The White Sox purchased the contracts of right-handed pitcher Jason Bilous and left-hander Bennett Sousa from Triple-A Charlotte. The Sox 40-man roster increases to 35.— LaMond Pope (@lamondpope) November 19, 2021
WSM already had a great writeup on the 40-man roster crunch well before last Friday’s Rule 5 draft deadline, so there’s not too much to add beyond some reasons why Bennett Sousa and Jason Bilous were protected — and there are some pretty easy answers.
First, Sousa, who is one of just four lefty relievers currently on the White Sox roster. Earlier this year, the Sox added Anderson Severino to the 40-man to keep him from becoming a minor league free agent, so the Sousa add seems to be pattern to hold onto the better lefties in the system. Compared with 2019, Sousa had an increase of about 5% in K-rate in 2021, and by the end of his season in Charlotte had solved his command woes with a measly 5.3% BB-rate in 22 2⁄3 Triple-A innings. There was a big gap between his FIP (2.83) and ERA (3.97) with Charlotte because of a .256 batting average against. Not totally his fault with a .370 BABIP, but there was an increase of balls hit in the air going from Birmingham to Charlotte. Sousa’s season was successful enough to garner a 40-man spot going into 2022, but wasn’t enough to get an in-season promotion over another reliever like Jace Fry in 2021. Sousa probably won’t break camp with the team, but is the top lefty option should an injury arise, so that is why he is on the 40-man.
On to Bilous, which some fans may think is a surprising add based on his performance last year. He is the 18th-ranked White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, mostly because of his stuff. He is low-to-mid 90s with the fastball, with a plus slider. That is a good combo for a reliever, but without a reliable third pitch, you will get hit hard as a starter. That is what happened once he was promoted last year, crushed with a 6.51 ERA in Birmingham. Back in 2019, Bilous started out as a reliever before moving to the starting rotation again. As a reliever, he had 2.96 ERA, but at that point was really struggling with command. So it is not at all surprising when he moved back to the rotation that year, his ERA went up about almost a whole run.
With the recent 40-man moves, and knowing Michael Kopech will be a starter and Craig Kimbrel will eventually be moved, it seems like the Sox may give Bilous a chance to move back to where he belongs, the bullpen.
It is more likely that Sousa will appear with the Sox at some point in 2022 compared to Bilous, but both of these moves are a vote of confidence for these players. It would be nice if Bilous could stay in the rotation, but we will know early in the minor league season what the Sox think of that.