Chris Sale is the ace of the Chicago White Sox, a four-time All-Star, and a major Cy Young contender. Currently signed through 2017, one of the premier left-handers in the game will challenge 200-plus innings and a strikeout title once again. The White Sox know that Sale will do his part, but if Chicago hopes to be a contender in 2016, the White Sox most important pitcher is not Chris Sale.
For the last four seasons, Sale has averaged 29 starts, 197 innings, and 225 strikeouts. However, the White Sox have not been able to support their ace as much as they hoped to, and have not reached the postseason since 2008. For the second straight winter, the White Sox have attempted to add pieces that will support Sale. While last offseason’s additions did not work out so well, this year could be different with the signings of veterans Todd Frazier, Jimmy Rollins, and Brett Lawrie. That trio figures to help Jose Abreu and an offense that was well below par a season ago, but in order for the White Sox to be contenders they have to rely on the other arms within the rotation.
Chris Sale is great, but who will back him?
Chicago has brought in veteran Mat Latos who could be an asset in the back of the rotation. Latos has yet to make a spring appearance, but if healthy, he is a guy that can be a dependable arm. Chicago also has Jose Quintana who is emerging into a quality left-handed starter. While he has yet to post a winning record, Quintana is trending upwards in terms of innings pitched, improving command, and quality outings.
In addition, Chicago has two young pitchers that may very well develop into the future 1-2 punch of the Sox in Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer. Both guys were drafted in the top-10 by Chicago in the last two drafts. Both were stars at the collegiate level and have great stuff at their disposal.
Rodon started slowly in year one, but finished with five straight quality starts. One area of concern will be limiting the walks, but Rodon is a guy that will keep the ball in the park, which helps in the Chicago conditions. He figures to be in the rotation all season long taking on more of a workload and become a potential sleeper for Cy Young considerations.
Fulmer may not start the year in Chicago, but he almost certainly figures to end with the big-league club. Much like Sale, Fulmer may start his pro career in the bullpen and transition into the starting rotation. He is the latest in the growing line of quality pitchers coming out of Vanderbilt. Much like Sale, his size may be questioned, but Fulmer has sneaky good stuff that can miss bats. He is a power pitcher with two plus pitches, and if he can develop a third, the White Sox see him as a long-term top-of-the-rotation starter.
The future of Sale is very much in doubt in Chicago, especially in light of recent developments within the White Sox organization. Tension may be building between Sale and the front office. No matter what happens, every time Sale steps on the mound he will deliver. Recent remarks may even add fuel to a guy that is already filthy on the bump. But if the White Sox hope to be successful, they have to rely on the guys behind Sale. For Sale to reach the postseason, he will need better support, and that it is why he is not the most important pitcher for the White Sox this season, and potentially beyond that.