As the 2021 White Sox embark on training camp, there is a great deal of excitement in the air. Fans are looking for the team to build on their 35-25 record in 2020, and make a deep playoff run. These hopes may or may not develop, although they do look poised to be serious contenders. The questions about the last two spots in the rotation linger in the minds of many fans. Additionally, if the Sox are to sustain a long run in the AL, they will need to continue to develop their young pitching prospects. So, they face a bit of a balancing act between the present and the future.
2021 White Sox: The Big Three
Heading into the 2021 season, the White Sox have a solid three-man rotation. Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, and Dallas Keuchel figure to be the anchors heading into spring training. However, after the big three, the Sox have some questions that will need to be answered if they are to contend in the AL Central. Unlike the shortened 2020 season, 2021 White Sox will face a 162 game full season, and that type of grind will almost certainly expose a thin rotation.
Completing The Rotation: Some Options
The 2021 White Sox team has several options to fill the remaining two spots in the rotation. Some are more attractive than others to fans, but somebody has to pitch on the days when the big three are not on the hill. At this point, barring any further acquisitions, it appears that the last two spots will be filled from a pool of five candidates.
These candidates include Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Carlos Rodon, and Jonathan Stiever. At this point, the signs point to Cease having an edge over the other four, although that could change as spring training goes forward. Kopech is the most-heralded, while Rodon has been a disappointment since being a first-round draft pick in 2014. Lopez has been consistently inconsistent, while Stiever has minimal MLB experience. At any rate, the 2021 White Sox will need somebody to step up if they are to contend in the AL Central.
White Sox Rotation: Looking Beyond 2021
As the 2021 White Sox pursues a playoff run, it is instructive to constructive to look beyond 2021. After all, Lynn has one year left on his contract, while Keuchel has two (with a possible third). So, no matter how they do this season, they will be looking into the future as well. As the saying goes, you can never have enough pitching, and the Sox are doing their best to develop as many young arms as possible.
With that in mind, here is a look at three young pitchers who figure to be moving up the charts. While none of the three will be pitching for the 2021 White Sox, they are definitely worth watching as they perform in the minors this season. Each of them is ranked in the White Sox top 10 prospects by MLB and will no doubt rise as the season progresses.
Young Gun #1 – Jared Kelley
Kelly is the youngest of the top prospects but is the highest rated at number five. He was drafted in the second round of the 2020 draft out of Refugio High School in Texas. Kelley, a 6’3″, 215-pound right-hander, was slated to go in the first round of the draft. However, as with many high schoolers, there were fears that he would be difficult to sign. So, he fell to the Sox in the second round, who jumped on him and then signed him.
His senior year was cut short by the virus, and Kelly was only able to pitch 12 innings. In those 12 innings, though, he did not allow a hit and struck out 34 batters. That represents a K rate of 25.5/9. Obviously, that was against high schoolers, but they are still outstanding numbers. Kelley will need seasoning, but he shows much promise and will be in the mix for an MLB roster spot at some point.
Young Gun #2 – Matthew Thompson
Thompson, another high schooler, was taken in the second round of the 2019 draft, out of Cypress Ranch, Texas. A 6’3″, 195-pound right-hander, he was highly touted as his fastball reached as high as 96 mph. He did struggle some in his senior year of high school. Yet, the White Sox took him with the 45th overall pick of the draft.
Thompson is the Sox number seven prospect, according to MLB, based largely on his potential. He got a late start to his pro career in 2019 and did not pitch in 2020 due to the virus. So, he may be a little behind some others, but with his stuff, ought to be able to catch up sooner than later. He will be a factor down the road.
Young Gun #3 – Andrew Dalquist
Dalquist, a high schooler, was taken a round later than Thompson in the 2019 draft, out of Redondo Beach, California. At 6’1″ and 175-pounds, he is not as big as the other two, but still impressed scouts with his increasing velocity and his ability to command the strike zone. Dalquist is the Sox 10th rated prospect, according to MLB.
Similar to Kelley and Thompson, Dalquist has not been able to get in a lot of work in his professional career. He figures to start in Class A, to truly begin his development. However, the Sox have a high degree of confidence in him, as evidenced by the signing bonus of $2,000,000 he received. This was well above the value of the draft slot where he was taken. Hopefully, he will progress through the minors, along with Kelley and Thompson.
The Future Looks Bright
While none of these prospects will impact the 2021 White Sox, they are certainly young arms to watch for in the future. They represent a philosophical shift for the Sox, as the organization had shied away from drafting high school pitchers. This shift opens up a lot of possibilities for the team if they can develop these young prospects. Yes, they are only prospects, but, if these young guns develop into stars, the White Sox future looks bright.
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