The White Sox are always creative when it comes to their bullpen construction. After all, not too many other organizations would have placed Sergio Santos in their opening day bullpen and, by extension, not many would have benefited from his performances to date. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that the White Sox have called up their first round pick, Chris Sale, to work out of the pen this year.
Chicago selected Sale 13th overall out of Florida Gulf Coast. He’s a six-foot-six lefty with a strong fastball that can hit the mid-to-upper 90s with arm action that led at least a few pre-draft reports to suggest his role will ultimately be that of a reliever. That sentence might remind some White Sox fans of the other giant fireball tossing lefty that already resides in their pen – that Matt Thornton fellow – but to say Sale might be able to replicate Thornton’s past few seasons is being optimistic at best; after all, Thornton is one of the best left-handed relievers in the game.
Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds have Chicago with a 54% chance at making the tournament and if Sale can flash heat out of the pen in late game situations, you have to figure it’ll only help. The question is how this will affect his development — if at all. Jim Callis noted that Ryan Wagner is the only draftee since 2003 that got the call before Sale, and… well, we all know how Wagner turned out. You may also remember that Andrew Miller was brought into a similar situation in 2006.
Sale took slot money to ensure his chance at pitching in the bigs this season and it may pay dividends. The White Sox did not sign him to a major league deal, meaning if Sale remains in the big leagues throughout the remainder of the season, or if he goes down for fewer than 20 days before being recalled, he will not burn an option year. Depending on his development, he could be one of those four option year players anyways.
The upside for him is that he’ll get his clock started while receiving a boost to his pay outside of the signing bonus he signed just two months ago. He might also impress enough to earn a spot in the playoffs, but that’s a ways off.