clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

White Sox Deep Dive: Full-Season Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

The organization had just two southpaw starters who finished in the full-season leagues in 2021.

John Parke is the most polished southpaw starter in the White Sox system.
| Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican and Arizona)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on a White Sox player
  5. Free agent options

While the White Sox system has several good southpaw relievers in its system, its cupboard is relatively bare for the like-throwing starters. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent in the pipeline.

Due to trades within the past year of Avery Weems and Konnor Pilkington, however, there was only one southpaw who finished in the A-level and one that finished at the upper levels of the Sox system. Thus, they are combined into this one post.

Below are the left-handed starters who finished the 2021 season in the full-season leagues.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2022

Charlotte Knights

John Parke
220 pounds
Age: 27
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 78
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 78

Parke has certainly been one of the most over-performing pitchers in the White Sox system. Even looking at Parke’s stats from his college resume, it’s surprising he was even selected as high as he was.

During Parke’s first two seasons with South Carolina, spanning 15 relief outings, he didn’t allow an earned run — although he walked 12 and struck out 13 in 12 innings of work. However, his luck failed with the Gamecocks in his junior season, when Parke suffered an 8.53 ERA and 1.74 WHIP by allowing 35 hits and nine walks while striking out 21 in 25 innings of work.

Yet despite all of that, White Sox scouts clearly saw enough in Parke to grab him in the 21st round of the 2017 MLB draft. After receiving a $30,000 signing bonus, Parke went on to pitch in 14 games (10 starts) for the AZL White Sox and posted a 2.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP covering 68 1⁄3 innings, allowing 65 hits (.248 OBA) and just nine walks (1.2 BB/9) but striking out 46 (6.1 K/9).

Parke bypassed Great Falls in 2018, splitting the season with Kannapolis and Winston-Salem. Combined for both teams, he managed a 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 153 innings, allowing 159 hits (.267 OBA) and 39 walks (2.3 BB/9) while fanning 119 hitters (7.0 K/9). His numbers weren’t as good with Winston-Salem, for the obvious reasons reasons that the Dash play in a hitters’ ballpark and the competition was stronger. However, Parke likely was undergoing some serious fatigue, as he pitched 47 more innings than he did in his combined three years with South Carolina and the AZL Sox.

In 2019, Parke posted solid numbers for both Winston-Salem and Birmingham. In 12 starts totaling 69 innings for the Dash, he had a respectable 3.65 ERA and 1.32 WHIP as he relinquished 69 hits (.265 OBA) and 20 walks (2.6 BB/9) while fanning just 32 (4.2 K/9). Although his stats were decent, Parke may not have received a promotion on June 20 to Birmingham if not due to injuries to pitchers like Bernardo Flores Jr. and Jimmy Lambert.

With that said, Parke has certainly made the most of his opportunity. In 14 starts spanning 76 13 innings for the Barons, he posted a rock-solid 2.59 ERA and 1.14 WHIP by ceding just 69 hits (.242 OBA) and 18 walks (2.1 BB/9) while striking out 43 (5.1 K/9). Pitching in cavernous Birmingham could account for some of Parke’s improvement, but it’s important to note that his strikeouts had risen while his walk rate has gone down despite pitching in a tougher league.

His combined 2019 numbers for Winston-Salem and Birmingham were:

7-6, 26 G, 26 GS, 3.10 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 145 1/3 IP, 140 H, 11 HR, 38 BB, 75 K

After the year’s rest in 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown, Parke returned to Birmingham to begin the 2021 season. He struggled in his return with the Barons, however, as he posted a 4.66 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in his 14 appearances (12 starts). In his 58 innings, he surrendered 57 hits (.249) and 21 walks (3.3 BB/9) while striking out 48 (7.4 K/9). Later in 2021, Parke finally received his long-awaited promotion to Charlotte, and surprisingly bested his Double-A numbers. In 11 starts for the Knights totaling 54 23 innings, Parke relinquished just 46 hits (.225 OBA) and 16 walks (2.6 BB/9) while fanning 38 (6.3 K/9). He was aided by a BABIP of just .244, but he also made his own luck in that regard by impelling Triple-A hitter to hit grounders an incredible 59.1% of the time.

