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Deep Dive: left-handed reliever edition, part 4

Jace Fry: his past, present, and future with the White Sox

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians
Relief Ace Jace: Fry was terrific for the White Sox this year; what will 2019 have in store for him?
David Richard-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

This article delves into the career of Jace Fry through 2017, his 2018 season with the White Sox, and what his future looks like in the White Sox organization.

Jace Fry: how did he get here?

As one would expect, Fry had a terrific high school career at Southridge H.S., in Beaverton, Ore. He capped it finely, with a senior season that produced a 1.42 ERA in 59 innings, with 10 wins and 92 Ks. Fry decided to stay in-state to play his college ball with Oregon State. Late in his freshman season, in which he’d posted a solid 2.45 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 13 starts covering 88 innings, Fry underwent Tommy John surgery. He was able to earn some bullpen time late in his sophomore season, though the results understandably weren’t what he would have hoped for (4.70 ERA in 7 23 innings, with just two strikeouts).

However, with a clean bill of health, Fry had a dominant junior season for the Beavers, as he posted a 1.85 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 16 starts totaling 120 innings (averaging an impressive 7.5 innings per start); he relinquished just 83 hits (.196 OBA) and 30 walks while fanning 98. The White Sox were therefore willing to overlook his TJS and select him in the third round of the 2014 MLB draft.

Fry pitched well after the draft, with Great Falls, after receiving his $760,000 signing bonus, posting a 2.79 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in his 9 23 innings of relief work. Fry was off to a decent start with Winston-Salem in 2015 (3.63 ERA, 1.48 WHIP in 52 innings) when he left his game on May 31, eventually having to undergo a second Tommy John surgery, keeping him from taking the field for any official games until 2017.

Despite the long layoff, Fry pitched tremendously in 2017 for Birmingham. In 33 games for the Barons encompassing 45 innings, he posted a 2.78 ERA and 1.32 WHIP by surrendering just 36 hits (.217 OBA) and 24 walks (12.5%) while striking out 52 (27.1%). He even earned a promotion to the White Sox, although it didn’t go well: In 11 games covering just 6 23 innings, he produced a 10.80 ERA and 2.55 WHIP by relinquishing 12 hits (.387 OBA) and five free passes (13.9%) while striking out just three (8.3%). Nevertheless, 2017 was quite a successful season when considering Fry was returning from Tommy John surgery for a second time.

Fry with the White Sox in 2018

Fry started the season with Charlotte, and posted an amazing 1.35 ERA and 0.45 in a short sample size of 6 23 innings; most importantly, he allowed only three hits and no walks while striking out 11. Without anything to prove in the minors, Fry earned his call-up on May 4 and didn’t look back.

For the year, in 59 games totaling 51 innings, Fry surrendered 37 hits (.194 OBA) and 20 walks (9.3%) while fanning 70 (32.7%). Despite his great work, the consistency wasn’t quite there. For the months of July and September, he combined for a 10.13 ERA and 1.56; all other months, he combined to post a 1.78 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Of course, ERA and WHIP don’t really tell the full story for a reliever, but those are huge variations. While Fry held righties to a .234 average, he was spectacular against lefties, as he held them to a paltry .143 in 84 at-bats.

Jace has quite an impressive five-pitch repertoire. When looking at the numbers, the only pitch that didn’t yield any real results was his sinker, which actually could have actually been far worse if a little good luck hadn’t been involved. Here are Fry’s pitches, and how successful they were in 2018:

  • Cutter: Averaging 88.3 mph, Fry threw it 31.8% of the time. Hitters slashed just .169/.200/.247 against it. For 51.1% of the time, Fry got the third strike when throwing it. Just 3.2% of time, he walked hitters with it when throwing it with a three-ball count.
  • Curve: Averaging 77 mph, Fry threw it 23.6% of the time. Hitters slashed .238/.248/.286 against it. He got the third strike when throwing it 22.7% of the time, while walking just 4.5% of the hitters when throwing it with a three-ball count.
  • Sinker: Averaging 92.4 mph, Fry threw this pitch 19.2% of the time. Hitters slashed .233/.401/.467 against it. In actuality, he should’ve actually fared far worse with this pitch, because his expected slash line was .313/.483/.665. Fry got the third strike when throwing it 12.2% of the time, while walking hitters 26.8% of the time when throwing it with a three-ball count.
  • Four-Seam Fastball: Fry’s fastest pitch, averaging 93.6 mph, it was thrown 14.6% of the time. Using the pitch far more against righties, hitters slashed .269/.359/.423 against it; however, there may have been some bad luck here, as his XBA was .201, XOBA .306, and XSLG .349. He got the third strike 25.0% of the time when using it, while walking 15.6% of the hitters when using it on three-ball counts.
  • Changeup: Averaging 84.9 mph, Fry threw it 10.8% of the time and almost exclusively to righties. Hitters slashed .120/.106/.120 against it. He got the third strike when throwing it 16% of the time, and didn’t walk any hitters while using it.

Fry posted a 0.1 bWAR for the year. Considering each bWAR is worth approximately $7.7 million per FanGraphs, along with his 2018 salary of $555,000, Fry produced a positive net value of $215,000. Fry won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2021, and free agency until 2025. Thus, with just a bit more consistency and continued good health, Fry should provide exceptional value over the next several years for the White Sox.

What does the future have in store for Fry in a White Sox uniform?

At just 25 years old, Fry should continue to be good for quite a long time. That, of course, assumes he avoids any more Tommy John surgeries. He is a lock to begin next season in Chicago, with a bullpen which could include other southpaws such as Aaron Bummer, Caleb Fry and perhaps swingman Manny Bañuelos. There’s also the possibility Fry could eventually close some games, although due to Alex Colomé’s acquisition, that possibility has diminished somewhat.

Another possibility is that Fry’s time on the South Side will be shortened due to trade. The White Sox may decide to use him as part of a trade package in helping snag an elite player who could expedite the White Sox’s contention window. Obviously, the White Sox would prefer not to lose Fry; however, teams could end up clamoring for his services due to his talent and low price tag — ultimately, to quote The Godfather: Make an offer the White Sox couldn’t refuse.