I know I said I was only going to do one of these a week, but for some reason my brain is stuck on a story...
There was a survey done by one of my former classmates that says that on average, a midwestern child will change his mind between seven and ten times when thinking of his future career, and then in college they will change their major an average of 1.7 times throughout their first four years in a university. I can certainly relate to this on a personal level, I can remember at least twelve different careers that I was absolutely certain I was going to devote my life to after college. I'm now entering my second semester of my sophomore year of college, and I've changed my major twice, and even transferred schools, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, to a smaller college out in the west called, surprisingly, Western Illinois.
My father always told me "do what you love, and the money will come," but what happens when what you love changes as often as the seasons do? The answer is to pick something that you're good at, and something that you can at least enjoy doing on a regular basis.
We see a lot of change in baseball too, and two examples of this come from our own system. Kevin Youkilis, the Greek God of Walks himself, changed positions as a younger player to accommodate Red Sox legend, Bill Mueller. Not more than two seasons ago, our grand GM Theo Epstein drafted a young guy out of the minors named Casey Kelly. Kelly could both play shortstop and pitch, and when asked by the system, he said he'd prefer hitting, so Boston gave him that chance. In short, Kelly was a horrible offensive shortstop, but he was a great pitcher, and he made a change, moving to pitching full time. Kelly has since been sent to San Diego, and Youkilis is once again at third baseman, but these changes will forever be defining moments of their careers.
A somewhat unheralded success story for change is White Sox reliever Sergio Santos. Like Kelly, Santos was a former shortstop, drafted by Arizona in 2002. Unlike Kelly, Santos didn't have the same pitching history, he was a shortstop all the way. Except for one thing, he was terrible, things came to an ultimate low when he posted a .212 wOBA with the Blue Jays in 2008.
Santos gave up hitting after that dismal 2008 and converted to pitching, signing a minor-league deal with the Chicago White Sox. In April of 2009 he was in Single-A, by September he had pitched in every minor-league level in the Chicago system. Santos won a spot in the Sox bullpen in 2010 and hasn't looked back since, posting phenomenal numbers for such a short amount of time spent as a pitcher.
Santos posted a 2.93 ERA with Chicago, I'm using ERA instead of FIP (3.10) because I would like to emphasize a point for Boston fans. Last year, Manny Delcarmen posted a 4.99 ERA for Boston and Colorado, Ramon Ramirez put up a 4.46 in the AL East before putting up some crazy numbers with the Giants. Delcarmen had a .252 BABIP, Ramirez, .231.
Sergio Santos, he of the 2.93 ERA while playing in front of one of the worst infield defenses in the American league, sported a BABIP of... wait for it... .362. Over one hundred points higher than either of our right handed middle relievers, and he puts up an ERA a full two runs lower than MDC! Combine that with Santos's fantastic 9.45 k/9 and you end up with a very, very good reliever. How much lower is his BABIP playing for Boston, with Youk and Lowrie on the left side of the infield instead of Teahen and Casilla? With Pedroia's range instead of Beckham's? With Adrian Gonzalez's plus defense instead of the post with a glove names Paul Konerko? Santos sports a 43% ground ball rate, very similar to a previous reliever we talked about, in front of the defensive squad that Boston can trot out on a daily basis, that BABIP is going to drop like a stone.
Santos has two plus off-speed pitches, which surprised me for a former position player. His slider and changeup are both worth 2.4 runs above average, and he throws them a combined 38.8% of the time. Both pitches hover in the middle-high 80s, while his fastball sits at nearly 96 miles an hour. With Santos in Boston's bullpen they can apply serious pressure to opposing batters, consistently cranking up the fastball speed by having Santos hand the ball off to 98-mile an hour Daniel Bard. This idea keeps me up at night sometimes.
Boston needs a pitcher to be a lefty specialist, someone to get out those tough left-handed hitters. Well, despite being right-handed, in 22 innings Santos posted a 10.64 k/9, a 2.08 FIP, and a 1.18 WHIP against lefties, still with a BABIP of .321. Santos has the ability to be the guy who gets out lefties, without actually being a lefty himself.
As for getting him from the White Sox, I can honestly say that I have no idea. I am thoroughly convinced that Kenny Williams is psychotic, his moves as a GM make little to no sense to me, but he still manages to put a quality product on the field year after year, all while taking care of fiery manager Ozzie Guillen. Williams may well be the second best GM in baseball, simply because he is so unpredictable. It should be noted that Santos only has one year of service time in the majors, so his services will cost a premium, he would definitely be worth it in front of this Boston defense however.
Missed out on Outside the Box? Be sure to check out my other articles in the series: