GLENDALE, Arizona – The bar has been raised on the White Sox bullpen. It’s up there.
How high up there? Somewhere between very good and great, at least on paper.
It was very good last season. This season could be great.
Health will obviously be a key factor, and knowing that the means of variance are vulnerable from year to year is a potential problem. But the look at the arms in the bullpen of the Sox is extremely fascinating.
It starts at the end with the closer Liam Hendriks, the American League Reliever of the Year.
It continues with Aaron Bummer in the eighth and seventh innings, one of the best left-handers in baseball; experienced right-handed Evan Marshall; and top 90 throw right-handed Codi Heuer, who earned “potentially tight” streaks last season with a 1.52 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings.
Add Command Maven and multi-innings option Matt Foster who was 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings in his first season in 2020 in his first season in 2020 Top Quarter of Big League Bullpens in 2020. And that was before Hendriks replaced Alex Colome as Closer.
Granted, a 60-game season against an AL and NL Central Division schedule isn’t a complete projection, but it’s substantial enough.
And when the Sox added 21-year-old left-handed Garrett Crochet, their first-round pick in 2020, who looked unbeatable in five appearances at the end of September, and 24-year-old right-handed Michael Kopech, another electric arm with a huge top, into the group. . . Whoa. Both are planned as long-term starters, say the Sox, but they will find their way into the Bullpen in 2021, maybe as early as opening day.
Crochet had a speed of 101 to 102 mph and a nasty slider. Kopech, who hasn’t played since August 2018 because of an operation on Tommy John and then retires from the 2020 season, also has a 100 mph fastball and a hard slider in his holster.
Can you tell the double barrel action is warming up at the bullpen of the Sox? Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy certainly had these two in mind when he called the staff a ” Lamborghini Pitching Staff ”.
And if left-handed Carlos Rodon beat right-handed Reynaldo Lopez for fifth on the grid, Lopez would switch to a long-term, multi-inning relief role. That would add another power arm to the bullpen.
Throw it all together, and the Sox have a bullpen FanGraphs rank second (associated with the Mets) only after the Yankees in the majors.
If the starters Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Lance Lynn and Dylan Cease get into the sixth or seventh inning, the Sox should be in good shape.
“For a Bullpen to really excel, they really should work a starting rotation that consistently penetrates the latter part of the game as it’s a long season,” said coach Tony La Russa. “ If that goes without saying, there are many weapons.
“ And I’ll just jump forward. . . . There are a lot of really impressive arms here besides the guys that are getting a lot of attention. The answer is that we have the chance to have an outstanding bullpen. ”
The first round picks of 2017 Zack Burdi, Jimmy Lambert and Tyler Johnson, all arms of power, are waiting in the starting blocks. There’s also veteran left-handed Jace Fry, slated to return in May after recovering from back surgery.
So there is a certain depth.
“ I’m looking out of eight [pitchers] down in our bullpen and I have a firm belief that we can give all eight high leverage innings whether we need a break or someone needs a day off, ”said Bummer. ” We’re not going to take our foot off the gas by using someone else. ”
“Garrett had never pitched the bullpen before and he went out and dominated,” said Bummer. “ And so I fully expect Michael and Garrett to keep doing these things, just keep giving us innings. ”
And keep the bar high.