The White Sox's big league club has a reputation for strong pitching and this is largely credited to Don Cooper's expertise. However, there are a number of exciting young pitchers currently honing their craft in the lower levels of the organization's minor league system. I'll take a look at what Winston-Salem and Kannapolis have to offer in this post.
Jeffrey Wendelken was the opening day starter for the Dash this season. Until 2014 he spent every season coming out of the bullpen. He wasn't bad in that role but he is a control pitcher who relies on limiting walks to be successful. Wendelken is only 21 years-old and has a decent ERA of 3.63 over 22.1 innings. However, with a low-90s fastball he will need to continue to show superior control as he moves up through the organization to stay relevant.
Jefferson Olacio and Euclides Leyer are two pitchers that spent most of the time starting until this season. Olacio made the conversion to reliever swiftly this season with Winston-Salem. Prior to this year Olacio's lowest FIP came in 2011 over 37.2 innings in Rookie ball (3.86), which is not much of a sample to go on. In 2012 and 2013 he was legitimately bad as a starter with ERAs nearing or above five in each season. This year coming out of the bullpen he has an ERA of 0.84, which is clearly due for some regression given his 3.04 FIP and the fact that this performance has spanned all of 10.2. Nonetheless its interesting and worth watching early in the season.
Leyer, like Olacio, is also working as a reliever for the first time in his young career. The 21 year-old struggled as a starter for the last three seasons. His conversion to relief has been a revelation as he has sports an ERA of 1.98 and a 2.58 FIP. He throws a low-90s fastball with a good amount of run and a sharp breaking high-70s curveball. He is also the brother of Kannapolis pitcher Robinson Leyer.
Tony Bucciferro, Byran Blough, and Brad Goldberg, three 24 year-old pitchers, have had success recently but are each at an age where they will need to start moving up through the system to have a shot at the big leagues. Bucciferro and Blough have both gotten off to good starts this year but the fact that they are old for the level is working against them both. Brad Goldberg has in the past flashed potential.
Unfortunately though, he has had a terrible start to the 2014 season with a 6.52 ERA. His peripherals do suggest though that he is getting somewhat unlucky thus far in the season.
One last name to mention is Braulio Oritz. He has a great fastball.
But he has nothing else. His lack of a secondary pitch has relegated him to the bullpen. There is still some time left for Ortiz though as he is only 22 years-old.
Tyler Danish is the most notable name on the Kannapolis pitching staff. The White Sox drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft. Danish has pitched in 50 innings since being drafted. He's been compared to Jake Peavy because of his reliance on movement instead of velocity. Danish sits in the high-80s with a heavy sinking fastball and a high-70s slider with good action.
Behind Danish there are only a few recognizable names on the Kannapolis staff. Francellis Montas, one of the minor leaguers we received from Boston in the Jake Peavy trade, joins Brandon Brennan and Adam Lopez on the disabled list. Adam Lopez is the only pitcher of the three who has had success thus far in his career. He is also the oldest of the bunch at 23 years-old.
Andrew Mitchell is another name that might ring a bell with some White Sox fans. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft and was considered by many to be a steal.
However, as with most young power arms, he has struggled to keep the walks down (18.5 BB% thus far in 2014), which limits the usefulness of his plus pitches.
There are a few interesting names in the lower levels of minors such as Olacio, Danish, and Mitchell. However there isn't one guy that you can point to as a potential stud. This is understandable as the low minors are a long way from the big league club and a lot can happen on the way. Although many feel that certain positions in the field could use an infusion of talent through the draft, an elite, young pitcher may be the way to go with the top pick especially given the amount of top level pitching talent that will be available early in the draft.