Jonathan Stiever did enough for White Sox, himself in unlikely debut

The Jonathan Stiever we saw on Sunday wasn’t exactly the Jonathan Stiever we’re supposed to see. Then again, we weren’t supposed to see Jonathan Stiever at all this season.

At first, it was because he was a pitcher who hadn’t yet cleared A-ball in an organization with so much other starting depth. Then it was because he’d missed most of spring training with a forearm issue, and he’d be hard-pressed to get the necessary kind of experience building back up in Schaumburg. Also, the all the aformentioned starting depth.

Given these circumstances, Sunday’s start was a bonus, especially since it ended with his head held high.

It didn’t start that way. Stiever labored through a 36-pitch first inning that was helped by a sketchy call at second base, although maybe it was also hampered by the four-minute review that followed. He threw just 21 of 36 pitches for strikes, and some of his misses were … well …

… yeah.

Stiever had scattershot command of the pitches that were supposed to take a direct line, so forget about the pitches intended to be crooked. He got one whiff on a good curve below the zone, but he couldn’t get breaking balls in the zone when behind in the count, so he had to cling tenaciously to a pitch that wasn’t exactly his friend, either.

The guy who walked just 27 batters over 145 innings across Kannapolis and Winston-Salem issued two walks in his first inning. He said frustration entered the mix early:

“Today probably wasn’t my best stuff because a long inning, wasn’t able to pitch my total game but I feel good with all my pitches,” Stiever said. “That was the frustrating part for me a little because I have been that pitcher who does get ahead and doesn’t walk many guys. Just not finding that zone and fighting off pitches and me not being able to make those pitches was frustrating.”

So the control wasn’t there. The velocity wasn’t quite as crisp as we’ve seen in him in Winston-Salem, either. He topped out at 95, with his fastball averaging 92-93, down one or two ticks from his usual sitting range in the minors last year.

What he did show was carry on his fastball, which Statcast said generated six swinging strikes despite numbers that radar guns comfortably capture.

Here are the swinging strikes on secondary pitches, including one curve.

I used the qualifier “Statcast says” because it had a hard time figuring out his stuff. The system said that Stiever got two swinging strikes on curveball, but it had commonly identified changeups as curveballs all day long, like this high, tailing floater that Jeimer Candelario nearly lined into right field. save a fine effort from Danny Mendick.

Sometimes new pitchers with unusual velocity characteristics for a secondary pitch trip up the system, like when Statcast called Zack Burdi’s changeup a two-seam fastball because you seldom see off-speed pitches at 91. In this case, Stiever’s changeup looked like a feathery thing that sometimes trailed his fastball by a dozen miles per hour. It doesn’t yet seem like a convincing offering.

At this point in his development, he hasn’t needed it to be that good. When Stiever is humming along, the fastball is getting him ahead, and the curveball is putting them away. He didn’t have the command of either to execute his usual game plan, but he eventually figured out why the White Sox usually use the rebuilding Tigers to buoy the self-esteems of starters who could use the boost. The night before, they recalled Reynaldo López from Schaumburg, and he succeeded simply by filling up the zone. Dane Dunning made his debut against Detroit earlier this season, as did Dylan Cease the year before.

it worked well enough. He didn’t get the win, but he got the game into the fourth with it tied at 1, and probably could have finished the inning given the lack of stress later on. He needed 36 pitches to record the first three outs, but just 37 pitches to handle the remaining eight.

The hope is that there’s no need to see Stiever again this season, whether it’s because López pitched well enough to test him against a better opponent, because Dallas Keuchel is beyond his back spasms, or some combination of the two. He’s the most promising arm in the system, but Detroit’s lineup was still the most threatening one he’s ever faced, soft as it may be. It only gets harder from here.

Renteria didn’t sound a guy with unreasonably high expectations for Stiever’s debut, or for the remainder of 2020.

“He gave us what he was able to give us,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He kept us in the game. Got out of first-inning traffic, kept his composure and did what he needed to do.”

