Monday, December 23, 2013

Surkamp another solid pitching pickup for White Sox

The White Sox added another candidate for their rotation on Monday by claiming left-hander Eric Surkamp off waivers from the Giants.

New White Sox left-hander Eric Surkamp.
Surkamp is coming off a year spent recovering from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for all of 2012. At two levels last year he started 16 games and finished with just under 87 innings with a 2.80 ERA. That's right in line with his minor-league track record, which in five seasons has seen him throw nearly 500 innings with a 2.84 ERA.

The one thing missing from Surkamp's results on the road back from injury were the strikeouts. He recorded only 7.4/9IP last year after averaging well over 10/9IP before surgery. Though as a soft-throwing lefty, most scouts probably doubted his ability to bring big strikeout numbers with him to the majors.

The sharpest tool in Surkamp's toolbox is his excellent control, as he's issued only 2.5 BB/9 during his rise through the Giants' system. The White Sox love that trait in a pitcher, and it's likely they also love Surkamp's ability to avoid coughing up home runs (only 23 allowed, 0.4/9IP in his career). Though not an extreme groundball pitcher, he does generate a few with his sinker.

Surkamp's limited time with the Giants should inject some skepticism that he can make the transition to the big leagues. In 29 1/3 innings he's been roughed up for three HRs, and has issued more walks (17) than he has strikeouts (13) and has a 7.36 ERA.

Still, as a depth move, there's a lot to like about this. Surkamp already throws a curve, slider and changeup to go with his high-80s fastball. If he can refine any of those offerings, or add a cutter like so many other pitching projects the Sox have taken on over the years, he's got the tools to make it as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Surkamp's services do come at the cost of third baseman Brent Morel, who was removed from the 40-man roster to make room.

There's hardly reason to be sad about Morel's exit. For a brief time there was some hope that he could become a lite version of Joe Crede, with the good glove at third, less power but decent contact at the plate. Back injuries sapped his slender chance to hang in the majors. In about a full season's worth of plate appearances from 2010-2013 he hit .229/.276/.333. In the minors he hit .287/.344/.778.

If Morel, who opened 2011 and 2012 as the Sox's starting third baseman, has any kind of big league future, it will likely be as a utility infielder, though he'll likely have to rediscover some of the power lost in his bat after his back problems to even attain that ceiling.

1 comment:

  1. In the past, the Sox have had success getting production from pitchers they picked up off the scrap heap. We'll see if they can do it again with Surkamp. They gave up nothing to get him, so it doesn't hurt anything if he fails. Morel will not be missed. He dropped even farther on the organizational depth chart with the addition of Davidson, so there was zero point in keeping him on the 40-man roster.