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Deep Dive: left-handed reliever edition, part 3

Taking a look at the White Sox’s left-handed relievers in Birmingham and Charlotte

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox
Frare Relief Help: For mere international pool bonus money, the White Sox picked up a potential lights-out lefty from the Yankees.
Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

Deep Dive focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. The relievers will be written up in five parts:

  1. Depth in the lowest levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in Class A (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the highest levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB draft

Though the White Sox don’t presently have any southpaw relievers among MLB Pipeline’s list of Top 30 White Sox prospects, that doesn’t mean the system is devoid of lefty bullpen talent. Several of the pitchers featured in this Birmingham-Charlotte Deep Dive have either pitched for the White Sox already and/or have the potential to get there. The Sox don’t have a large quantity of southpaw relievers in the upper levels of the system, but what they lack in quantity, they certainly have in quality. The list below doesn’t include Manny Banuelos, who was detailed previously in Deep Dive as a left-handed starter, and it also doesn’t include Jace Fry or Aaron Bummer because they’ve both already surpassed the rookie guidelines and should well begin next season in Chicago.

Charlotte Knights

Caleb Frare
210 pounds
Age: 25

As a senior for Custer County H.S. in Miles City, Mont., Frare displayed an upper-80s fastball with an sweeping 2-8 curveball — and a changeup that needed work. When the New York Yankees drafted him in the 11th round in 2012, Frare decided to bypass his commitment to the University of Utah, thanks in part to a $100,000 signing bonus.

After a solid campaign with the Yankees rookie league squad, Frare underwent Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the 2013 and 2014 campaigns. After a good start for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs in 2015, Frare was promoted to the High-A team in Tampa, where he struggled in seven outings (5.59 ERA, 2.07 WHIP). The following year, Frare returned to Tampa, where he dominated with an ERA of 0.92 and WHIP of 1.14, while allowing just 33 hits and 23 walks in 49 innings of relief work.

While Frare’s control was mediocre to that point in his career, it really tailed off in 2017 for Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Frare struck 78 hitters in 62 2⁄3 combined innings, for a nifty 28.6 K%; however, he walked 52, for an atrocious 19.0 BB%. Despite having a 1.60 WHIP in 2017, his combined ERA was surprisingly low at 4.02 (which likely was the result of a solid bullpen, helping to bail him out).

The 2018 season was an entirely different story. In 43 2⁄3 innings for Trenton, Frare enjoyed a 0.62 ERA/0.92 WHIP/33.7 K% by striking out 57 hitters while only allowing 25 hits and 15 walks. This earned him a promotion earlier to Triple-A, where he pitched in just one game before, on July 29, the White Sox acquired Frare for $1.5 million in international pool money; the Yankees traded him primarily due to concerns about their 40-man roster.

From July 29 to August 31, Frare compiled an impressive 0.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 11 games spanning 12 23 innings, as he allowed five hits (.119 OBA) and seven walks (13.7%) while striking out 19 (37.3%). Frare earned his promotion to the White Sox in September — posting a 5.14 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in seven innings (11 games), as he relinquished six hits (.231 OBA) and four walks (12.9%) while fanning nine (29.0%).

Frere’s fastball now runs from 93-96 mph, with tons of movement. Combined with a wipeout slider, he’s certainly got the goods to work in high-leverage situations. Frare also has a sweeping 2-8 curveball with a short break, and a change that he doesn’t throw often. He doesn’t appear to be a LOOGY either, as hitters from both sides of the plate fared poorly against him this year. In fact, those even splits have been consistent throughout his minor league career.

The White Sox also have Jace Fry, Aaron Bummer, and Manny Bañuelos as southpaw options entering the year, and that’s before acquiring any other southpaws via free agency and/or trade. Nevertheless, there’s a strong possibility that Frere will begin next year on the Opening Day roster — especially if he throws strikes in spring training.

