It’s no secret that in our current era of baseball, a solid bullpen is mandatory if you’re looking to be a contender. This season, we have seen an influx of young White Sox relievers make their way up to the majors. The likes of Jace Fry, Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr, Thyago Vieira, Caleb Frare, Jose Ruiz, Aaron Bummer, Carson Fulmer and even Tyler Danish have all shown flashes of potential out of the ‘pen this season. While consistency has been the main issue with some of these guys at the Major League level, there is plenty of room for improvement considering none of the aforementioned relievers are over the age of 25. Let’s take a look at some of these guys and how their seasons went.
I believe I stand with the vast majority of Sox fans in agreeing that Jace Fry put together a very nice outing in 2018. In 51.1 innings pitched, Jace had a 4.38 ERA, but also had a whopping 70 strikeouts, the most of any reliever on the team. Next season will be a big year for the lefty. If he keeps up what he has been doing and continues to improve, then you’ll be seeing a lot of Jace Fry on the South Side for years to come.
Ian Hamilton is not to be taken lightly. In 51.2 innings for both Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, Ian was untouchable. He put up an astounding 1.74 ERA, with 62 strikeouts and only 16 walks. He also held opponents to a .204 batting average. There is a reason why, MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the organization’s No. 16 prospect. His fastball can reach 99 mph and his slider touches 90. While this year we didn’t see much at the big league level, next year we will get a full season of the 23-year-old and fans like myself couldn’t be more excited.
Ryan Burr, along with Hamilton, is another young Sox prospect who lit up the minors this year, earning a promotion to the big league club by the end of the year. In 51.1 innings across Birmingham and Charlotte, he pitched for a solid 2.45 ERA, picking up 51 strikeouts in the process. Acquired in a trade from the Diamondbacks for international bonus pool money, this was a no risk, high reward situation considering the Sox cannot spend that money. If Burr pans out as a solid major league reliever, Rick Hahn will be applauded for a very smart move.
Mimicking the situation with Burr, the White Sox took advantage of a Seattle Mariners team desperate to sign Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani. The team again traded international bonus pool money. This trade was great news for fans on the South Side because the potential is there for Vieira who has steady 97 MPH four-seam fastball. A little work with Don Cooper and he could be another dangerous arm.
For a third time in a row, the Sox have a reliever with big time MLB potential acquired by Rick Hahn for, you guessed it, international bonus pool money from the Yankees. In 57.1 innings, he posted a jaw-dropping 0.78 ERA and 0.94 WHIP which went nicely with his 77 strikeouts and just 22 walks. You really can’t ask much more than that from a reliever as he was virtually unhittable for International League batters, thus earning a promotion at the season’s end.
Jose Ruiz was signed on July 2nd, 2011 from the city of Guacara, Venezuela as one of the best defensive catchers in the 2011-12 international class. After multiple lackluster offensive seasons in the Padres farm system, they decided to try him out a pitcher. Luckily for the White Sox, when the Padres traded for Freddy Galvis, the White Sox picked up the 23-year-old Ruiz off waivers. Jose is notorious for throwing hard and has a mid-90s fastball that can touch 99 MPH. This season in Single-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, he held batters to a dismal .188 average and complimented that with 77 strikeouts. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 24 prospect in the system with a powerful fastball-slider combination. After a couple games in Chicago towards the end of the year, look for Ruiz as either an opening day reliever or an early season call up.
Aaron Bummer doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion. While he isn’t a flamethrower like some of the other pitchers on this list, he has looked like one of the more comfortable pitchers on the mound and is showing some improvement each year. In two Major League seasons, Bummer has thrown 53.2 innings with an overall 4.36 ERA and 52 strikeouts. While those numbers won’t “wow” most people, he’s only 25-years-old and has gotten progressively better. In 30.2 innings this year for Charlotte, Bummer looked pretty nice with a 2.64 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Next year will be an important year for Bummer, as he should be making noticeable improvements.
Carson Fulmer’s career since he graduated from Vanderbilt has been rocky to say the least. Drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft, he has yet to become the reliable starter the White Sox were so high on when they drafted him 8th overall. While the everyone dreamt of him as a starter about 50 earned runs ago, some believe he still has the potential to be a decent MLB reliever. This season at Charlotte his numbers did not impress. He put up a 5.32 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 41 walks in 67.2 innings. Very meh. At the end of July, the Knights permanently moved him to a full time reliever role. This season and possibly next season are make or break years for Fulmer to establish himself as a reliever.
Tyler Danish is the only reliever on this list that is currently not on the 40 man roster. Contrary to that, I would argue that he is one of the most intriguing pitchers on this list. While he just elected free agency, if the Sox manage to resign him, I think he is someone that gets another chance at 35th and Shields. In 71.2 innings pitched this season for Charlotte, he put up a solid 3.01 ERA with 53 strikeouts, 28 walks, and a 1.27 WHIP. Not bad for a guy who’s still only 24-years-old and hasn’t been featured on a top prospect list since the rebuild begun. If the White Sox decide to take another chance on him, expect to see Danish getting the call out of the bullpen.
Each of those nine relievers have a legitimate chance of being staples in the White Sox bullpen for years to come. Add to that a wave of pitchers that feature guys like Jordan Stephens, Spencer Adams, Alec Hansen, Dane Dunning and Dylan Cease who will be arriving in the not so distant future. Despite starting in the minors now, any of those pitchers could transition into a bullpen role by the time they reach the Majors. Combine these guys with bullpen prospects who are already on the map such as Zack Burdi, Kodi Medeiros, and Tyler Johnson. Any of these pitchers coming in to finish the job of Kopech, Rodon, or Lopez could be deadly for opposing lineups. Plan on seeing a lot of goose eggs for the opposing team in a couple of years because the Chicago White Sox have pitchers who are young and ready to take over the MLB.
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