For our purposes of prospect valuation and consideration, Stiever also met objectives. He showed he was physically able to pitch in a competitive environment in 2020, and he showed one of the ways he’ll succeed when he gets a chance for good.

(Photo by Rob Grabowski/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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tbsoxfan

Stiever definitely surpassed reasonable expectation for a guy with only one full season above rookie ball; I’d love for him to see Charlotte out of camp next season at 24 and earn his way into regular starts by midseason. After he shook the jitters he looked generally competent which is better than most of the starters the Sox have plugged in recent seasons, obviously with more upside than most as well in the long run

Eagle Bones

If we’re seeing him start regularly for the Sox next year, that’s probably not good.

lifelongjd

I thought the results from Stiever were encouraging. Getting the experience of starting a MLB game is huge and will help down the road. Getting the team win is also nice.

The Sox have a few good options coming up, so hopefully they can hit on 2-3 from the group of Stiever, Lambert, Flores, Pilkington, Dalquist, and Thompson. Plus Crochet and Kelley should develop into MLB pitchers sooner rather than later. As this season shows, you can never have too much pitching.

HallofFrank

The starting pitching mix should be interesting in 2021. I assume Giolito, Keuchel, and Kopech are locks. A Free-Agent SP also seems likely, righ? That’s four. That leaves one spot for Cease, Dunning, Rodon, Lopez, and Stiever.

Injuries happen (as we’ve seen) so this situation will likely (at least partially) sort itself out, but without a trade or injury before opening day, Charlotte could start with a rotation of Dunning/Cease, Rodon, Lopez, Stiever, and Flores. Or, in that case, maybe they just bite the bullet and turn Rodon and Lopez into relievers.

burning-phoneix

If Dunning and Steiver get more starts and do well, I can really see the FO not going out for another pitcher, maybe an innings eater like Gio Gonzales/Ivan Nova/..etc on a 1 or 2 year deal as Kopech is probably gonna start in AAA to wipe off a year of rust so I think its gonna be

GioELITEo
Kuechel
Cease
FA pitcher
Dunning/Steiver

I’d really like it though if the front office plopped a fat 1 year deal for Bauer tho.

dwjm3

Gonna be interesting to see if Bauer sticks to his stance that he only wants one year deals. Maybe Hahn should offer him a two year deal with a high salary each year. In a way Bauer is Jerry’s dream pitcher as he hates long term deals to pitchers.

texag10

We have 109M on the books for 2021 with probably declined options for EE and Cishek that can clear $19Mish off that number. Have to imagine some of that chunk is going to a veteran BP piece. The rest is either going to a starting pitcher or a right fielder and I imagine whichever one we don’t spend on, we try to trade for.

Interestingly of that 109M, 1M is going to Konerko.

lil jimmy

I’m not seeing 109 mil. Colome, McCann, Herrera, Encarnacion, Gonzalez, Cishek can or will be off the books

lil jimmy

and Mazara,(How could I forget.) prime non tender

Eagle Bones

I’m seeing 87.1 mil committed for next year, but that’s only for 8 players and buyouts (doesn’t include arb cases or min guys). They have several guys coming off, but they also have several guys that will get raises (the extension guys and arb cases).

texag10

Yeah, the 109 assumes all options are picked up.

MarketMaker

That would be so disappointing. They really need another good rotation arm.

Eagle Bones

Very much this. No more excuses, it’s time to open up the wallet to really blow the door wide open on this ever-moving contention window. I’m fine with some combination of Kopech, Dunning and Cease making up the last two spots, but they need another higher-probability vet to plug into the rotation to up the certainty levels there.

gibby32

Not that crowded, at least as of now. Giolito, Keuchel, Cease and (fingers crossed) Dunning are likely part of the presumptive 2021 rotation. Free agent or return on a deal, like Lance Lynn, maybe. Kopech, sure. That would give the White Sox six starters, which is not too many, given how they drop from injuries, long or short term. Lopez is only an emergency possibility (like now); Rodon can not stay healthy; Stiever is not ready, and Flores, probably, is not good enough. As I said, not that crowded.

MarketMaker

Unless something significant changes, Lopez will create most of his value as an innings-eater. I don’t think he makes a lot of sense for a bullpen move for that reason. There’s not much to suggest his stuff will “play up” in that role. Perhaps better to keep him as a rotation piece in Charlotte trying to tweak the repertoire to improve his command or generate more swings and misses. Have him ready for spot starts when the inevitable injury strikes.

texag10

Lopez has only ever been a good pitcher in his career against spots 7-9 in the order. He already throws hard but doesn’t consistently throw strikes. Not sure what kind of role he would have in the bullpen other than mop up duty in double digit blowouts, which based on our offense could happen fairly often next year.

joewho112

Correct me if I am wrong, but you are guaranteed a raise each year of arbitration so unless Rodon shows himself to be a very valuable reliever in the last few weeks of the season, I don’t see offering him arbitration given that he signed a $4.5M deal for this year.

Eagle Bones

Yeah, I hate to say it as I’ve always had high hopes for him, but he’s looking like a non-tender.

metasox

Especially with the revenue problems teams will face with the virus, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more non-tenders around baseball and teams look to put their real money into sure things.

joewho112

Could be a buyers market for useful but flawed players like Yolmer who aren’t worth their arbitration value but can help out in the right situation. Good opportunity for a team that can be creative with their strategy

lil jimmy

10% would be 5 million. Unless he’s toast, he’ll be back.

GrinnellSteve

I don’t think we can call Kopech a lock. He hasn’t been heard from in a couple of years. We have no idea where his health and his head will be next year. That said, I’m hopeful he can be a mostly solid contributor.

HallofFrank

Really hard to imagine Kopech won’t be in the rotation most of 2021, barring injury. Granted, he might start in AAA just to build up.

Eagle Bones

Let Kopech, Cease and Dunning fight it out for the last two spots in the rotation. Injury or under-performance will almost surely take care of the rest. Like you said, maybe start Kopech at AAA, probably a decent chance Cease struggles, Kopech takes his spot, or someone gets hurt, etc.

HallofFrank

I don’t think Kopech’s spot in the rotation will (or should) be determined by anyone else. Kopech will be up when he’s mentally and physically ready.

Eagle Bones

No arguments here. If he’s ready out of ST, put him in there. I do think there’s a decent argument to start him at AAA for at least a few starts after all of this time off though. Now if they try to hold him down to get an extra year of control, then we have something to complain about.

Eagle Bones

I was actually thinking a bit about this the other day as well.

The FA SPs are pretty weak this offseason, but I think they need to add at least one solid name to the depth chart. Bauer is the obvious top guy and it falls off quickly after him. Stroman seems likely to offer boring, but solid innings. After those two, it seems like a bunch of coin flips. Kluber and Paxton are major health risks, Tanaka makes me nervous and I’m not sure if he wants to leave NY anyway, and the rest is kind of a big pile of meh. I’m honestly confused by Morton’s contract situation (I got a headache yesterday trying to understand his vesting option), but maybe he’ll be available? Though even if he is, I’d probably consider him only a slightly less risky version of Kluber and Paxton (and that’s if he even wants to keep playing). I’m having trouble seeing them ante up, but I feel like the smart play would be to grab one of the top couple guys here to supplement Giolito/Keuchel at the top and the younger guys who are still developing.

Let Cease, Dunning and Kopech fight for the last couple spots. Rodon seems like to be NT’d. I’m not sure what to do with Lopez at this point. I’ll be curious to see what his projected arb number comes out at. He hasn’t been great, but he has racked up a lot of innings (at least prior to this year). Given what they’ll likely have at AAA, it might make sense to keep him around at least one more year even if it’s just as insurance.

texag10

Stroman looks to be a Jose Quintana lite. You know what you’re likely going to get every start. I’d have no problem with him as the 2/3 in this rotation on a similar dealer to what Wheeler got last offseason.