Colton Turner
215 pounds
Age: 28

Turner was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays on August 27, 2016, for catcher Dioner Navarro. At the time of the acquisition, Turner had a microscopic 0.41 ERA and 60 strikeouts over 54 innings, with 70 strikeouts while pitching for Lansing (A), Dunedin (A+), and New Hampshire (AA) in the Blue Jays system. The Blue Jays took him in the 21st round of the 2012 MLB draft. Turner came out of Texas State, where as a starting pitcher he enjoyed a 2.45 ERA and punched out 87 hitters over 87 2⁄3 innings of work.

In 2017 with Birmingham, Turner had a 2.45 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, while striking out 37 and walking just 10 over 33 innings; batters hit only .223 against him, while he had nifty strikeout (27.4%) and walk (7.4%) percentages. Once he was promoted to Charlotte, however, Turner struggled to a 6.85 ERA and 1.61 WHIP over 22 innings, while his strikeout rate declined (18.4%) and OBA increased (.309).

In 2018, Turner started the season with Charlotte, but struggled to a 7.59 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in his first seven outings. Hitters batted .310 against him during this short stint, and Turner walked five hitters in 10 2⁄3 innings of work. After being demoted to Birmingham, Turner returned to dominance: In 27 outings encompassing 42 innings, he had a 7-2 record, with four saves, a 0.86 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 25 hits and 10 walks. He held Southern League hitters to a .168 OBA, 6.2 BB%, and 27.3 K%.

Turner returned to Charlotte on August 22, and fared much better in his final three appearances; thanks to those three outings, his final numbers with the Knights improved to a much more respectable 4.76 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 22 23 innings — allowing 19 hits (.229 OBA) and 10 walks (10.5%) while fanning 21 hitters overall (22.1%).

Turner has a classic pitcher’s build, and has enjoyed similar success against lefties and righties throughout his career. This year with both Birmingham and Charlotte, lefties hit .189 while righties hit .190 against him. His repertoire includes a 90-94 mph fastball, a slider in the mid-80s and a changeup that helps neutralize righties.

Due to the logjam in southpaw relievers as detailed above with Frare, Turner will have difficulty finding a role in the White Sox bullpen. He’s certainly pitched well enough in the minors to warrant a look sometime next year, if any combination of trades, ineffectiveness or injuries affect the team’s depth. In the meantime, Turner will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft; his age (he’ll turn 28 in January) may be a deterrent for teams looking him over. Assuming Turner is unselected, he likely will return next year to Charlotte.


Birmingham Barons

Ian Clarkin
215 pounds
Age: 24

Clarkin, as a junior and senior with James Madison H.S. in San Diego, posted a nifty 0.95 ERA in 73 13 innings as he allowed a miniscule .159 OBA while providing an impressive 16.3 K/9. As a result, he was ranked 12th overall among prep prospects according to Perfect Game. Thanks to his results, projectability, and stuff, the Yankees selected him in the first round with the 33rd overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. Pocketing a signing bonus of $1.605 million, Clarkin eschewed his commitment with the University of San Diego.

Clarkin pitched just 178 innings in his first four pro seasons (2013-16) because of ankle and elbow injuries (that didn’t require surgery) and a torn meniscus in his knee (that did), which forced him to miss the entire 2015 season. Back healthy in 2016 for A+ Tampa, Clarkin pitched 98 innings (which remains his career high) over 18 starts while posting a 3.31 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, surrendering 100 hits (.265 OBA) and 30 walks (7.2%) and fanning 72 (17.4%).

Clarkin performed even better for Tampa in his 2017 return — posting a 2.62 ERA and 1.27 WHIP over 75 23 innings, allowing just 71 hits (.247 OBA) and 25 walks (8.0%) while striking out 58 (18.6%). Then, on July 19, he was traded to the White Sox along with Blake Rutherford, Tito Polo and Tyler Clippard for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier. He pitched in three games totaling 11 innings for the Dash afterward, action that was limited due to injuries.

