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The White Sox headed into today’s Rule 5 draft protection deadline with seven open spots on the 40-man roster.
Sousa’s protection seemed likely, as the White Sox are thin on the left side of the bullpen, and Sousa has progressed nicely since the White Sox picked him in the 10th round of the 2018 draft as a senior signing. After spending the 2020 season idle, Sousa divided his 41 games evenly between Birmingham and Charlotte, at least as evenly as 41 games can be divided. He earned a promotion after 20 strong games in Double-A, then further improved his control after getting the promotion to Triple-A.
He ended the season on a roll, striking out 13 against 10 baserunners (eight hits, two walks) over his last eight appearances.
Sousa’s been old for every level he’s pitched because he made his pro debut at 23, but he’s done a good job at performing the tasks at hand. He’ll turn 27 during the first week of the season, so consider him a Jace Fry replacement with a fresher odometer.
The addition of Bilous is a little more surprising, as he posted a 6.51 ERA over 17 games and 65 innings at Birmingham. His Double-A career started in a promising fashion, but he wore down over his final half-dozen games. He went 0-3 with a 10.02 ERA during that stretch, with 20 free bases (16 walks, four HBPs) over 20⅔ innings.
He came up an out short of 80 innings on the season, which was 25 innings shy of his previous career high, so fatigue shouldn’t have been an issue in the traditional sense. Perhaps the missing 2020 season caught up to him, or perhaps the White Sox think that his fastball-slider-curveball combo can play up in relief sooner rather than later.
That’d be one reason to prioritize him over somebody like Kade McClure, who graduated from Double-A during the season before running into the usual troubles attempting to pitch in Charlotte.
Besides McClure, Carlos Pérez had the best case for 40-man protection as a decent blocking/throwing catcher who doesn’t strike out. His receiving leaves a lot to be desired according to Baseball Prospectus’ metrics, which is already a problem the White Sox are facing with their current crew of backups candidates. Lenyn Sosa got where he needed to go during his age-21 season with a promotion to Birmingham, but he posted a .522 OPS over his first 33 games at Double-A, and the Sox have two other middle infielders who might require a roster spot over the coming months in Jose Rodriguez and Yolbert Sánchez.
All of those players are now eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Now it’s just a question of when said draft will actually be held. It’s usually the last part of the winter meetings, but if the owners lock out the players upon the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, the major-league portion of the Rule 5 draft will be suspended as part of the transaction freeze (the minor league phases can proceed as usual).
(Laura Wolff / Charlotte Knights)