John Danks and Gavin Floyd had off-years in 2011, and the White Sox can’t afford a repeat performance in 2012. The White Sox are also moving lefty Chris Sale from the bullpen (where he was dominant) to the rotation to replace Mark Buehrle (left for the Marlins as a free agent over the winter). Here is a look at how the rotation will likely break down in 2012 for the Pale Hose:
#1: John Danks: The White Sox gave 26-year old lefty John Danks a huge contract extension over the winter, so they need him to pitch like an ace in 2012. Danks pitched in 27 games (all starts) for the White Sox last year and he was 8-12 with a 4.33 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP. He has now pitched in 150 games (all starts) in his first five years in the majors and he is 54-56 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. I think Danks is going to rise to the challenge and have the best year of his career in 2012.
#2: Gavin Floyd: 28-year old Gavin Floyd needs to become more consistent. He is usually awful before the All-Star Break and outstanding after it. Floyd pitched in 31 games (30 starts) for the White Sox last year and he was 12-13 with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He has now pitched in 141 games (134 starts) in his first five years with the White Sox and he is 51-50 with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. Floyd has the stuff to win 16-18 games, but it just won’t happen until he pitches well for a complete season and the White Sox hope it happens in 2012.
#3: Chris Sale: 22-year old lefty Chris Sale will be moving into the rotation in 2012, but they are going to watch his innings. Sale pitched in 58 games (0 starts) for the White Sox last year and he was 2-2 with 8 saves, a 2.79 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. He has now pitched in 79 games (0 starts) in his first two years with the Pale Hose and he is 4-3 with 12 saves, a 2.58 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. As long as Sale throws strikes, he should handle the conversion to starter well in 2012.
#4: Philip Humber: 29-year old righty Philip Humber came out of nowhere last year for the White Sox and they hope it wasn’t a mirage. Humber pitched in 28 games (26 starts) for the Pale Hose last year and he was 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. He has now pitched in 54 games (28 starts) in his first six years in the majors and he is 11-10 with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. The White Sox are hoping that Humber pitches like he did last year in 2012.
#5: Jake Peavy: 30-year old righty Jake Peavy had another season cut short due to injury in 2011. He pitched in 19 games (18 starts) for the White Sox last year and he was 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Peavy has now pitched in 39 games (38 starts) in his first three years with the White Sox and he is 17-13 with a 4.49 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. He just isn’t the same pitcher he was with the Padres earlier in his career. Peavy has now pitched in 251 games (250 starts) in his first 10 years in the majors and he is 109-81 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. The White Sox have their fingers crossed about Peavy.
Zach Stewart: 25-year old righty Zach Stewart could win the #5 job in the rotation if Jake Peavy isn’t ready to go. Stewart pitched in 10 games (8 starts) for the White Sox last year and he was 2-5 with a 6.22 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP. He pitched in 13 games (11 starts) last year overall with the Blue Jays and White Sox and he was 2-6 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. Stewart isn’t a lock for the #5 spot if Peavy can’t go, so he needs to have a big spring.
Dylan Axelrod: 26-year old righty Dylan Axelrod is a very serious contender for the #5 spot in the rotation if Peavy isn’t ready to go. Axelrod pitched in 4 games (3 starts) for the White Sox last year and he was 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. He also pitched in 26 games (24 starts) in AA+AAA-ball last year and he was 9-3 with a 2.69 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Axelrod pitched really well for the White Sox last year and I expect him in the show at some point in 2012 if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training.
Eric Stults: 31-year old lefty Eric Stults is a longshot candidate for the starting rotation in 2012. He pitched in 6 games (0 starts) for the Rockies last year and he was 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Stults has now pitched in 41 games (24 starts) in his first five years in the majors and he is 8-10 with a 4.93 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP. Stults will likely start the 2012 season in AAA.
Scott Olsen: 28-year old lefty Scott Olsen is a huge longshot for the starting rotation in 2012. He didn’t pitch at all last season as his shoulder was bothering him. He last pitched in the majors back in 2010 for the Nationals, working in 17 games (15 starts) in which he was 4-8 with a 5.56 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP. Olsen has pitched in 130 games (127 starts) in his first six years in the majors and he is 37-49 with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP.
PROJECTED GRADE FOR THE STARTING ROTATION IN 2012: C+