As much as I love wallowing in sorrow and loooove making sardonic jokes about crappy baseball, we’re done with stewing in 2013. At least we’re done stewing in a way that doesn’t look forward for the new year.
These “exit interviews” will be going over the entire 40-man roster and looking to see how each player does or does not fit into the White Sox future.
The term “exit interview” is usually used when an employee is leaving the company. I took that into consideration…and kept it.
Dylan Axelrod – Right-handed pitcher who lacks the clout to really have a say about what situation he pitches in, or “RHPWLTCTRHASAWSHPI” for short.
Age by 2014 Opening Day: 28
Contract: Pre-arbitration. This was his first year he stayed in the majors all season, and it’s surprising to realize he did.
Relevant stats: 30 games, 20 starts, 128.1 IP, 170 H, 5.68 ERA, 24 HR, 73 K, 43 BB, 1.7 K/BB, 75 ERA+
Interpretation: He’s not good. But he’s the fill-in starter. Do you want a detective badge for uncovering the flaws of the sixth starter?
Emblematic split: When he appeared in relief, opponents hit .330/.382/.564 against him. He did not exactly take to the role!
Pre-season expectations: “The White Sox can skirt by with him for a while, but [John] Danks is highly-paid to keep him on margins for a reason.”
Hey, that was pretty on the mark!
Quote of the year: “I had my opportunity, and I kind of let it slip away there.”
Dylan’s story: Placed in the rotation on a temporary basis while John Danks sat on the disabled list and Jake Peavy made his own visit, Axelrod did indeed skirt by for a while. Through 12 starts, Axelrod boasted a 3.73 ERA. The 40 strikeouts in 70 innings and an existence based on hard flyouts portended doom, and sure enough, Axelrod posted just one quality start for the rest of the year.
After returns from injury and poor performance sent him to the bullpen, Axelrod arguably got worse. He was reduced either to a mop-up role, or serving as a victory cigar for the opposing team in extra-inning affairs, as he got to be the footnote to three walk-off losses.
Assessment:The problem is not Dylan Axelrod. As an organizational soldier making the minimum with minor league options remaining, he’s a fine player to have sitting in Triple-A, confounding minor leaguers with his slop while awaiting a call. The problem is the pitching depth being drilled down to the point where Axelrod soaks up 20 starts. The curiosity over how long he can hold up as a starter with his approach is surely dead. It’s a minimal stretch of time. It should be assumed it’s about to end at any given point.
Also over and done with, is likely any interest in Axelrod as a short reliever.It could be argued that he has not been granted a proper opportunity to ramp up his velocity out of the bullpen, but besides for the occasional raves for his slider, there’s no single combo of pitches for him to focus on to become a top-flight reliever. His slider can be nice, yet Axelrod shows no particular platoon split, and his velocity contrasts with the Sox normal tastes in relief arms.
That makes Axelrod more valuable as a spot-starter on call. As it stands, Andre Rienzo stands between him and being the sixth starter, with Charlie Leesman in the mix too. However, with possible trades coming from the rotation, or futures in the bullpen for Rienzo and Leesman, Axelrod could easily find himself on the doorstep of the starting rotation again in 2014. That’s fine–it’s sort of his natural resting place and it’s better than Zach Stewart–but it puts an emphasis on Christopher Beck or Scott Snodgress to follow the Erik Johnson path next season and offer some other options for fill-in starts.
Or how about this? Stack up some veteran non-roster invitees, see if anyone sticks enough to be worth stashing at Triple-A, and have some sort of fallback instead of ’20 Dylan Axelrod starts.’ Let’s shoot for seven. Seven is a good number.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan