May 28, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale (49) in the dugout between inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Chicago White Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Chris Sale struck out 15 Rays on Monday. He's currently fourth in the MLB in WAR for pitchers. Z.W. Martin explains why this shouldn't be a shock and how the White Sox secured the extremely talented Sale with the 13th overall pick in 2010.
The White Sox are not exactly known for their draft day strategy and they don't posses much respect within the international baseball community outside of Cuba. (A kickback scandal will have that effect.) Kenny Williams' farm system is currently ranked dead last by most experts. That will happen when you spend less than any other team on the draft. I'm not just talking about last year, but since 2007. However, when it came to Chris Sale, the Sox's shrewdness and nontraditional approach paid off, both for their pocketbooks and on the field.
Sale was a highly-touted starting pitching prospect out of Florida Gulf Coast. Most mock drafts had him going in the top five in the first round of the 2010 first year player draft. (The least flattering I found had him going 6th overall.) He was a 6'5'' lefty, throwing in the low to mid-90s with run and sink, a hard-titling slider (some called it a "power-slurve"), a developing change up (still developing), who had great command and mound presence. Sale was considered by many to be the most MLB-ready pitcher in the draft. He knew it, too.
Since he was only a junior, Sale had the bargaining chip of declining the offered draft bonus and heading back to college. The then 21-year-old was very clear with teams that he would not sign for anything near slot. Cleveland was expected to draft him at five. (Slot for the 5th overall pick was an estimated $2,520,000.) They passed, instead drafting fellow southpaw, Drew Pomerantz out of Ole Miss. Because of his demands, most pundits figured Sale would probably fall out of the first round completely, instead being snatched by an organization taking a flyer on him, hoping he'd sign for less than expected. That scenario never played out.
At 13, the White Sox drafted Chris Sale. Everyone was confused. Given the Sox's history of spending next to nothing on the draft, why would they pick a player asking for more than they typically spent on an entire draft? Williams and Co. had an ace up their sleeve. If Sale signed for slot ($1,656,000) the Sox promised the top five talent quick entry into the bigs, starting his service time clock, moving him faster to the eventual large paydays in arbitration and even larger in free agency.
Chris Sale pitched exactly 10.1 innings in the minors. He struck out 19 batters and was called up to Chicago on August 4, 2010, 58 days after being drafted.
On Monday, Sale struck out 15 Rays, out-dueling uber-prospect, Matt Moore, 2-1. He set the single game strikeout record for Tropicana Field. It tied him for second most in White Sox history. Chris Sale has a career ERA of 2.49. A career strikeouts per nine of 10.2. A career WHIP of 1.066. A 2012 pitchers WAR of 2.2, good for fourth in the entire league. Chris Sale is 23-years-old.
For all his early success, it should not be a surprise. Chris Sale was a legit top five prospect in the 2010 draft. It took savvy and high promises for the White Sox to secure their 13th overall pick, but it ended up saving them millions in the short term and provided them with a potential ace in their rotation for the foreseeable future.
Fun fact: Chris and I share the same birthday!