Daniel Webb: Potential White Sox Closer?

Daniel webb - Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Could Daniel Webb lead the White Sox in saves in 2014?

As the last week of spring training is coming to an end, most position battles have been decided at this point. But the one battle that is aggravating fantasy managers the most might be the undecided closer role for the Chicago White Sox. Robin Ventura and Don Cooper are being very mum on the subject. As we are just a few days away from teams needing to have their 25-man rosters set, let’s take a look at a potential dark-horse candidate for the closer role on the South Side: Daniel Webb.

Daniel Webb is a converted starter that was moved to the closer role in the minor leagues. Webb finally had his breakout season at the age of 23 last year, as he started the season in High-A closing games, before making his way through Double-A and Triple-A, racking up saves at every stop, before eventually ending the year in the White Sox bullpen. In his first major league stint, Webb threw 11 1/3 IP, while accumulating a 3.24 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 10 K’s. Webb’s strikeout rate was even better while in the minor leagues last year at 11.2 K/per 9 IP. Fangraphs put out a nice read about Daniel Webb’s future closer potential last year that you can access here.

As of this writing, Webb is still no lock to make the team out of spring training. He is actually one of the last men considered to be on the bubble in the bullpen. Judging by spring performance though, the right-hander is going to be hard to send down. Let’s take a look at a few quotes that might help to shed some light on this situation.

Start with this from pitching coach Don Cooper, "To even talk about closer, it's premature. I'll go back to what I said a while ago. When they're all healthy, we feel like we've got a couple, three guys who can go out and do it." Three huh??? Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom, and who? Enter Daniel Webb. Plus, if it was really such an easy pick to go with Nate Jones, what’s with the secrecy? Could management be waiting to see if their actual #1 choice (Webb) is ready to take the reins before anointing him pre-maturely? Let’s keep going…

Cooper then went on to say this about the righty, "We see a good live arm. We like the way he handles himself," said Cooper. "He's not afraid. He's got a good fastball, a good breaking ball and a good changeup that we are searching for more quality pitches and strikes with each one of those that he has."

Follow that up with what sounds like a glowing seal of approval from the head coach here, "There's something about it competitively, just his fire when he's out there," manager Robin Ventura said. "He's not afraid of anything, and he has good stuff. He has a lot of things that people would put him into that category — velocity, control, the fearlessness he had when he was up last year that guys with a lot of experience have.” Sounds to me like closer talk out of 2 of the people with the most say in the matter…

Maybe the best way to predict the future is to look at the past. Many teams look for that closer with the “experience” tag, but have the Sox had any hesitation in the past handing over the closer duties to a younger and/or inexperienced relief pitcher? Addison Reed was “young and inexperienced” and look how that turned out. Before Reed, the South Siders handed the role over to Hector Santiago to begin the 2012 season, someone with zero career saves leading up to his promotion into the closer role. So to think this club might go the same route once again wouldn’t be as much of a stretch as some might think. The White Sox have played this cat-and-mouse game with us before, leading fantasy mangers astray before surprising us at the last minute with their “young and inexperienced” pick to fill the role.

Sure, the best bet might be that Nate Jones will open the season as the closer on the South Side, but I wouldn’t say that is anywhere near a 100% certainty. There is even a decent chance that the White Sox choose to send Dan Webb back down to the minors to begin the season, especially after claiming Javy Guerra off waivers, based on player options. Nate Jones is still the frontrunner here, but don’t forget about youngster Daniel Webb either. Even if Nate Jones takes the role to begin the season, he is no lock to succeed, and Webb will be waiting in the wings for his chance. The point of this article: Stash Daniel Webb for cheap now, and look like a genius later. After being groomed as the closer of the future last year and working his way through every level of the minor leagues with ease, you might be able to swoop in and get the first, great new closer of the 2014 fantasy baseball season for cheap in Daniel Webb.

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