In early November, the Chicago White Sox weren’t sure what they were going to do with Garrett Hook in 2022.
Well, we’re a long way from early November, but with so much offseason work to do, maybe the White Sox are keeping their options open with their 2020 first-round pick.
The fact is, now as in November, the realities of the major league roster in a season with World Series aspirations could force their hand. Because it sure looks like the White Sox can ill afford to leave Hook out of their 2022 bullpen plans.
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“He’s had a really good year, which makes you wary of taking him out of something that’s working, because he’s valuable in that role,” White Six general manager Rick Hahn said in November. “Having said that, we still believe a lot in his potential to be a hard-hitting starter as well. It’s just something we want to find a way to bring out of him.”
That there’s even a decision to be made stems from the White Sox’s long-term hopes for the southpaw fireball, who wowed by reaching the majors with no minor league experience the year he was drafted and blowing his mind big league hitters with 101 miles – hour fastballs. The idea is that Hook will one day bring his talents to the South Side’s starting rotation, part of a starting staff of the future who can extend the White Sox’s window of contention deep into the decade.
Right now, of course, there’s no room for Hook in this rotation, nor is he developed enough to join it even if there was. If Hook is ever going to be a starter, he will need to be developed as such, which most likely should take place at the minor league level. It might seem odd to suggest that someone who has spent more than a full season in the big leagues should move down the organizational ladder, but Hook didn’t start at the major league level, never started at the big league level. from the minor leagues and made just one start during his junior season at the University of Tennessee before the pandemic put an end to college athletics.
Hook was a first-round pick for a reason, of course, a talented pitcher who was compared to Chris Sale on draft night. But it goes without saying that someone will have to teach Hook how to be a major league starter if he ever wants to be a major league starter.
It’s not impossible for that upbringing to happen while he’s pitching at the major league level, though, and one long-term path the White Sox could take is to stretch him more and more like an arm. bullpen, changing him from late-inning flamethrower to multi-innings long reliever over time. But that’s just one route, the more traditional journey through the miners being another.
Here’s the thing, though. The south side bullpen is much thinner than it was when the 2021 season ended in October. And Hook’s skills as a reliever might be more valuable than ever right now.
Michael Kopech got his promotion from the bullpen to the rotation. Craig Kimbrel is openly discussed as a trade candidate. Ryan Tepera and Evan Marshall are free agents. While Hahn’s front office made a significant addition to the relief corps by signing free agent Kendall Graveman to a multi-year deal, there’s not much to bank on after Liam’s late-inning combination. Hendriks, Aaron Bummer and Graveman and the starting-pitching depth provided by Reynaldo López.
Hook’s projected future as a starter only adds to that uncertainty, and if the White Sox wanted his transition to begin immediately in 2022, it rips off another arm that Tony La Russa has leaned on all along. of the 2021 season out of the mix for this year.
This mystery surrounding how the White Sox will fill their bullpen makes keeping Hook a reliever a seemingly prudent course of action. Clearly, there’s a lot more work Hahn & Co. will need to do on the other side of baseball’s ongoing lockdown, and that work could dramatically change that way of thinking. Two more arms were added to the bullpen, and suddenly Hook was no longer a back-up necessity, allowing the White Sox to kick off and launch his career as a starting pitcher.
Of course, while Hahn intentionally keeps an eye on the future – long-term success is a primary goal of his rebuilding project – he is undoubtedly buying time on the south side. And it’s more than possible that Hook, who despite launching far fewer of these three-digit heaters in 2021, ended the year with a very nice 2.82 ERA, gives the Whites Sox have the best chance of achieving their championship level goals as a big league reliever. in 2022.
So a lot is going on with this decision.
But if Hook stays in the big league bullpen, expect him to be called upon often, with La Russa including the lanky southpaw among his most-used pitchers last year, when Hook ranked fourth in the league. team in relief appearances, behind only Hendriks, Bummer and José Ruiz. And his ERA was significantly lower than Bummer and Kopech, for that matter, speaking of his success if he masked his memorable bad luck moments in extra innings.
That fiery heat may never fully return, as Hook was most likely “throwing” as opposed to “throwing,” a favorite coach comparison, as a first-time big leaguer at the end of the 2020 season. But the “pitching” is how you have consistent success in the majors, especially as a starting pitcher, which is what Hook should be for these White Sox in the not-too-distant future.
As for the immediate future, though, he looks like an effective back-up weapon, something the White Sox could definitely use after a bullpen exodus. And that, along with the team hoping to reach the end of October, could be the determining factor in their fate in 2022.