Spring Training Report: White Sox Rotation Options

Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, and Nick Nastrini are just a few arms to watch this spring as the White Sox work to assemble their rotation.

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech delivers a pitch during a Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on May 15, 2022 at Guaranteed Rate Field.
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 15: Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Michael Kopech (34) delivers a pitch during a Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on May 15, 2022 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Chicago White Sox are working to find mainstays for their pitching staff as they enter the 2024 season. The rotation, currently led by trade candidate Dylan Cease, has a lot of question marks, and the task this year is to establish which pitchers can remain a piece of the core.

While Cease and free agent signing Erick Fedde are locks for the rotation, the remaining spots are still fairly up for grabs. You can read my full breakdown of what the rotation could look like in my White Sox season preview, but right now, I want to focus on a few players I’ve been able to talk with or watch in Arizona this week.

Garrett Crochet is a fascinating name to watch. The former first-rounder has been solely a reliever so far in his young career, yet he entered the offseason planning to prepare to become a starter. The White Sox believe he’s fully capable of starting at the next level and could be a huge addition to the staff.

Crochet is working a five-day routine this spring and said he “used the offseason to build up and prep for this change.” Now he’s able to just focus on pitching to hitters and getting in rhythm. He feels confident in his stuff and has been able to focus on commanding pitches to live batters.

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Touching on the culture at Spring Training, Crochet seemed excited about the energy and the dynamics within the White Sox clubhouse.

After a season in which he only threw a total of 12.2 MLB innings, it’s hard to imagine Crochet immediately slotting into the rotation. Still, the goal is very clearly for him to be a starter. His injury struggles last year appear behind him, but his chances of making starts in Chicago this year will come down to how many innings his arm can handle.

I see the most likely scenario for him being a long-relief/piggyback role early in the season as he gets used to multi-inning usage. With success in such a role, Crochet could then begin to make starts for the team, even if he’s only deployed for four innings or so each outing.

Crochet has looked excellent this spring with his velocity much higher than it was last season. He may need to reduce that in order to throw more innings, but he looks healthier and more comfortable than he did all of last year.

Michael Kopech struggled much of last season, as his command drifted even further than it had the year prior, but he enters camp with a strong chance to crack the rotation. He has been a starter for the past two years after pitching in the bullpen in 2021.

After a great first start of the spring, Kopech struggled this past week against the Dodgers. His command hindered him again. His biggest concern remains the command, and even if he starts in the rotation, he’ll need to find stability to maintain a hold on his spot.

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Plenty of pitching prospects will have a chance to make their way into the rotation at some point this summer and prove themselves. One of the many options is right-hander Jonathan Cannon, who discussed his offseason adjustments with me.

Cannon was known last season as someone who mixed a wide range of pitches and changed his approach on the mound a lot. He has developed more of a set plan this year, as he explained that his arsenal will “revolve around the sinker, changeup, cutter, and sweeper” with occasional high four-seamers in the mix.

Cannon is generally considered a top-10 system prospect, and he could reasonably debut late this year after reaching Double-A for a portion of 2023. In addition to refining his pitch mix, the righty is trying to add more horizontal movement to his sweeper while adding depth to his cutter in an effort to make it more of a mini-slider that pairs well with his adjusted sweeper.

For a team that needs to find starting options moving forward, Cannon could quickly be a possibility if he can maintain his command and begin to miss more bats with his pitch changes.

The last player to note is Nick Nastrini, whom I have been closely following since the White Sox acquired him last summer. He reached Triple-A last year and has looked sharp in four innings of Cactus League work this spring. He pitched in a B game today and gave up no runs across two innings of work.

Nastrini is a candidate to crack the starting rotation out of a camp, and he will certainly make starts sooner rather than later. If he doesn’t make the rotation initially, he will surely have a chance after a few turns with Triple-A Charlotte.

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The White Sox rotation may be a revolving door at times this season, but there are a number of options with the upside to make an impact. Those arms are worth following closely.