The White Sox will play two against the Detroit Tigers today. If the White Sox were competing for the division, my focus today would be Game 1 - the duel of two aces, Scherzer and Sale. And while great pitching is great pitching, the White Sox are rebuilding, and so I am much more focused on Game 2, which will be the major league debut of starting pitcher Chris Bassitt.
Bassitt has always flown under the radar. He was drafted in the 16th round out of the University of Akron. He has succeeded at essentially every level in the minors, but has always been older than his competition. And, indeed, the White Sox had him tabbed as a reliever for the first two years of pro ball. But then last year, they shifted him full time to the rotation and he kept succeeding.
Typically, college seniors who are drafted low are polish guys who have good command of a marginal arsenal and are drafted to help fill out the organizational ranks and to keep the draft budget under control. Bassitt doesn't quite fit that profile, as he is 6'5'' and actually has fastball velocity. Typically working in the 90-93 mph range, Bassitt has been able to run it up to 96 when he needs it. He also has a lower arm slot, and a bit of a herky-jerky delivery that offers some deception.
Primarily a sinker-slider guy, Bassitt gets a ton of movement on his fastball and can move it in different directions. The result is that he is brutal on RHB, allowing an OPS of .357 this year against them, and has a really hard time getting LHB out. In fact, lefties have an OPS of .892 off of him this year.
Because his change is such a work-in-progress, and due to his arm slot, Bassitt may never have a realistic way of getting lefties out other than perfect fastball location and movement. He has fiddled around with a big slow loopy curve to neutralize the platoon split, but like the change it lags behind his first two offerings. Another detriment to his zigging and zagging fastball and his noisy delivery is that his control is poor. The statistics make sense given his description - minor leaguers have not been able to make solid contact off of him (unless they're lefties, I guess), and he has surrendered very few home runs, while getting a good number of strikeouts. This is offset by his platoon split and the walks he gives out.
Still, Bassitt is generally coming in on a hot streak. After a lengthy stint on the DL and a few tune-up starts in rookie ball, he rattled off an excellent set of starts at AA. Over his last 34.2IP, all in Birmingham, Bassitt has an ERA of 1.56, with 36 strikeouts and a .206 average allowed. Again, 14 walks over that span.
At the end of the day, I think Bassitt is going to wind up as a good reliever, but you'll have to try to make sure he faces as many righties as possible. You could do worse as a spot-starter, though, and his profile could change if he can ever figure out how to take some of the sting out of left-handed hitters.
This fits into what I've been seeing about the team in general - if another starter or two is added over the offseason, they have a lot of internal options who will look great as 5th starters or back in the bullpen when they aren't forced to try to go through a lineup 3-4 times on a regular basis.
Another thing to keep an eye on for today is how long Ventura leaves in Chris Sale. The bullpen had to throw four innings last night, although Belisario and Lindstrom ate most of that up. Given the double header, Ventura may be tempted to leave Sale in for 115-120 pitches depending on the circumstances. Then again, I must compliment Ventura on his willingness to pull the White Sox' ace at 102 pitches in his last outing.