Why the White Sox starting rotation is in good hands

ST PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 4: Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox throws a pitch in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 4, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 4: Carlos Rodon #55 of the Chicago White Sox throws a pitch in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 4, 2018 at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

White Sox future starting rotation could be in good hands as some pitchers are showing glimpses of their potential this season for the team.

Coming into this season, the White Sox rotation was going to be as complete as it could be during these early stages of the rebuild. Now, with only one starting pitcher not having definite plans to be a part of the future, nearly every game has had at least some sort of significance on the rotation.

At the beginning of the season, it was exciting to get a chance to see three very exciting prospects start every five days. Reynaldo Lopez was the first starter to get off to a hot start. He was the best starter on the White Sox for about the first three months of the season.

The next major development was the decline and eventual demotion of Sox 2015 first-round draft pick Carson Fulmer. Many had predicted Fulmer to be more a bullpen arm and it’s looking like that prediction can hold up. He was not only sent back down to Triple-A but he was recently selected to come out of the bullpen for the Charlotte Knights.

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Lucas Giolito was the next prospect to go through the spotlight, experiencing the lowest of lows and his young career’s highest of highs. Giolito went from getting two wins versus the Cubs and Texas Rangers, to getting bounced in the second inning and allowing seven runs against the Baltimore Orioles. Giolito has since turned in a few more successful performances and in much more rapid succession. He’s been a lot of better since the start of July.

Dylan Covey had a very unexpected run during the month of June but it was short-lived and he no longer has a stranglehold on a rotation spot. He did, however, take a no-hitter into the sixth inning and pitched into the ninth versus the Seattle Mariners back on July 21. In addition to his great start, pitching coach Don Cooper said that Covey has the best sinker he’s ever coached with the Sox.

The highlight of the season arrived in the form of Carlos Rodon, the pitcher who many think will be the ace of the staff in the very near future. And he’s looked every bit that part since his return from the disabled list in early June. In only two months’ time, Rodon has been the White Sox’s best and most dominant starting pitcher. Here are his season numbers and a few of his best performances.

  • 10 starts, 3-3 record, 2.94 ERA, 53 K in 64.1 IP
  • June 24 vs. OAK: 8 IP, 2 R, 3 K, 0 BB – W
  • July 5 @ HOU: 6 IP, 2 R, 6 K, 6 BB – ND
  • July 11 vs. STL: 7.1 IP, 0 R, 7 K, 2 BB – W
  • July 24 @ LAA: 7.2 IP, 2 R, 8 K, 3 BB – W
  • July 29 vs. TOR: 7.2 IP, 0 ER, 6 K, 1 BB – ND

Triple-A ace Michael Kopech has been lights out recently, posting a 3.33 ERA, 72 strikeouts, 26 walks in his last10 starts. The rumors of his impending call-up are starting to heat up as his performances keep improving and the 2018 season starts to wind down. But regardless if Kopech joins the team or not, it’s safe to say that the White Sox rotation is in good hands. And not only because of the talent their starters have, but also because of how many potential starters they have.

Rodon has ace-quality stuff. His velocity is picking up (at around 95-96mph) and his deadly slider is proven to be the wipeout pitch every starter needs. The only question mark for him is, unfortunately, his health. Rodon has been injured over the last three seasons, but if he can stay healthy, he can be a star.

Rodon’s 1.88 July ERA was the sixth-lowest (at least 25 IP) in the American League and his opponent batting average of .153 was the best in the AL for the month.

Lopez and Giolito still have some work to do but they’re getting the hang of it. Lopez was having a solid season up until his horrid July (7.39 ERA, eight home runs, 23 earned runs in five starts). As stated above, Lopez was the best Sox starter before the arrival of Rodon.

Giolito has finally started to show how promising of a pitcher he could be. He’s posted four quality starts in his last five outings and over the last month he’s posted a 3.19 ERA, .198 BAA, and four starts with at least six innings pitched. He even brought his season ERA down under 6.00 (currently at 5.97).

The improvement of the rotation does not stop with Kopech. Waiting in the wings is Double-A ace Dylan Cease, who has been absolutely filthy since his promotion to Birmingham. He has a 1.99 ERA, .176 BAA, 58 K, 13 BB, 9 ER, in 40.2 IP through seven games. He’s got at least seven strikeouts or more in every game since his promotion to Double-A on June 21. His best start was against Cubs affiliate Tennessee Smokies where he pitched seven innings of one hit-ball and struck out 12, only walking one batter on July 25.

The most exciting thing about this rotation is not only that it is nearly complete, but the White Sox can use this group of pitchers as early as next season.

Kopech can easily be a September call-up while Cease can be the same next season, assuming he starts 2019 at Triple-A Charlotte.

But wait, there’s more!

Rodon-Kopech-Cease-Giolito-Lopez is a 5-man rotation that is not including a potential veteran free agent signing, which the White Sox can certainly sign with one of the league’s lowest payrolls. This is also not including another minor leaguer that has the potential to surprise and be a part of the future rotation.

That list includes Dane Dunning (No. 6 Sox prospect, 2.76 ERA, 69 K, 62 IP), Alec Hansen (No. 10 Sox prospect), Kodi Medeiros (No. 19 Sox prospect), Jordan Stephens (No. 20 Sox prospect) and Spencer Adams (No. 26 Sox prospect) among many other possible starters.

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So with many promising players waiting for their opportunity to get a coveted spot on the White Sox rotation, and four of five spots potentially taken by the end of this season, it’s becoming safer to say that the White Sox rotation is in good hands for the future.