The Chicago White Sox made several changes up and down the organization in recent weeks leading them to promote several pitching prospects. The results varied from the amazing to downright discouraging. Here is a look at how each of the young pitchers performed.
White Sox Promote Several Pitching Prospects
The 23-year-old right-hander making his first major league start had the most troubling outing of any of the recent promotions. The eigth overall pick in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft lasted only one and a third innings, giving up six runs on a pair of three-run homers. He pitched a clean first inning, but the wheels fell off in the subsequent frame. He gave up two more hits in addition to the home runs while walking three and was called for a balk. He was continuously behind in the count and enabled hitters to zone in on his fastball, which they were easily able to square up.
White Sox fans should not be surprised by the results as Fulmer struggled at Triple-A Charlotte this season. In 24 starts this year he posted an ugly ERA of 5.61 in 122 innings pitched. He allowed 127 hits while walking 63. His strong point is his 95 MPH fastball which was strong enough to notch 95 strikeouts. Fulmer did not fare much better at the major league level in 2016. In eight relief appearances covering 11.2 innings, he gave up 12 hits, walked seven, and struck out ten for an ERA of 8.49. These past performances have raised doubts about the major league viability of Fulmer among people within the organization, scouts, and fans. Still, the White Sox are not about to give up a high draft pick with a plus arm.
Like Fulmer, Giolito made his first start for the Chicago White Sox on August 22. Unlike Fulmer, he pitched reasonably well, allowing four earned runs in six innings. He gave up six hits, no walks, and struck out four. More impressive was that he did this without the benefit of a crooked pitch. His curveball lacked command, so he stuck with the straight stuff. He was able to get by with it for three innings without yielding a run but gave up three long balls during the latter half of his start.
The former number one pitching prospect in all of baseball, acquired in the Adam Eaton trade this winter, pitched in six games for the Washington Nationals in 2016. He started four of his six appearances, allowing 26 hits and 12 walks to go with 11 strikeouts over 21 innings. This resulted in an ERA of 6.75 and a -0.5 WAR. Spending the majority of this season at the Triple-A level in Charlotte, the highly-rated prospect had an ERA of 4.48 giving up 122 hits with 59 walks while striking out a whopping 134 hitters in 128 innings over the course of 24 starts. Unlike Fulmer, Giolito looks like he could be around in 2018 and beyond.
The fireballer was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte and made his first start Monday night in Norfolk, VA. His famed-fastball reached speeds of 97 MPH to go with a contrasting slider in the mid-80s. The 21-year-old right hander, who became Chicago property by way of Boston in the Chris Sale deal, considers the latter his strikeout pitch. He lasted five-innings giving up two runs on six hits to go with two walks and four strikeouts. He struggled the first two innings due to a wonky slider, but once he resolved the issue with his breaking pitch, he held the opponent scoreless over the last three innings. Given the relatively short outing, his pitch count of 92 was a bit high, but the fact that he was able to persevere while leveling up with less than his best stuff is encouraging.
The number 12 overall prospect by MLB pipeline dominated for the Double-A Birmingham Barons for much of the season. In 119 innings over 22 starts, Kopech posted an ERA of 2.87 giving up 77 hits and 60 walks to go with a mind-boggling 155 strikeouts. He is likely to play for Charlotte again in 2018, but if he continues this type of production, he may be in Chicago about the time footballs start flying.
Too Early to Draw Conclusions
Collectively, Chicago White Sox fans should be pleased with the performances. As the saying goes: “Two out of three ain’t bad,” and it is too early to draw conclusions about any of these pitchers, although Kopech appears to be the real deal.
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