Leyson Septimo’s performance in the Dominican Winter League (DWL) should be of great concern for the Chicago White Sox. In fact, Septimo may be pitching the White Sox into a world of uncertainty this offseason.
Septimo is having a hard time finding the strike zone and the White Sox are counting on him in 2013 for more than one reason.
To start, manager Robin Ventura needs him in the bullpen.
While Donnie Veal has locked down the role of situational lefty—thanks to a dominant line against left-handed hitters—Septimo balances the bullpen out.
In a perfect scenario, he will provide Ventura with a number of innings and appearances comparable to Matt Thornton. Right now, however, Septimo is not in a position to do that.
In seven games for Aguilas Cibaenas of the DWL, Septimo posted a 7.36 ERA and had a .313 BAA, while issuing three walks in just 3.2 innings of work. It is the continuation of a trend.
In five minor league seasons, the former outfielder has averaged 7.4 BB/nine innings and owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of only 1.43. When he was promoted to take the place of Will Ohman, Septimo responded by walking six batters in nine innings before being placed on the disabled list.
Simply put, that is not good enough get the job done in the AL Central.
Septimo is also a critical piece of general manager Rick Hahn’s plan to improve the team.
Hahn is rumored to be shopping Gavin Floyd for a left-handed bat. That can only be because he is confident they can replace Floyd with a known commodity.
Dylan Axelrod, Hector Santiago, Nestor Molina, Andre Rienzo and Jose Quintana could all compete for the final two spots in the rotation—after Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and John Danks (assuming he is healthy)—once Floyd is traded.
Without Septimo, however, one of the left handers on that list will probably be forced to stay in the bullpen—thus limiting Hahn’s options.
A productive Septimo would also allow Hahn to focus on finding a replacement for Brett Myers. As it stands, Hahn has only commented on the need for a right-handed reliever.
If Floyd is traded and Septimo struggles, the new GM may be forced to find a lefty for the bullpen. With a payroll that is already over $100 million, Hahn might not be in a position to fill any more holes from outside the organization.
Septimo's performance next season is that important.
Now, to be fair, he did pitch fairly well over the course of his final nine appearances in 2012.
Highlighted by three straight outings with at least one full inning pitched, he lowered his ERA by almost a full run. Better yet, Septimo only allowed one walk in 5.1 innings while striking out six over that stretch.
Unfortunately, that run may have been the exception—rather than the rule. Septimo's recent performance in the DWL appears to be the norm, and if that is the case, Hahn is going to have to get creative.