The White Sox are good at doing two things. First, they tend to keep their players on the field better than most organizations (the Sox have the least amount of DL time accrued in all of baseball from 2010-13). Secondly, they tend to turn pitchers viewed as “fringe arms” into useful major league components. It started with Esteban Loaiza in the early Aughts, continued with Jose Contreras, then Jose Quintana in the early Teens. If the skills are there, pitching coach Don Cooper and Co. will drag them out kicking and screaming. This is a pitching coach that helped Mark Buerhle and Jon Garland win a championship. Something is happening in Chicago and fantasy GMs need to take notice.
Chris Sale and Quintana will likely occupy the first two slots in the White Sox rotation and rightfully so. Sale has developed into a legit Cy Young Award contender capable of compiling the ratios and strikeout totals that fantasy GMs expect from an elite starter. Quintana showed he was capable of tossing 200 innings with competent ratios and a 7.38 K/9 ratio last year. Both should be part of a fantasy pitching staff in every applicable league.
John Danks will probably be the White Sox third starter. Danks returned from shoulder surgery last year and looked like a guy who was coming off a shoulder surgery. His velocity was down and the league let him know it. Danks posted a 4.75 actual ERA with a 4.08 xFIP. What got Danks into trouble was his propensity to give up homers. Danks gave up 28 long balls in only 138 1/3 innings and posted a massive 16.8% HR:FB ratio.
The only number from last year that Danks can point to as a victory is his 1.76 BB/9. 50.9% of his pitches ended up in the strike zone last year. That number isn’t that different from his 52.7% zone percentage. It appears that Danks was trading walks for homers. That’s a bad trade.
Danks is a super-deep sleeper heading into 2014. He’s worth monitoring and could be a low-cost innings eater in an AL-only league. His upside is slightly higher than that of Bronson Arroyo, if he’s fully healthy. That’s not a compliment.
Erik Johnson will be the White Sox #4 starter. He appears to have similar upside to pitchers like Dan Straily with about 10% of the hype. Johnson posted a K/9 over 8.00 at every level except Double-A. He only posted a 7.87 K/9 in 84 2/3 innings at Double-A in 2013. He came up for a cup of coffee at the end of 2013 and wasn’t overmatched. His strikeout totals in the majors didn’t mirror his minor league success, but it’s such a small sample size that it’s almost irrelevant. He looked like a major league pitcher and didn’t embarrass himself.
Johnson is a virtual lock to make the White Sox pitching staff and is worth sleeping on in deeper drafts.
The fifth slot in the White Sox rotation will be occupied by Felipe Paulino. Paulino could be the next great White Sox resurrection.
The underlying skills have always been there for Paulino and he appeared to be going on a run when he was cut down with an elbow injury in 2012. The last time we saw Paulino on a major league mound he went 3-1 in seven starts with a 1.67 actual ERA and a 3.66 xFIP. He struck out 25.0% of batters he faced and walked 9.6%. Get this man healthy and get him to Don Cooper. He’s exactly the type of guy whose career could be due for a huge turn around with the White Sox coaching and training staff.
Paulino is an end of draft lottery ticket at this point, but the arrow could be pointed way up after a few quality spring training appearances. He’s said to be a full go once pitchers and catchers report and will be throwing without restrictions for the first time since 2012. His is a situation that needs to be monitored.