Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams has a direct approach to the minor-league system. That is to say that the talent stockpiled in Charlotte, Birmingham and Winston-Salem is not as valuable as who takes the field for the White Sox' big-league ball club.
Well, as Williams and the rest of the White Sox player development personnel demonstrated this past year, this method of management does not completely forsake the minor leagues.
The 2012 season featured a record number of rookie pitchers on the roster and relatively unheralded prospects like Jose Quintana, Addison Reed and Nate Jones stepped up and assumed large roles on a team that contended until the last week of the season.
2013 figures to be more of the same as the White Sox are most likely going to be forced to rely on at least one young pitcher from the minor leagues to fill a major hole on the 25-man roster.
Reinzo, 24, is ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system by Mayo. Suspended for 50 games earlier in the season for a positive PED test, Mayo thinks that Rienzo has “one of the more intriguing arms in the system.”
With a solid fastball, Rienzo has the physical tools to pitch in the majors and held Double-A hitters to .209 average in 13 starts. If he can refine his secondary pitches with the help of pitching coach Don Cooper, Rienzo will leave a lasting impression during spring training.
Leesman’s season for Triple-A Charlotte was sort of an enigma. Although he posted a 2.47 ERA in 26 starts, he only pitched 135 innings. It will be interesting to see if Leesman can handle pitching into the seventh inning on a regular basis, but he can be quite effective.
Leesman has a deceptive delivery and relies on a devastating changeup to add life to his fastball. Mayo suggests that Leesman may be best served coming out of the bullpen which would free Hector Santiago up for a move to the starting rotation.
Unfortunately, opponents hit .312 off him at Double-A Birmingham. Mayo noted that he throws four pitches well and can spot them, so the bullpen may be the best place for him.
If Molina can step up, one of the young guns in the bullpen may be expendable as part of a deal for a veteran starter which may ultimately be of the most benefit for the future.
The White Sox are almost certainly going to lose Jake Peavy and the fate of Gavin Floyd will be announced in the coming weeks, so one or more of these pitchers will have to come to spring training ready to play.
If they do, a spot on the roster may be waiting for them.