White Sox pitching prospects could offer hope for future

At 20-55, all you can do is look ahead.

Or look below, to the farm system, if you’re the White Sox.

The best place, in particular, is Double-A Birmingham, where the Barons own the best record in the Southern League.

The Sox are pleased with the rotation at Birmingham, from where Drew Thorpe leap-frogged Triple-A Charlotte to the majors after putting up a 1.35 ERA in 11 starts and where 2022 first-round left-hander Noah Schultz is flourishing after his recent promotion.

The Sox also love what they’re seeing from rookie right-hander Jonathan Cannon, who has allowed one run and one walk in his last 18⅔ innings, and left-hander Garrett Crochet, who in his first season as a starter entered the game against the Astros on Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field leading the majors in strikeouts. Crochet, who turns 25 Friday, carried a 5-1 record and 1.36 ERA in his last nine starts into his 16th outing of the season.

“This experiment could not be going any better,” general manager Chris Getz said of Crochet, the surprise Opening Day starter who, aside from one adjustment period after his rocky fourth, fifth and sixth starts, is pitching like an All-Star.

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Whether Crochet, who’s eligible for free agency after 2026 and is being held as a trade chip as Getz aims to further bolster the farm system, is part of the future remains to be seen. Envisioning a rotation of Crochet, Cannon, Schultz, Thorpe and perhaps a free agent or a prospect such as Ky Bush, the Southern League Pitcher of the Week who has a 1.78 ERA in 12 starts for Birmingham, looks like something the Sox could work with in their next contention window.

In four starts covering an easy-innings workload of 15⅔ over four starts at Birmingham, the 6-9 Schultz has a 1.72 ERA with 21 strikeouts and no walks.

Enough is coming together for Getz to “feel pretty good about the future outlook of our club.”

“Looking at the win-and-loss record, yeah, it’s not something that you get excited about looking at,” Getz said Tuesday. “It speaks to the amount of work that we have ahead of us. But look at what [right-hander] Erick Fedde and what Garrett Crochet have done, the development of [catcher] Korey Lee, these young players who have come up.”

That said, Thorpe’s bad start (seven runs in 3„ innings against the Diamondbacks) that followed a strong debut (one earned run in five innings at Seattle) is a reminder that “The Show,” as Bush referred to the big leagues several times during a conference call Monday, is an obviously different animal than the minor leagues. Cannon and Nick Nastrini experienced the same good-then-bad two-start adventure when they were called up from Charlotte

There are no promises when it comes to prospects, even the most highly rated.

“This is a tough league,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “There is a big difference in the minor leagues and the big leagues. Pitchers and players who don’t face adversity when they get here are few and far between. The most important thing for us as an organization is for them to really reflect on the outing, dissect, discern and go out and apply.”

Cannon made adjustments when he returned to Charlotte and has sparkled since coming back. These are developments the Sox must cling to as they aim to rebuild a franchise whose product on the field is baseball’s worst.

Perhaps Bush, a 6-6 left-hander acquired from the Angels with switch-hitting Birmingham catcher Edgar Quero in the trade for Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez last summer, will be the next prospect to get an audition in the majors.

“Pretty cool to see [Thorpe], a guy I was rooming with, in ‘The Show,’ ” Bush said. “It shows whether it’s Double-A or Triple-A, if they think you’re ready, then they call your name.”

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