How does Parke succeed when he doesn’t have much more than a low-90s fastball? First of all, he has an effective changeup, which helps neutralize righties. Parke also features an above-average curveball, which helps stymie lefties, especially when at its best. Because Parke wasn’t overworked in college, his arm has been relatively fresh and hasn’t missed many starts due to injury. Parke doesn’t beat himself on the mound by walking an inordinate amount of hitters, and his command is such that he almost wills opponents to hit worm-burners. He doesn’t try to do too much on the mound, and is comfortable letting his fielders do the grunt work. This is evidenced by his relatively low strikeout total but high ground ball rates throughout his career.

Parke has exhibited good control throughout the minors (career 2.3 BB/9), but when hitters do get on, his above-average command helps him minimize damage because he usually hits the catcher’s glove with precision. Because of his command, Parke’s ERA has outperformed his FIP at nearly every stop throughout his minor league career. While an exception was made this year in Birmingham (4.66 ERA, 4.00 FIP), Parke reverted to his norms with Charlotte (3.62 ERA, 4.68 FIP). Normally pitchers with low strikeout numbers get hit fairly hard and allow tons of homers. In his case, Parke has only allowed an OBA of just .253 while compiling just a 0.66 HR/9 ratio.

Turning 27 in January, Parke’s progress in the system has been slow. As is typical for the organization, soft-tossing pitchers are viewed simply as organizational pieces and not as potential major league arms. This is somewhat surprising due to the trajectory of Mark Buehrle’s career with the Sox, but the Sox aren’t the only major league team that ignores soft-tossers in favor of those with triple-digit velocity.

Parke was left unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft, but that became a moot point anyway due to the lockout. Because of his low strikeout numbers, Parke has slipped under the radar throughout most of his minor league career. However, he possesses better command and control than any of his Triple-A counterparts and could be one of the first call-ups to Chicago in 2022, as either a spot starter or low-leverage reliever.

Winston-Salem Dash

Dan Metzdorf
165 pounds
Age: 25
2020 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 77
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 65

For Boston College in 2019, Burlington, Mass. native Metzdorf posted a solid 2.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 11 starts. In 73 innings for the Eagles, he surrendered just 56 hits (.204 OBA) and 28 walks while striking out 65. Because of his diminutive size, and also because he doesn’t possess top-notch stuff, he was expected to be drafted much later. However, Metzdorf was selected in the fifth round of that year’s draft for one significant reason — signability. He received a $10,000 signing bonus from the White Sox, which was around $384,000 less than slot value (which aided the Sox in signing Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist to over-slot deals).

Metzdorf, because of his better college credentials, started 2019 with Great Falls and acquitted himself quite nicely. In 14 starts spanning 40 innings (the White Sox don’t usually extend their starters too much in their first pro seasons) for the Voyagers, Metzdorf posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP by ceding 44 hits (.286 OBA) and eight walks (1.8 BB/9) while striking out 36 (8.1 K/9). Despite giving up some hits, he limited the damage by keeping the ball down (55.1% ground ball rate) and throwing strikes. Like nearly everyone in the minors, he missed the 2020 season due to the pandemic shutdown.

After one start in Kannapolis, Metzdorf spent the remainder of the 2021 season at Winston-Salem. While most things well for him in the rookie leagues in 2019, they went exactly the opposite for him this year. In 23 outings (12 starts) for the Dash, he compiled a 5.98 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 81 13 innings by surrendering 95 hits (.291 OBA) and 36 walks (4.0 BB/9) while fanning 84 (9.3 K/9). Along with his spotty control, one of the chief contributors to Metzdorf’s struggles was the long ball, as he allowed 11 homers. Aside from the ERA disparity between being a starter (6.65) and reliever (5.03), his peripherals were eerily similar. Metzdorf was deployed as a starter in May, August and September, and was tried in relief during the months of June and July.

Baseball America’s scouting report said of him in 2019, “Metzdorf’s stuff isn’t huge, but he’s a solid strike thrower and has a fastball that sits 86-89 mostly, though he did ratchet that up to 93 late in the season. His slider and changeup are both fringe-average pitches at best.” He is indeed undersized, so questions about his durability as a starter may continue to persist.

Metzdorf will likely begin 2022 with Birmingham, in part to make room for the influx of top Sox pitching prospects targeted for Winston-Salem. Of course, there’s always the possibility of him beginning the season with the Dash in more of a long-relief role. Hopefully, Metzdorf can refine both his control and command, as the Barons may be relatively weak in the starting pitching department next year.

2024 White Sox Top Prospect Vote

2024 South Side Sox Prospect Vote: Round 9

Today in White Sox History

Today in White Sox History: December 8

Mikey Kane

2024 South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 93: Mikey Kane