Profile: LHP - 6'5" - 170lbs -BT:L - TH:L - 2011 Age: 22
• Fastball 95-97: Dominant velocity from 'pen, good arm-side run. (55-70)
• Slider 86-88: Frisbee with big lateral movement. (60-70)
• Changeup: Great movement, good differential, lacks feel. (40-65)
I've written about as many words about Sale as any player in the division over the past six months. The White Sox first round pick with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Sale signed for 1.65m and immediately was sent to Advanced-A Winston-Salem. He breezed through the minors in a total of 10 innings before being called up to the Majors to bolster a bullpen stricken by injuries in the midst of a playoff run. All he did was provide 23 innings of 1.93 ERA baseball while fortifying the back-end of the Chicago bullpen.
Sale is tall but still a wispy thin 170lbs and when he delivers he comes at you from an extreme 3/4 slot with arms and legs all over the place. He generates massive velocity, despite not having much to work with in his lower half by creating heavy scap load and whipping his arm across his body. His motion is anything but technically sound and you worry about him breaking down with time given how much stress his delivery generates on his shoulder, but so far he's avoided any serious injury.
He'll come at you with three pitches that are either plus, or could be. His fastball worked in the 95-97 range out of the bullpen, though as a starter that would likely drop by at least a couple miles per hour. The pitch runs well and he can freeze righties by throwing it at their hips and then letting it run back over the inner half or back dooring lefties. That motion also generates plenty of ground balls.
Beyond the hot fastball, Sale also has a frisbee slider that is brutal against lefties who have an impossible task trying to pick differentiate between his fastball that'll run back over the outer half, or the slider which plummets away from their swings. His changeup was rated as his best pitch in college which is impressive given the strength of his fastball and slider, and for good reason. The pitch has phenomenal movement, diving and fading hard from the swing of right handers. It also has ideal velocity differential. The problem is that he doesn't throw the pitch with the consistent arm action and deception needed to be a plus MLB pitch. Yet.
Sale doesn't have pinpoint command, but the strikeout numbers don't lie, the dude can flat out throw it past you. Whether he's pumping the fastball by you, making you look foolish on the slider, or pulling the string with the changeup, he's just really tough to hit. In addition, he gets good movement on his fastball and as a result, plays ground ball heavy.
The big question of whether Sale will eventually start or not, and if so, how good he'll be in that role, will likely come down to the command however. He won't be able to throw quite as hard in a rotation role, and that will have an effect on his strikeout rate, but if he can improve his command, he can be a lethal pitcher in any role.
An elite reliever right now with the stuff to project as a #1 starter with work and repetitions. There have been Randy Johnson comps, and they make quite a bit of sense. But let's be clear, he isn't Randy Johnson.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.