While the Chicago White Sox continue to wait on Danks' return, Floyd has been placed on the disabled list as well and is likely to undergo season-ending elbow surgery. Floyd has pitched over 1,000 innings as a member of the White Sox, having been a model of consistent middle-of-the-rotation performance.
It is for good reason that rumors of potential trades for Gavin Floyd always come up around the trade deadline and the offseason. This speaks not only to Floyd's reliability but also to the depth the White Sox feel they have when it comes to their starting pitching. This depth is, namely, Dylan Axelrod and Hector Santiago.
Current rotation without Floyd and Danks
1 - Chris Sale
2 - Jake Peavy
3 - Jose Quintana
4 - Dylan Axelrod
5 - Hector Santiago
This is a decidedly young rotation, which brings both positives and negatives. With such youth, there simply are not the track records of pitchers like Gavin Floyd and John Danks from top to bottom. Jake Peavy is the only active starter to have pitched more than 330 innings, which means he is the only one with at least two full seasons of MLB starting pitching under his belt.
On the positive side, this bodes well for the future in terms of both projecting development as well as keeping the staff affordable. Quintana, Axelrod, and Santiago are all years away from being owed more than the league minimum salary and remain largely unsolved by American League hitters due to their brief track records. For this season, all five are pitching well in the early going.
The new man: Hector Santiago
Drafted in the 30th round of the 2006 MLB draft, Santiago has hardly enjoyed much renown as a prospect. His career in the minor leagues was rather unimpressive until he added a screwball to his repertoire, which led to catapulting through the system all the way to a September call-up role in 2011. He has since been with the big-league club, featuring the screwball, a curve ball, a changeup, and a fastball that touches 96.
The screwball is still a work in progress for Santiago, but it helps to make him more effective against right-handed batters. His overall repertoire at this stage of his career makes it seem puzzling that he was not more successful previously and that he never garnered more attention from scouts; this goes to show what adding an offspeed pitch can do.
Santiago should be a familiar face among Sox fans, given his variety of prominent and less prominent roles on the staff. He began last season as the club's closer, though it did not last for long. He reverted to a more protected role, facing primarily left-handed batters and mopping up in low-stakes situations. Santiago made four starts in September and October, including a 1-hit, 10-strikeout gem to close out the season. Dylan Axelrod, who also made spot starts in 2012, and Santiago competed for the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation in 2013 spring training. Axelrod emerged victorious after both had strong camps.
The 2013 season still started well for Santiago, as he pitched his first six appearances out of the bullpen without surrendering an earned run. His only blemish as a reliever came on the day of Gavin Floyd's unexpected injury, when Santiago had to come in with minimal warm-up time in the third inning. His first start of the season, also on short notice due to Jake Peavy's back spasms, was a fine 5 1/3-inning performance in which he surrendered 1 earned run and just 2 hits while striking out 6 and collecting the win over Texas.
Given Santiago's track record, talent level and strong start to the season, he seems poised to take the mantle from Floyd and give the White Sox productive innings. A strong performance from Santiago may lead to more tough decisions about the rotation when John Danks returns from his rehab stint.
Who is next in line?
The likely call-ups if one of this depleted rotation goes down will certainly be far less battle tested at the big-league level. The highest rated prospects in the AAA rotation, Simon Castro and Andre Rienzo, have both gotten off to slow starts but could receive a call to Chicago if necessary. Zach Stewart, claimed on waivers in the offseason to return to the White Sox organization, has posted better numbers than either Rienzo or Castro in Charlotte and may be appealing due to his previous major league experience.
Jason Berken signed as a minor-league free agent this winter, has had a very strong start in AAA and has thrown nearly 250 MLB innings. Erik Johnson has gotten off to a torrid start in AA Birmingham and could be a sleeper pick to be promoted from the lower level, though he may not be far away from a AAA promotion as it is. Peavy's back issues may make this decision one that comes sooner rather than later; the choice may have more to do with which pitcher is rested than who has the best track record or highest prospect status.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports and lifestyle blogs such as The Flapship.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago White Sox
- John Danks
- Hector Santiago
- Dylan Axelrod
- Jake Peavy