One of the more fun parts of Thursday's edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast was finding out while recording that pitching prospect Alec Hansen struck out Joey Votto in a Cactus League game.
You can listen to our reaction, but how about a little more insight into just how impressive it was that Hansen got Votto to punch out on just three pitches?
For those who might not know — after all, Votto does play in the National League — the Cincinnati Reds' first baseman has one of the best batting eyes in baseball history. His .428 career on-base percentage is the highest among active players, and it ranks 11th all-time. Three times during his career he's led baseball in on-base percentage and three times he's led baseball in walks, including last year, when it could be argued that he should have been named the NL MVP. Votto finished the 2017 regular season with an out-of-this-world .454 on-base percentage and 134 walks, leading the game in both categories, and a 1.032 OPS, best in the NL. He played in all 162 games for the Reds and struck out only 83 times, a career low.
And then there's the fact that Hansen's strikeout of Votto came on only three pitches. For context — provided by the great Chris Kamka — just 12 of Votto's 83 strikeouts in 2017 came on three pitches. Of the 1,087 times Votto has struck out in his 11-year career, only 147 were on three pitches.
So what Hansen did wasn't just impressive. It's practically unheard of.
Of course, this was a spring training game, so none of it really matters at all. But what a thing for the 23-year-old minor league hurler to say he did. Last season, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts in 141.1 innings, splitting time between both of the White Sox Class A affiliates and Double-A Birmingham.
Hansen was recently ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the White Sox system and the No. 54 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.
White Sox fans usually don't need any more reasons to get excited about the future of the franchise. But Hansen sitting down Votto on three pitches? That's some excitement fuel right there.
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.
In Part 2 of "Ask Us Anything" we answer the following questions: Who will be the biggest free agent the White Sox sign this off-season? What are the chances they trade Avi Garcia before the deadline? What's your assessment so far of Luis Robert? Who's on your all-time busted prospect list? Is Omar Vizquel the next White Sox manager? Would the 1994 White Sox have won the World Series if there wasn't a strike? What's the long term plan at third base? These questions and many more on this edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast.
If you missed Part 1 of 'Ask Us Anything', you can listen to the full episode here
Listen to the full Part 2 of 'Ask Us Anything' at this link or in the embedded player below: