Has It Come To This? Bullpen Edition


I am about to write about how the White Sox are being held back by Gavin Floyd, John Danks, health, and their bullpen. Frankly, coming into this season those were probably the things I was least concerned about. But here we are with several injuries to the rotation, a key injury to the bullpen, and a surprisingly productive offense.

James outlined what Monday’s game indicates about the choices Robin Ventura has. And on a “gut” level think about which relievers you trust in close games and it gets a little messy after Thornton and Reed. Coming into the season I was shocked that Nate Jones was chosen for the major league roster, and he’s walked 18 batters in only 40.1IP, but the fact is he’s our 3rd best healthy reliever at the moment. Crain is hurt, guys like Quintana and Axelrod have been pressed into service in the rotation, and Zach Stewart was traded for an amazing third baseman.

Before I proceed into analyzing whether or not there are better options still kicking around in the minors, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, that when I use the expression, “relief prospects” I do so aware that there isn’t really such a thing. Secondly, given the White Sox circumstances, I’m not sure they should worry about “rushing” said “relief prospects.”

As it stands now, with Marinez having been sent down for Pedro Hernandez to start tonight, after Reed, Thornton, and Jones the bullpen is Hector Santiago, Leyson Septimo, and Brian Omogrosso. Let’s take a look at them quickly.

(An asterisk denotes minor league stats.)

Hector Santiago is a legitimate arm, although his control problems have yielded far too many walks and home runs. If the White Sox weren’t competing for the division, he would be in AAA getting the reps that he really needs if he’s ever going to be more than a middle-inning/long reliever.

Leyson Septimo has decent velocity from the left side, and a low arm slot, which means he will likely be able to get lefties out, but the fact is he’s 26, and he’s been bouncing around AA and AAA for years. He’s a low-end LOOGY.

Brian Omogrosso is a name that should be familiar to you if you’ve been a White Sox fan for a while, because he’s been organizational filler for a while. The numbers here look good, but that’s partially because he’s 28, was taking his 3rd crack at AAA, and by virtue of years of polish, no longer walks people.

As I said, given the circumstances, it’s not a surprise or even really an indictment on the White Sox that this is what they’ve decided is the best they can do. But is it? Looking quickly at Donald Veal, he has a better pedigree, and slightly better numbers, but that’s a pretty marginal move for a LOOGY when compared to Septimo.

Charles Shirek is a starter at AAA. He’s 26, and has posted the following so far with Charlotte:

Shirek is probably the more talented pitcher when compared to Omogrosso. He’s managed to stay a starter up through AAA without the organization giving up and making him a reliever. He’s posting decent numbers – avoiding walks and home runs, although not missing very many bats – in a harder role, and is 26 as opposed to 28. But right now, it’s probably a push. Omogrosso is used to a reliever’s warming up tendencies, and if you’re going to have a desperation reliever, someone who doesn’t walk many and doesn’t give up a lot of home runs isn’t the worst thing in the world.

If you reach down to AA you can find Andre Rienzo – our favorite Brazilian pitching prospect who has returned from his 50-game prohibited substance suspension. He’s overpowering hitters at AA – striking out 9.8 per 9 and without having allowed a home run yet. The problem is, his walk rate is unacceptable at AA let alone in the majors. Only 23, this is someone who just isn’t ready.

Anthony Carter is 26, repeating AAA, and somehow he has neutered his strikeout rate without any appreciable gains in walks. Troubling, and I don’t want to see him work out his issues in a division race.

Charlie Leesman is a big, physical lefty starter at AAA, who’s 25, and has a pretty good strike out rate, a pretty ERA, prevents home runs – and walks too many guys. Stop me when this becomes familiar.

To Sum Up: When I saw that Septimo and Omogrosso were our 6th and 7th relievers I thought, “The White Sox can do better than this, right?” But with Pedro Hernandez starting tonight, the answer is, “Maybe? Kind of?” Short of swapping out Daniel Moskos for Septimo against lefties, or potentially messing up the development of real prospects like Simon Castro or Nestor Molina, there isn’t much room for improvement here at the moment, without a much more thorough investigation.

Get well soon, Mr. Crain.