Here comes a fast one. // Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Exit Interviews: Daniel Webb

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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.

Daniel Webb – Relief prospect/Man who throws balls hard

Age by 2014 Opening Day: 24

Contract: Less than a year of service time. Six more years of team control.

Relevant stats: MLB – Nine games (all relief),  11.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 9 H, 0 HR, 10 K, 4 BB, 2.50 K/BB, 139 ERA+.

A+-AA-AAA – 42 games (all relief), 62.2 IP, 1.87 ERA, 45 H, 1 HR, 78 K, 27 BB, 2.89 K/BB

Interpretation: Became unhittable in his first season spent entirely in the bullpen and hurdled the minors in nearly a single bound.

Emblematic split: Struck out 30.4% of the batters he faced in Triple-A Charlotte.

Pre-season expectations: Daniel Webb had a 5.81 ERA in 62 innings at Low-A in 2012. We were not expecting to see him crack the 40-man roster, let alone the majors.

Quote of the year: 

I trust this is accurate.

Daniel’s story: Rumors of Webb being more than his results would indicate have been floating around since he grabbed a nearly half a million dollar bonus in the 12th round of the draft, and even his unremarkable 2012 ended with an encouraging final two months of the season. After which, there was this report from Nathaniel Stolz floating around:

Webb might have the best three-pitch mix I saw in the SAL this season (admittedly, I fell short of seeing every team, let alone pitcher, in the league, but still)…He can crank his fastball up to 98 mph for multiple innings, working at 93-98. Webb’s slider and changeup, which both work in the mid-80s, grade out as average to above-average; the changeup is probably better, though he uses the slider more…This is a pitcher who could not only make the majors; he could have the stuff to be a quality #3 starter if he puts it all together.

That finish was strong enough to earn Webb the right to start in High-A in 2013, and one month was enough to reveal even that to be an absurd placement. After a rough opening outing, he struck out 19 batters in 14 innings, allowing a single run and a .180 slugging percentage against.

After working consistently at 93-98 mph from the bullpen in 2012, he ramped it up to 95-100 mph in 2013, but with the ability to work up and low in the zone. Alongside a solid slider, this was more than most lower level hitters could even pretend to deal with in short bursts. Webb was scored upon only twice in his 13 Double-A outings, and when batters made contact with his crazy stuff, not much happened. He allowed a .211 slugging percentage in Birmingham, and by the time he was promoted to Charlotte in mid-June, he was through 35.1 innings without a home run allowed. He would give up just one all year.

Some bad batted ball luck fell upon Webb in Triple-A, but 15-straight scoreless appearances earned him a September call-up, despite an influx of control problems. Strike out enough people and the redness in every flag starts to fade.

As it often does, major league ball robbed Webb of his air of invincibility. He didn’t get automatic whiffs every time he revved it up over 96 mph, and his slider is more solid than a Sergio Santos-style eradicator, but the inability of anyone to square up and do damage on Webb continued. All nine of the hits he allowed in the majors went for singles, and he ended his season with three-straight scoreless outings, where he allowed just one of 14 batters to reach.

Assessment: If the White Sox put Webb in Triple-A, he’ll probably be unreasonably dominant until a spot opens up for him. Yet with the level jumps he made last season, it’s not an absurd waste of his time and he needs to get more comfortable using his changeup.

It’s only being considered because the acquisition of Ronald Belisario puts the White Sox in the position of choosing between having two lefties, and picking between Jake Petricka and Webb, or having both Petricka and Webb and riding Donnie Veal as the sole lefty; a dangerous proposition with Robin Ventura playing matchups. It’s a battle Webb can win, but he’s the youngest of the bunch and has the most options left to burn.

A dream deferred is likely not a dream denied for Webb.

 

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan

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