White Sox

Humber's rocky journey to perfection

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Humber's rocky journey to perfection

Philip Humber was the third-overall pick in the 2004 draft. The Mets believed he had ace potential, selecting him right after Detroit took Justin Verlander and before Anaheim took Jered Weaver.

A standout at Rice, Humber had all the credentials of a top-three pick. He struck out 422 in batters in 353 collegiate innings with a 2.80 ERA, with scouts raving about the movement on his fastball and his tight curveball.

But his pro career got off to a rough start. With A-level St. Lucie, Humber's ERA ballooned to 4.99. Injuries stunted a successful 2006 that saw his ERA fall to 2.83 between rookie ball and Double-A. With those successes in mind, the Mets fast-tracked him to Triple in 2007 despite just seven career starts at the Double-A level and two one-inning appearances in the majors.

It was in New Orleans that Humber hit a wall. His ERA was a mediocre 4.27 and he allowed 21 home runs. Those poor numbers led him to be a mere throw-in when the Twins decided to trade Johan Santana to the Mets, as the two big prizes of the deal for Minnesota were Carlos Gomez and Delois Guerra.

Humber only got worse in the Twins' farm system, as his ERA rose 4.56 in 2008. He allowed another 21 dingers that year, but his walks rose and his strikeouts fell. The same thing happened in 2009, as his strikeout-to-walk ratio fell to 8745 with Triple-A Rochester.

He pitched a total of 20 23 innings in the majors with Minnesota, walking 14 with just 15 stikeouts while allowing five home runs.

The Twins cut him loose after 2009, and Humber landed with Kansas City. He threw 21 23 mediocre innings with the Royals -- nothing that was going to land him a permanent spot on the team. The same team that didn't have much pitching to begin with.

Finally, in 2011, something clicked for Humber. The White Sox took a flier on him, one of those throwaway invites to minor league camp. But with Jake Peavy not ready to return to the Sox rotation until May, Humber finally got his chance -- even if his spring training performances were underwhelming.

Humber's White Sox debut is generally forgotten given how well he pitched last year. But, entering a losing effort against Cleveland in the eighth inning on April 3, Humber failed to record an out, allowing two hits and two runs before he was yanked.

He made his first start six days later, holding the Rays to one run in six innings of work. After back-to-back mediocre starts against Los Angeles and Tampa Bay, Humber finally broke out.

His April 25 start against the Yankees -- in New York, no less -- was the Philip Humber the Mets had waited for and the Twins had hoped they could resurrect. Humber took a no-hitter into the seventh, preventing the Yankees from getting a hit through 6 13 innings. The only hit he allowed broke up his no-hitter.

It was a rare bright spot in a miserable month for the White Sox. And after it, Humber went from rotational afterthought to legitimate All-Star candidate and leading reason why the Sox tinkered with a rare six-man rotation.

Humber didn't make the trip to Arizona with the best players from the American League, but he did everything in his power to make his case. In 15 starts from April 9 through July 2, Humber had a 2.57 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 25 walks.

But it looked like Humber's magic spell on the majors had worn off when August rolled around. The Sox lost his next six starts, with Humber allowing 22 runs in 27 23 innings -- a 7.16 ERA. He was K.O'd right when the Sox needed him most, taking a sharp line drive off his head Aug. 18 against Cleveland.

Humber returned Sept. 5 and made five more starts, although the end product was unimpressive (4.26 ERA, 30 K, 15 BB). He had pitches his way into the 2012 Sox rotation, but his ability to repeat 2011 was in question.

A perfect game, though. No matter what happens to Philip Humber the rest of his career, he'll be able to say he threw a perfect game. He's previously said that he's just happy to have found a steady career in the majors.

Two, three, four years ago, Humber could barely stick in the major leagues. Now, he'll stick in the record books forever.

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

Eloy Jimenez and a bunch of White Sox prospects get promoted as the rebuild advances

For White Sox fans focused on what’s happening at the major league level, there’s understandable frustration over the team’s 25-games-below-.500 record.

But in the minor leagues, progress is happening, and there was no more tangible sign of that than Thursday, when a host of the organization’s highly touted prospects, including top-ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, were promoted.

Jimenez, ranked as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, is the biggest name of the bunch. He’s moving on up from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte, joining top-ranked pitching prospect Michael Kopech as being just a step away from playing on the South Side.

Jimenez got a late start to the season while recovering from an injury, but he’s put up impressive numbers, with a .317/.368/.556 slash line to go along with 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and 15 doubles in 53 games.

Plenty of fans and observers have deemed Jimenez ready for the majors right now, but general manager Rick Hahn had said for a while that Jimenez would play at the Triple-A level, citing the different way pitchers will attack him as a hitter and the oft-discussed boxes that the White Sox need to see every prospect check (the reason Kopech is still playing at Triple-A).

