the rest of the way, as he was exposed as the league saw more film of his pitches. Quintana doesn’t do anything well enough to make him an asset in fantasy leagues. He could be an effective fifth starter in a real rotation, but he’s not a candidate in most leagues unless he shows some drastic improvement.
It’s easy to forget Hector Santiago opened the season as the team’s closer, but now he’s going to try things out in the rotation. The team converted him to a starter in 2011, and he showed some signs of upside in the role. His biggest issue has been his control, which was pretty awful last year. He also wound up being pretty homer-prone, which led to him losing the closer role in the first place. He has a higher potential for strikeouts than Quintana, but needs to harness his stuff if he wants to make an impact in the club’s rotation.
Health will determine whether this White Sox team can sport an effective rotation again. While some of the back-end starters could eventually make an impact in fantasy leagues, Peavy and Sale are the two early-round draft picks. There are risks with both players, but based on the White Sox’s recent history managing injuries, there’s some reason to be optimistic about the prospects of both players.
Early Depth Chart