Eagle Bones

I’d be fine with that. My only reservation would be, if Jerry is still on a fixed budget, I might rather spend the majority of their available funds on an outfielder just because I’m not crazy about the available arms. But ideally, yeah they should grab the best starter and OF they can get, money be damned.

lil jimmy

available funds could be 40- 45 million. Money will go a long way this off season for teams with money to spend. Jose Quintana as a fifth starter, spot starter, swing man, might be a nice fit. You know Gio G. will not be back. I love Q.

Eagle Bones

If we’re talking about money just earmarked for FAs, I certainly hope it’s at least that much. Hard to guess though what will happen with the market this offseason. This situation seems primed for owners to cry poor again.

Eagle Bones

Also you mention Quintana. I have no clue how much demand for him there will be, but I’d love to bring him back in a swing role if he doesn’t get a ton of interest.

Oddvark

After Keuchel, the LHP starter situation still seems iffy to me. Not that we need to have 2 LHP starters in the rotation, but it would be good to have solid options there. I assume we’re not picking up the option on Gio Gonzalez, probably non-tendering Carlos Rodon (or maybe moving him to a bullpen role?), and Bernardo Flores presumably needs more time in the minors.

So I would think we might be looking to add a LHP starter in free agency. Maybe a Jose Quintana reunion? Take a chance on the injury prone James Paxton or the underperforming Robbie Ray?

Jason.Wade17

Was happy with Stiever and hope the Sox can milk anything needed out of him while they are short on pitching, but he will likely get another year in the minors next year regardless of results.

Surprised by the number of people higher on Cease than Dunning, both here and otherwise. Pre-TJ, most prospect ranking essentially had them equal in valuation. While Cease has been around longer, he has plenty of development still needed and has been generally bad this year. Not giving up on him, but not penciling him into any future rotations.

At this point, I really hope the Sox add another starter this offseason. They only have two starters I’d for sure be happy with and one of those will be 33 and has a history of injuries. Still like Keuchel and happy he is on the team, but not going to except 30 starts out of him.

jorgefabregas

Speaking of Cease, apparently his fastball isn’t generating whiffs because it has the wrong kind of spin. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/dylan-cease-is-having-a-strange-season/

The rest of the article you already know–he’s gotten lucky on BABIP and sequencing and has given up a lot of unearned runs.

shaggy65

Am I the only one who thinks that Cease is a lock for the 2021 rotation? I know he’s had his challenges, but to say he’ll “battle” for a spot seems laughable. And Dunning is looking more and more like a lock, as well. I’d love to see a beefy one-year deal for Bauer, but with Kopech and Stiever waiting in the wings and Lopez as a last resort I see no reason to sign a new multi-year starter.

HallofFrank

You may not be the only one, but I can’t imagine many think Cease is a lock. This season has reminded me a lot of Reynaldo Lopez’s 2018: high FIP, decent results. He’s surviving, but barely. If the Sox get the rotation depth they need in a trade or FA, Cease or Dunning will be on the outside looking in (whenever Kopech is ready) of a healthy rotation.

Eagle Bones

Agree, and actually this looks definitively worse than Lopez’s 2018.

Eagle Bones

I mean you kind of just answered your own question. Giolito and Keuchel are obviously locks, probably want another FA arm, then you’ve got Kopech, Dunning and Cease. Unless someone gets hurt (knock on wood), one of those guys isn’t starting in Chicago to start the year.

I don’t see why you would turn your nose up at the FA starters. This isn’t the time to hope the young starters turn a corner and everyone stays healthy. They need to add some certainty and depth to the rotation to make sure they don’t end up with the rotation in shambles again a couple months into the season. Remember, if this were a normal season, they’d be in late May right now and they’re already down several starters. Let’s not purposely set ourselves up for that situation again.