Jimenez is the organization’s top-ranked prospect, but the White Sox have created an unbelievable depth of highly touted guys and a lot of them were on the move Thursday, too.

Luis Robert, who just recently started his season after recovering from a thumb injury, was moved from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem, as Hahn said he would just a little while ago. Robert was the victim of overcrowding in the Winston-Salem outfield, a problem somewhat remedied by Thursday’s moves. The No. 3 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 24 prospect in baseball, Robert slashed .289/.360/.400 with four RBIs and four stolen bases in just 13 games.

Dylan Cease, acquired with Jimenez in last summer’s crosstown trade with the Cubs, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Cease is the organization’s No. 5 prospect and the No. 52 prospect in the game. He went 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 71.2 innings with Winston-Salem.

Luis Alexander Basabe was one of the bigger stories of the first half of the minor league season, sticking out among a group of highly productive outfielders at Class A Winston-Salem. He was promoted to Double-A Birmingham after slashing .266/.370/.502 with nine homers, 12 doubles and five triples to go along with 30 RBIs in 58 games. Basabe is ranked the No. 13 prospect in the White Sox organization.

Luis Gonzalez tore it up in the first half at Class A Kannapolis, and last year’s third-round pick was promoted to Class A Winston-Salem. Ranked as the No. 18 prospect in the White Sox system, Gonzalez slashed .300/.358/.491 with eight homers, 16 doubles, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 55 games.

Ian Hamilton was promoted from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after posting a pencil-thin 1.78 ERA in 21 relief appearances. The No. 19 prospect in the White Sox organization racked up 12 saves in 13 save opportunities with the Barons and allowed just five earned runs in his 25.1 innings. Hamilton is a name to watch considering the bullpen of the future is far less defined than the White Sox rotation of the future.

Seby Zavala, ranked as the White Sox No. 21 prospect, showed during the first half that his prospect ranking should perhaps be much higher. He’s moving from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte after slashing .271/.358/.472 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 56 games.

Alex Call, a third-round pick in 2016, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham. Call slashed .256/.368/.421 with 19 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 56 games.

Joel Booker, who famously stole home for a walk-off win earlier this season and also won the South Atlantic League All-Star Game MVP award this week, was promoted from Class A Winston-Salem to Double-A Birmingham after he slashed .297/.389/.468 21 extra-base hits and 14 stolen bases in 53 games.

Blake Battenfield, taken in the 17th round of last year’s draft, starred for Class A Kannapolis in the first half with a 2.00 ERA in 13 starts. He struck out 69 batters in 67.2 innings and earned a promotion to Class A Winston-Salem.

Lincoln Henzman, another 2017 draftee, selected in the fourth round, was also promoted from Class A Kannapolis to Class A Winston-Salem. He had a 2.23 ERA and 60 strikeouts in his 13 starts with the Intimidators.

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

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USA TODAY

ESPN.com ranks White Sox MLB's worst rotation

On Wednesday morning, ESPN.com released their rankings of all 30 MLB team's starting rotations. The rankings were a nod to the current structure of the rotation, as well as how they were likely to perform in the future. And that is why the Chicago White Sox being ranked dead last in the league is somewhat alarming. 

Overall, the White Sox rotation is 28th in WHIP and 29th in strikeouts. 

Lucas Giolito is currently the team leader in wins with four, but his ERA sits at an unsightly 7.19. James Shields has been decent in spurts, but a general lack of run support has limited his effectiveness. Carlos Rodon has been a mixed bag since returning, but was able to reach the seventh inning in his last start. This is encouraging considering that he hadn't made it that far in any of his previous three starts. And Reynaldo Lopez continues to rack up quality starts—much like Shields—but has two wins to show for it. 

Veteran players like closing pitcher Joakim Soria and Shields are sure to be hot names on the trade market, and that could go a long way towards bringing in additional prospects to build up the White Sox farm system, and lead to a much improved rotation in the future.

So the White Sox obviously deserve to be ranked lowly until they can groom their minor league starter prospects into MLB-ready staff members, something that looks like it could take longer than originally expected. Flame-throwing top prospect Michael Kopech is still amassing high strikeouts numbers, but he is walking over six batters per outing, showing an obvious issue with control. 

White Sox fans can take their mind off of ESPN ranking the team's rotation 30th in the league by turning their attention to Eloy Jimenez. He has been absolutely crushing it in Double-A Birmingham, and will likely be making his debut with the Triple-A Charlotte Knights on Saturday. That game will be live on NBC Sports Chicago. So sit back, relax and look forward to the future, wherever it may take White Sox faithful.