The loss of Garrett Crochet to season-ending surgery left the Chicago White Sox with a huge hole in the bullpen. The Sox not only need a left-handed specialist, but also a southpaw who can pitch multiple innings. It appears they’ll look to Bennett Sousa to fill that vacancy to begin the 2022 season.
Sousa made his MLB debut vs. the Tigers over the weekend. After the 27-year-old pitched 2.1 scoreless innings across two appearances, White Sox fans may be wondering where he came from and what to expect from him moving forward.
How He Got Here
Bennett Sousa pitched four college seasons at Virginia, where 67 of his appearances came in relief. His best season, in 2017, was respectable. He pitched 33 innings with a 4.09 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, allowing 25 hits and 15 walks with 44 strikeouts.
But with the exception of strikeouts, Sousa's collegiate career was abysmal overall. He finished with a 5.50 ERA, allowed 98 hits, 69 walks (nice, but not), and 130 strikeouts in 108 innings. Nevertheless, the White Sox liked what they saw and selected him in the 10th round of the 2018 MLB Draft.
In 2018, Sousa dominated over a nine-game stretch in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League. He allowed four hits and no walks while recording 18 strikeouts and two saves over 13 innings of work for Great Falls. His numbers included an incredible 0.00 ERA and 0.31 WHIP, along with an eye-popping 40% K rate.
The Next Step
The southpaw performed well in Kannapolis following his promotion. In 22.1 innings, Sousa carried a 2.01 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He allowed 20 hits and seven walks with 24 punch-outs and two saves. Combined totals for 2018 in 35.1 innings: 1.27 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 24 hits, seven walks, 42 strikeouts, and six saves. That’ll work.
Oddly, given his age and experience, he began the 2019 campaign in Kannapolis. Sousa spent time with Kannapolis, Winston-Salem, and Birmingham that season. The majority of his action came with the Intimidators (High A) and Dash (Low A). Sousa put together another great campaign in 43 games and 65 innings. His overall performance consisted of a 2.49 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He surrendered 62 hits and only 13 walks while striking out 74.
In 2021, Sousa split time between Birmingham and Charlotte. His total performance with both affiliates provided a 3.61 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 41 relief appearances. In his 47.1 innings, he relinquished just 37 hits and 20 walks while whiffing a phenomenal 71 hitters.
Is He Dank?
Bennett Sousa's "stuff" has never been an issue. His three-pitch mix features a "heavy" fastball with tail that maxes out at 94 MPH, per Baseball Draft Report. He also throws a low-80s slider, which he used as his out pitch during his first two outings with the Chicago White Sox. Sousa should continue to rack up strikeouts, something he has accomplished at all levels. Specifically, against left-handed hitters, who had a had a paltry slash line of .140/.275/.281 and a 32% K rate against him in 2021.
How Sousa commands his third pitch, a changeup, will be a point of interest early in 2022. He'll need to work off his heater against righties to keep them off balance with his changeup and induce groundballs. That will be of utmost importance to ensure effectiveness against right-handed hitting. It's paramount that Sousa, and the entire staff, keep balls on the ground in the hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field this summer.
The extremely early returns are nothing but positive. But the key for Sousa is to maximize his value over a full 162-game season. If so, the White Sox will have drafted and developed a multi-inning lefty reliever who can fill the void of Garrett Crochet.