Player Profiles 2020: Chicago White Sox Bullpen
The White Sox were a middling bunch across the board last season. Their rebuild effort has also been middling, as players have either gotten hurt or underperformed. Pitching coach Don Cooper has held the job since 2002, and the team’s staffs have totaled the fourth-most fWAR in baseball since then. However, in the last three years, they haven’t been better than 19th. As constituted, the bullpen offers a mix of intrigue and humdrum stability. Whether that intrigue grabs more attention in 2020 will depend on how the team looks to develop it.
|Alex Colomé||Aaron Bummer||Evan Marshall||Kelvin Herrera||Jace Fry||Jimmy Cordero|
Closer – Alex Colomé
First, the good news for Alex Colomé: He registered 30 saves last year. Only 10 other relievers managed to hit that mark. But now, the bad: He had the worst K rate of the bunch at 22.1% and the second-worst walk rate at 9.2%.
He still averaged nearly 95 mph on his fastball, but that’s a full tick slower than in previous years. Meanwhile, his cutter mostly held around 91 mph. The way it can be prone to hanging up in the zone means Colomé lives on the edge more than you might want out of the dude you’re banking on to collect saves. Paying a premium when other options behind him throw better stuff could end up hurting your roster.
Setup – Aaron Bummer
Aaron Bummer is an interesting pitcher. The lefty works with a sinker-cutter mix that combines for 85% of his offerings. Of all the pitchers who threw at least 500 pitches last year, only three others used such a combo: Zack Britton, José Alvarado, and Richard Bleier. None were especially relevant for the purpose of fantasy baseball in 2019, though Bummer did accrue 1.3 fWAR over 67.2 innings.
The sinker, which he throws more than 70% of the time, sits in the mid-90s, while his cutter comes in at 89 mph. He tends to use them differently than you might anticipate—the sinker bears toward the third base side, while the cutter drops toward first base. If you played Backyard Baseball, you might remember the way the specialty Slo-Mo pitch pulled up as it approached the plate. Bummer’s stuff doesn’t magically slow down, but its fade does remind me of a similarly fun motion to try to track. As a southpaw, with an atypical repertoire, he’ll likely remain more real-life-relevant than for our fake teams.
Setup – Evan Marshall
Evan Marshall throws the kitchen sink, having tossed four distinct pitches at least 16% of the time in 2019. That’s noteworthy for a starter who inherently needs to have more looks to offer hitters, but it might muddy the water for a reliever. That’s a ton of pitches he needs to have a feel for across the short amount of time in any given relief outing. While he went more than an inning a handful of times, he still only ended up with 50.2 innings thrown in 55 appearances.
Marshall’s ERA was 2.49, but his FIP and xFIP were each at least 4.30. That’s backed up by having whiffed about four percentage points lower than average and having walked about two points higher than average. He’s not a name you need to consider.
Middle – Kelvin Herrera
Though just 29, Kelvin Herrera was the gristly veteran for the White Sox last year. He registered 51.1 innings in 57 appearances with an unsightly 6.14 ERA. His peripherals were slightly less unsightly, with his FIP coming in around average and his xFIP a little worse. At this point, that’s in line with what we should probably expect. We know the stuff is average.
If nothing else, Herrera could be a curious name on the waiver wire at some point because he has closed out games before. Should the Sox bullpen implode, they might look to him despite an overall milquetoast track record. On the other hand, his fastball velo dipped a tick last year and is now flirting with being more and more hittable. Shrug accordingly.
Middle – Jace Fry
Jace Fry has struck out batters at clip that’s nearly 25 percentage points higher than the average reliever over the last two years. He does it with a nasty cutter/slider from the left side that same-handed hitters haplessly swing over. This sounds like something we should hear about a lot more, but there are a few reasons we don’t. For one, there are still a lot fewer lefties in the game than righties. For another, he does pitch for the White Sox, who haven’t topped 72 wins in a season since he’s thrown for them.
But more than anything, Fry’s erratic control will be what limits his upside. Last year alone he walked almost twice as many batters than average. The velo was already down almost a full tick last year even though he’s only 26. There isn’t much sheen on his game that should draw your eye.
Middle – Jimmy Cordero
Jimmy Cordero was claimed by the Sox off waivers last June after the club moved Carlos Rodón to the 60-day IL. He stuck with the team through the end of the season, opting to throw his sinker more than ever on his way to a 2.89 ERA over 37.1 innings. The sinker choice is one many of his teammates made, suggesting an organizational philosophy that might not be prioritizing whiffs from its relievers. Perhaps not so coincidentally, that’s just about the only peripheral in which Cordero checked in below average. He’s not a guy you need to file away as someone who might pilfer a handful of saves up the road.
The Other Guys
José Ruiz, Tayron Guerrero
Jose Ruiz accounted for 40 innings last year and he was not interesting in any capacity. He ranked in the fifth percentile in K-BB% out of pitchers who threw at least that many innings. Tayron Guerrero replaces the upper-90s heat lost when Tyago Vieira left for the Yomiuri Giants. He appeared in more than 100 games for the Marlins in the last two years, but in 2019 took a big step back by striking out fewer than a batter per inning and walking more than 7 per 9. He still serves
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)