After starting the season poorly in Birmingham’s rotation to begin 2018, Clarkin was placed on the DL on June, and ultimately returned to the Barons after his completed rehab assignments on August 2. In nine starts totaling 48 23 innings prior to the injury, he posted an unseemly 6.29 ERA and 1.66 WHIP by relinquishing 57 hits (.295 OBA) and 24 walks as opposed to a measly 21 punchouts. After starting his first game upon returning to Birmingham, Clarkin pitched in the Barons bullpen for his final eight outings, covering 17 innings; in those outings, he compiled a 2.12 ERA and 1.18 WHIP as he allowed 16 hits (.246 OBA) and four walks while striking out 14. Overall, because his numbers were warped because by his innings load as a starter, his final stat line still wasn’t that good for the Barons: 4.98 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, .269 OBA, 10.2 BB%, and 11.5 K%. At least it seems that Clarkin may have found his niche in the bullpen, which is key, as he’s never amassed 100 innings in any of his six minor league seasons in the rotation due to injuries.

Clarkin’s fastball still runs up to 93-94 mph, which has basically remained the same since his prep days. His curveball was his best pitch as an amateur and isn’t as sharp now, but it is still effective when at its best. There are days when Clarkin’s changeup is his best weapon, and he also has developed a slider that’s nearly as good as his curve when at its best.

Clarkin was removed from the 40-man roster recently to help clear room for other players otherwise eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The Chicago Cubs were quick to snatch him up, and the White Sox were just as quick to re-claim him when the Cubs tried to pull the same stunt six days later. As of now, Clarkin would likely be slated to begin next season in the Barons bullpen — presuming, of course, that nobody picks him up again as a waiver claim.

Brian Clark
225 pounds
Age: 25

Clark spent his first two seasons as a reliever at Kent State, but was shifted to the rotation for his junior season. Clark’s numbers were far better as a reliever, as he combined to post a 1.72 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 62 23 innings, allowing just 46 hits (6.61 H/9) and 29 walks (4.16 BB/9) while fanning 61 (8.76 K/9). In his junior season, Clark posted a respectable 3.77 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 88 innings by allowing 75 hits (7.67 H/9) and 35 walks (3.58 BB/9) while striking out 70 (7.16 K/9). The Sox liked Clark enough to select him in the ninth round of the 2014 MLB draft.

Clark pitched well with Great Falls in 2014, and fared even better with Winston-Salem in 2015, where he posted a solid 2.33 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 89 innings as a swingman, allowing 78 hits (.239 OBA) and 38 walks (10.2%) while punching out 85 (22.8%). The following year saw Clark pitch for both Birmingham and Charlotte, where he combined for a 2.70 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 56 23 innings — relinquishing 61 hits (.281 OBA) and 12 walks (5.1%) while striking out 48 (20.5%). In 2017 with Charlotte, Clark’s numbers worsened a bit, as he posted a 4.01 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 49 13 frames, allowing 59 hits (.298 OBA) and 13 walks (6.0%) while fanning 44 (20.2%).

Clark was demoted to Birmingham for 2018, and didn’t do enough to make it back to Charlotte. In 41 games, Clark pitched 62 13 innings and posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, allowing 62 hits (.259 OBA) and 21 walks (7.8%) while striking out 65 (24.3%). Overall, his numbers (with the exception of ERA) were in line with what he’s produced in previous years; however, Clark needed to find a way to re-insert himself into the prospect picture — and he failed to do that.

Clark’s repertoire includes a 90-93 mph fastball that on its best day reaches 95, an above-average slider, and a below-average changeup. Clark is eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and if unselected, may find himself in the Charlotte bullpen — especially if Frare begins the season with the White Sox; otherwise, Clark will be slated to begin with Birmingham, with hopes of avoiding the stigma of being an organizational reliever.



Few teams can provide the bullpen depth that the White Sox presently offer in the system, top to bottom. This Deep Dive didn’t even include youngsters like Fry, Bummer and Bañuelos, all who could well begin next season in Chicago. With all this depth, it’d be safe to assume some of the surplus southpaws could be available to trade when the team’s contention window eventually arrives.