Chris Sale, White Sox (Owned in 8% of Yahoo leagues)
Bobby Jenks‘ return from a right forearm injury has slowed, opening the door for Sale to snag saves in September. The 6-5, 170 pound beanpole with a low three-quarters delivery threw all of 10.1 innings in the minors after Chicago took him in the first round this past summer, but he’s impressing in the show with premium velocity from the left side.
Sale, slinging his fastball at an average of 96.2 MPH while mixing in low-80’s sliders and upper-80’s changeups, has struck out 23 batters in 17.2 IP. While he has issued 10 walks to go with all those K’s, the Florida Gulf Coast product has a 3.19 xFIP in a tiny sample. White Sox GM Kenny Williams has said that Sale will enter 2011 as a starter, but he’s certainly worth a roster spot closing out games for the South Siders in the meantime.
Madison Bumgarner, Giants (29%)
Bumgarner became a prospect darling on the basis of a mid-90’s fastball that singed batters in the low minors, but panic ensued last season when the 6-4 lefty’s velocity dropped into the upper-80’s. In 2010, Bumgarner has assuaged concerns that he was hurt or destined to fall well short of the expectations that helped him rank as a top-15 farm talent (according to Baseball America) over the past two years.
Still just 21, Bumgarner pitched decently at Triple-A Fresno (82.2 IP, 6.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 4.31 park-and-luck-adjusted FIP, per Minor League Splits). Since being recalled to the majors in late June, he has whiffed 6.36 batters per nine innings, handed out 2.18 BB/9 and has a 4.22 xFIP. Bumgarner hasn’t blown hitters away, with an 84.1% contact rate that’s four percentage points above the big league average, but he is getting hitting his spots. He’s getting a first pitch strike 60% of the time (58.9% MLB average), and has placed 48.4% of his pitches over the plate (46.6% MLB average).
Though Bumgarner was once seen as an unrefined arm with heat and rudimentary secondary stuff, he has made use of all four of his pitches. He’s throwing his fastball about 57%, a mid-80’s slider 20%, a mid-70’s curve 12% and a low-80’s change 11%. Bumgarner’s not getting a ton of whiffs — his fastball has been whiffed at 6% of the time that it has been tossed (about average). His slider has an 8.6% whiff rate (13% MLB average) and his changeup comes in at 10.2% (12.1% MLB average). That leaves his curve (11.9 whiff%, 10.5% MLB average) as the only pitch with an above-average whiff rate.
However, he’s showing sharp control of all his offerings. Bumgarner has thrown his fastball for a strike 67% of the time (60-64% MLB average), 65.1% for his slider (62.7% MLB average), 61.9% for his curve (58% MLB average) and 67.5% for the change of pace (60.9% MLB average).
It’s also worth noting that Bumgarner’s fastball velocity has been on the rise. He sat 89.7 MPH in June, 90.5 MPH in July, 91.6 MPH in August and is averaging 92.8 MPH so far in September. Bumgarner is pretty good right now, but there’s more upside here if he starts flirting with those 2008 radar gun readings.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at email@example.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.