Where at one time ace Chris Sale was considered one of the biggest injury risk pitchers in the game, the guy has put that fear to rest over the last two seasons as he tossed 208.2 and 226.2 innings respectively. Now a clear veteran as he turns 28 in March, the threat of Tommy John surgery has lessened for Sale and instead it now becomes more about the numbers than ever before. Those numbers remain excellent but his last two years have in fact seen Sale’s ERA move into the mid-3.00 range after a four-year run where he posted marks in that category of 3.07 or lower. Sale admitted last spring training that he was focusing more than ever on pitching to contact so as not to exhaust his elbow and run his pitch count up. This bore itself out in Sale’s K/9 rate which at last season’s 9.25 was a big drop from the 11.82 he put up in 2015. Still the guy was able to stretch his 200-plus strikeout totals to four straight seasons in 2016 with 233. Whether the dip in K/9 was a one-year anomaly or not remains to be seen but Sale’s ERA of 3.41 and 3.34 the last two seasons are where he should be graded on now. With as good control as there is in all of baseball (1.79 BB/9) and a solid home run rate (1.07), there are very few ways with which to score runs against Sale. We have said in this space repeatedly there is not a pitcher who engineers more eye-popping box scores then Chris Sale and his status as a top five ace remains firm. His arrival in Boston with the Red Sox will provide Sale with more victory chances, while raising his ERA/WHIP numbers slightly given the offensive potency of the division.
2017 PROJECTION: 16-7 3.25 ERA 1.05 WHIP 228 K