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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 99: Tommy Sommer

A bounce-back 2024 is crucial for this crafty southpaw

Tommy Sommer took a step back in 2023, and the clock is ticking ...
| Gabby Canzian/Instagram

Tommy Sommer

Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
220 pounds
Age: 25
2022 SSS Top Prospect Ranking 69
2023 SSS Top Prospect Vote Ranking 23
2023 SSS Top Prospect Ranking 31
2023 High Level Birmingham (AA)
Age relative to high level -0.3 years
SSS rank among all left-handed starting pitchers in the system 12
Overall 2023 stats 3-4 ⚾️ 21 games (18 starts) ⚾️ 82 IP ⚾️ 5.49 ERA ⚾️ 1.573 WHIP ⚾️ 76 K ⚾️ 54 BB

Athletic ability doesn’t often fall too far from the tree.

In Tommy Sommer’s case, his father Juergen was a goalkeeper for the Indiana University and part of their 1988 national championship team; he played for more than a decade in the professional ranks, ultimately concluding his career in 2004 with the New England Revolution. His mother was no slouch athletically, either, as she was a star high school softball player.

Sommer, a native of Carmel, Ind., pitched four years for his father’s alma mater. Primarily a starter in his first two years, as a junior he started four games and did quite well with a 2.61 ERA and 1.07 WHIP until the pandemic concluded the 2020 season prematurely.

He picked a bad time to have his worst season, but Sommer did just that in 2021. In 12 starts for the Hoosiers totaling 62 2⁄3 innings, he posted a 4.60 ERA and 1.48 WHIP by relinquishing 55 hits (.237 OBA) and 38 walks while fanning 69. His 5.5 BB/9 was more than two walks per game worse than his previous high of 3.4 set in his junior year, but he also reached his career high in K/9 at 9.9.

As a four-year senior who lacked leverage, the White Sox drafted Sommer in the 10th round and signed him to a $20,000 bonus — $123,600 under slot value. Because he had already pitched the most innings of his career while with Indiana, Sommer was kept to a tight pitch count during his pro debut in 2021 with the ACL Sox. Against competition about a year younger than he, Sommer performed exceptionally well by producing a 2.16 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in his eight outings (six) starts. In 25 innings, Sommer surrendered a measly 13 hits (.149 OBA) and seven walks (2.5 BB/9) while striking out 33 (11.9 K/9). Review of these results, however, suggest some future regression, as Sommer’s FIP was 4.23 and his ground ball rate was just 30.2%.

The left-handed pitcher had a great 2022 from an ERA perspective. Sommer had a 2.75 ERA in 75 1⁄3 innings in Low-A Kannapolis and a 2.64 ERA in 47 2⁄3 innings in High-A Winston-Salem. Batted ball luck was on his side, however, as opposing hitters’ BABIP was .289 in Low-A and .220 in High-A. As expected, his FIP (3.90 in Low-A, 4.14 in High-A) was much higher than his ERA.

Sommer’s 2023 season got off strong start, opening the season with three starts that all went well for the Winston-Salem Dash. In those games, Sommer allowed a grand total of one earned run on four hits in 12 innings, and he added 18 strikeouts on top of that. Those performances earned him a quick promotion to Double-A Birmingham. The southpaw simply dominated High-A between those three starts and his work in 47 2⁄3 innings at the same level in 2022 (2.64 ERA, 4.14 FIP). Regions Field’s friendliness for pitchers also seemed to be a factor that would play into Sommer’s favor in Birmingham.

However, it was not meant to be. Sommer remained with Birmingham for most of 2023, and in his 68 innings there Sommer had a 6.09 ERA and a 7.23 FIP. Control (6.09 BB/9) and sharp contact (2.25 HR/9) were both major issues for Sommer in Double-A. Worse, Sommer’s ground ball rate lagged to 34.3%, while the average is consistently around 43%, and that’s a death knell for a finesse pitcher. Sommer must keep the ball on the ground in order to have success at the higher levels of the minors.

This was not the type of season Sommer had in mind; going into 2023, Sommer ranked 31st on our preseason Top 100 prospect rankings and third overall among lefty starters.

Sommer’s ratings, as you might imagine, took a hard tumble:

Sommer’s Baseball Cube player ratings
Power 76 (-4 from last season)
Hittable 76 (-4)
Durability 70 (-1)
K/BB 57 (-8)
Strikeouts 56 (-6)
Walks 55 (-6)
Team Winning Percentage .555

Sommer will return to Birmingham for a second go-around. The bad news, of course, is that he hit a wall at pitching-friendly Regions Field. The good news is that if the southpaw can find his footing, he’ll see Charlotte in the summer and get right back on the South Side radar.

The native of Carmel, Ind. turned 25 in September, so the clock is ticking.

2024 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

100. Daniel González, LHRP
99. Tommy Sommer, LHSP

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